Saturday 16 November 2013

Mexico's Greatest Export

I’ve not always been the biggest fan of Alberto Del Rio but I’ve really enjoyed his work this year. When he turned babyface at the end of 2012 I wasn’t convinced that it would work, mainly because his character didn’t seem capable of being altered to receive cheers. I was wrong. ADR did manage to garner cheers and made numerous changes to his promo and wrestling style to reflect his new role. Ricardo Rodriguez being such a sympathetic individual helped matters but Del Rio did his share of the work too.

The first half of the year saw ‘The Essence of Excellence’ facing off against Big Show, Jack Swagger, and Dolph Ziggler on pay-per-view. None of those matches were bad. In fact the Big Show matches were, in hindsight, a small triumph considering ‘The Giant’s’ limited mobility and Del Rio’s new and therefore shaky status as a good guy.

The real highlights among those feuds were the exchanges with Ziggler. The two had one of the greatest sub five minute matches ever shown on RAW (and that’s a show that knows it’s way around a five minute match) and two excellent pay-per-view matches at Payback and Money in the Bank. The latter was marred by interference from AJ Lee but the Payback bout, in which they executed a silky smooth double turn, was one of the best WWE efforts of the year. The feud ended far too soon.

Since his recasting as a bad guy Del Rio has continued to do well. His SummerSlam match with Christian was fair but instantly forgettable, although even at the time it was clear that that was just something to keep Del Rio busy before he was split from his personal ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez.

Del Rio versus Rodriguez seemed like the programme that would see both men through to the end of the year. It was easy to imagine Ricardo hooking up with a string of babyfaces and standing in their corner as they opposed the devilish Mexican aristocrat. We saw him get together with Rob Van Dam but that was it. Both Ricardo and ‘Mr Monday Night’ disappeared from television at the same time. Which actually worked out well for Del Rio as it freed him up for a prominent run opposite megastar John Cena.

ADR has been allowed to look surprisingly competitive with Cena. He has been presented as a man without fear of Cena’s imposing status, someone who won’t shrink from facing him and who can present him with a challenge (at least until that AA is busted out). On the November 15th SmackDown he was even got to outsmart and overpower Cena before putting him through a table. This is not a first, but it’s also not treatment just anybody gets. It’s indicative of Del Rio’s high standing on the roster.

This guy's from Mexico...
2013 has seen ADR show that he can work at the top level as either a hero or a villain. He’s produced good or great matches on every pay-per-view of the year and proven to be one of WWE’s most consistent and reliable performers, both in and out of the ring. His promos get to the point and get him genuine boos (that’s worryingly rare in modern WWE), his selling is believable, and his offence, particularly his kicks, is crisply delivered.

His facial expressions, which have always been marvellous, have reached new heights and little touches to his “proud Mexcian hero” gimmick have been added. The little flags that adorn the ring posts during his matches have been one of the neatest additions to a WWE performers act in a long time.

Alberto Del Rio is someone WWE, and its fans, should be very appreciative of. There are few better than him right now.

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