On the evening of Aug. 20, 2010, a WWE employee accidentally left a message to an editor/supervisor on the top of the official biography for Alberto Del Rio, who debuted that night on SmackDown.
“Are you ok with this for Del Rio’s bio. Just asking because I know he’s supposed to be a big deal, fairly quick.”
This is funny in retrospect, because Del Rio has been pushed to the moon since his debut. His ring entrance even included a car and personal announcer. But to call him a “big deal” just rings false.
Del Rio has tons of attributes that would suggest success. He is 6-foot-5-inches, has a magnificently chiseled physique and has the face of a model or leading man. He had a longtime amateur career, and even tried out mixed martial arts. Heck, he was set to compete in the 2000 Summer Olympics for Mexico, but a dearth of funding meant that could not happen. Del Rio comes from a major Mexican wrestling family, and had a 10-year professional wrestling career there before coming to WWE.
His rise was fast. In January 2011, he won the Royal Rumble. He went on to face Edge (in his final match) at WrestleMania 27 for the World Heavyweight Championship. Del Rio lost that match.
In July, Del Rio won the Raw Money in the Bank briefcase. At Summer Slam the following month, Del Rio cashed the briefcase in, defeating newly anointed WWE champion CM Punk (back when people still liked Punk).
However, a long reign was not to be. At Night of Champions in September, he lost to John Cena. I was at that pay-per-view, held in Buffalo, N.Y. Not even the trustworthy anti-Cena smarks could muster up enough energy to cheer for Del Rio rather than just boo Cena, minus one or two guys chanting “destiny.”
Fate being what it is, Del Rio won the belt back at Hell in a Cell a few weeks later and defended the title against Cena at Vengeance. He lost the title again, to CM Punk (still in the audience’s good graces) at Survivor Series. It was an excellent match, made all the better by Howard Finkel’s appearance and the feel-good moment when Punk finally got to hold the title (again). That’s part of the problem. Del Rio is a fine worker, but no one cares.
Sheamus, who himself had a difficult time becoming a fan favorite, had his World Heavyweight Championship reign ruined because he feuded with Del Rio for four pay per views during the summer of 2012.
At TLC in December 2012, Del Rio turned face. He defended his home nation after the eminently hate-able 3MB attacked it. Surprisingly, his face turn was successful for a time. He even got a chance to win the World Heavyweight Championship from the Big Show on SmackDown in January. During this time, his move set changed to be more luchador-like. This was refreshing.
However, the blandness returned soon after. On Raw the night following WrestleMania 29, Dolph Ziggler, long a smark and even an audience favorite, cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase and beat Del Rio for the heavyweight belt. Ziggler’s win was widely cheered by the audience.
He turned heel again in June 2013 at Payback, and, although he won the Heavyweight Title that night, the blandness continued. He would hold the belt until the end of October. He was out of the main event scene for a while after that.
Most recently, at Money in the Bank last month, he participated in the ladder match for the Unified WWE Worldwide Undisputed Heavyweight Universal title (or whatever they are calling it now). He entered the arena to massive indifference (right after Del Rio’s entrance, Cesaro came out to wide audience acclaim, which is funny considering the indifferent reactions Big Tone got a year ago).
It’s easy to go all out and blame Del Rio for his blandness, but I really can’t fault him entirely. Like I said, he’s a solid worker with a fairly old school move set. He is cut, good-looking and he really has the whole smug snake aspect down pat.
Some aspects are out of his control. His old fashioned holds could be construed as boring by a modern audience. A large number of the fans are “smart” enough these days that they get annoyed when WWE pushes someone that they just don’t dig. His promos are OK, but English clearly is not his first language. He has all the technical parts of speaking down, but he cannot make a promo “sing.”
At the end of the day, Del Rio just does not connect with the audience.
His personal ring announcer, Ricardo Rodriguez, was way more over than Del Rio. Now, without Rodriguez, Del Rio does not have a whole lot going for him (which, again, is ironic because Del Rio actually should have a lot going for him).
What does this mean for Del Rio? Probably not too much.
He’s already had a four year WWE run, and, despite a recent break from the main event, executives show no signs of not continuing to give him decent pushes and good programs. If WWE does not work out long term, he’d always have a place in Mexico. At 37 years old and with an already long career, he easily could retire soon.
You could say he has had a successful career. The audience might not think so, but in terms of accomplishments, it’s true. In, February, there were rumors of Del Rio leaving WWE, mainly because of his dip from the main event. This was followed by a significantly smaller amount of rumors that he was not leaving. He may or may not be happy right now, but I guess that is his destiny. What really counts is how Del Rio himself feels about his career in the end, and we just can’t know that right now.