Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Puzzling Case of Alberto del Rio

Something funny happened while I was watching RAW this past Monday. I was watching it while writing my review for The Oratory (a fun message board by the way) when something weird occurred. Back from a commercial, Justin Roberts was introducing Alberto del Rio's "Personal Ring Announcer" Ricardo Rodriguez. When this happened a funny thing popped into my head: I completely forgot that Alberto del Rio wasn't on the show yet. I almost completely forgot he was even on RAW.

Now there could be a variety of reasons for that. I was watching RAW on DVR in the morning so I may not have been fully functional like I would have on a Monday night. You could also add the fact that since July, C.M. Punk has been the best thing the WWE has had going for them in years. His ceiling is so high right now, and he's injecting a breath of fresh air into a boring stagnant product. While these may be small pieces of the puzzle, one large piece is the main reason for my forgetting of ADR not being on RAW yet: Alberto del Rio has been severely mis-handled and booked for the last handful of months.

Del Rio debuted with a bang in the summer of 2010 on Smackdown. He was instantly put into a feud with Rey Mysterio, he took out Christian and put him out of action for months, and didn't even get pinned for the first few months of his run on Smackdown. The WWE seemed to be very high on him. There were multiple times where he was considered to win the World Heavyweight Championship. The first time it was reported was at either the TLC PPV or the Royal Rumble. This would have been too early. Edge needed the Title more than Del Rio at that point because he was chasing it for so long. Plus, the story of Del Rio chasing his destiny against the Champ Edge would have been a better story than the heel Champ Del Rio being chased by Edge. They already had face John Cena chasing heel Miz on RAW. Don't need the repeat of the same story on Smackdown. So they held off, and gave Del Rio the biggest rub possible.

Del Rio won the BIGGEST ROYAL RUMBLE IN HISTORY!!! It was the first ever 40 man Royal Rumble. Del Rio's Destiny seemed to be coming to fruition. He was going to be in one of the main event matches at Wrestlemania. Now sure, the last 3 Royal Rumble winners hadn't won their Title matches at Wrestlemania, but Del Rio seemed like a different story. The last 3 Rumble winners were previous Champions, Del Rio had never won a World Title and was on the rise in the WWE. He was the best act going on Smackdown, and it seemed like a long title reign was in store for him. Wrestlemania came, and things didn't go as planned. Del Rio was in the opening match at Wrestlemania for the World Title. Winning the Royal Rumble and fighting for the World Title on the opening match at Wrestlemania? I'm sure that wasn't in ADR's destiny. And to top that, he lost to Edge. Out of everything that happened at Wrestlemania, this was the biggest shock to me, even more so than Miz beating John Cena. I thought for sure Del Rio was winning and in store for a long reign on Smackdown. It was weird to see Edge get a win that he didn't need. Once again, Del Rio's destiny was put on hold.

Then Edge was forced to retire due to a bad neck injury. The World Title was made vacant. Del Rio was automatically put into the Ladder Match to crown the new World Champ, and he ended up facing Christian at Extreme Rules. Christian won the match. Now this is kind of a double-edged sword for me. I was so happy to see Christian win the World Title. The man deserved it after all his work in the business. Sure it only lasted two days, but Christian is finally getting an extended main event program. But on the other hand, Del Rio could have also won the World Title and had a long program with Christian over the World Title. But once again, Destiny got caught in traffic.

Now while all of these things hurt Del Rio's momentum, there's one momentum in the last few months that I think hurt ADR's stock more than anything:

I was really curious about the move. It seemed like Del Rio was destined to be the top heel on Smackdown. There were already a boat load of other heels on RAW. Of course, at the time, I'm sure the WWE didn't anticipate C.M. Punk becoming the star he is now. There was literally no other top heels on Smackdown at the time. But the main reason for the move, however, was to build towards the eventual John Cena/Alberto del Rio match which was rumored to take place at SummerSlam. Then the C.M. Punk angle happened. But even before the Punk angle happened, the WWE almost killed all of Alberto del Rio's momentum. He came over to RAW and had nothing going for him at all the first two months. He wrestled Rey Mysterio a few times, which he did on Smackdown. He didn't have a match at Over the Limit. He was put in a quick program with Big Show. But it was a buzz kill of a feud, and there was more focus on Mark Henry/Big Show than there was on ADR/Big Show. But then it appeared that maybe ADR's Destiny was going to be fulfilled at Money in the Bank.

Not knowing where the C.M. Punk angle was going, I thought for sure ADR was cashing in and winning at MITB. Well that didn't happen. Punk kicked him in the head and that was it. Then two weeks later on RAW it appeared ADR was cashing in on Rey Mysterio, but Rey got the better of him again. Now what is Del Rio doing? Basically walking around with a briefcase, still without any direction. It looks like he is getting into another short feud with Kofi Kingston. But it just seems like all of Del Rio's heat has been shot down. He was at the top in March and April and now seems to be stuck in the middle of the pack. The briefcase may help a little, but it can only do so much until he cashes it in.

Alberto del Rio shouldn't have been at this point this summer. He shouldn't have had to win the RAW MITB Briefcase. In my opinion, he should have already been the World Heavyweight Champion. I would have never moved Del Rio to RAW in the first place. Or if I would have, I would've at least had a set plan in place for Del Rio, and a program or two to build up to his eventual title win, which is something the WWE failed to do. You can't just let a guy flounder around for a few months and then expect him to get all of his heat back when he steals the WWE Title with the MITB contract, whenever that happens. At this point, I think the initial reaction would be underwhelming to an ADR Title win. People would rather see C.M. Punk on top long term. The only thing that would be acceptable, in my opinion, would be ADR winning and then a program with Punk. But that's not happening with John Cena in the picture. I could also live with ADR being the lead of a new HHH Corporation type stable.

So what is the point I'm trying to make here? ADR should already be in a top position in the WWE. He should be the top guy on Smackdown. I know I love the Christian push, but ADR might have been better in that position. A program of Randy Orton chasing Del Rio for the World Title would have been good. The matches might not have been as good, but they may have been able to get a longer program out of it. Let ADR and Christian go at it until the start of the summer, then put Orton in the Title picture.

The WWE is doing their first set of television tapings in Mexico in mid-October. They want Del Rio to either be WWE Champ, or win the WWE Championship at the tour. Sure, that would be good for business in Mexico. But what happens when Del Rio returns to the States? ADR's heat isn't as strong as it once was, and the WWE is to blame for that. The WWE Universe wants more C.M. Punk now, not more Alberto del Rio. Can Del Rio be resurrected? Sure. But now he has to overcome the stigma that is C.M. Punk in order to get to the top, and unfortunately for him, the WWE Universe may not want that.

Until next time,
Justin C
Follow me on Twitter @JCWonka

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