Even though he lost at Hell in a Cell, Alberto Del Rio still came out a winner.
With his performance Sunday night, ADR finally has shed the image that welcomed him to the WWE—that of a wealthy, aristocratic playboy who did not hesitate to flaunt his riches and wanted you to think that he was so much better than you. He now has crossed over into that rare area that separates the top heels from the midcarders and the wannabes.
Del Rio’s character has finally become tough and relentless. Instead of letting his flash do the talking, he now is communicating more with his actions than his mouth.
Less gimmicky, more tricky.
Del Rio is just plain mean. And that is good news for his character and his future.
Del Rio is a talented wrestler with an incredible bloodline in the industry and a strong background in amateur wrestling and mixed martial arts. He came into WWE two years ago with a big push, as the promotion looked to shore up its Latino audience. One of the first things his character did was put popular Rey Mysterio on the shelf, and that helped build his heat.
When ADR won the Royal Rumble in 2011 and chose to challenge Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship, it seemed as if Del Rio was on his way to the top. But he lost that match—and his mojo with the WWE Universe.
Simply put, the WWE Universe got tired of him.
You can blame poor booking. WWE tried to build a feud between him and John Cena, but the WWE Universe wanted no part of it. Even putting the WWE Championship twice on him did not help.
His feud with Sheamus for the World belt was unbelievably atrocious and in the eyes of many diminished not only the value of the World belt but also Sheamus’ reign as champion.
So why now is Alberto Del Rio back on the edge of returning to the uppercard? He has changed his attitude.
No more promos starting with “My name is Alberto Del Rio, but you already knew that.” No more flashing-the-cash hand gestures up the ramp to the ring.
Sure, he still drives into the arena in expensive cars. But he has ditched the white scarf and gold trunks for an all-black look.
And “Bertie” has gotten mean.
He attacked Randy Orton backstage at a SmackDown taping and continued the barrage in the ring. At Hell in a Cell, he mocked Orton’s gimmicks, including the off-center ring pose. He twice did a cross arm breaker on Orton while draped over the top rope. He even tried to hit Orton with Orton’s own finisher, the RKO.
Orton finally won the match, but Del Rio won over the crowd, generating the most heat he has received since coming to WWE.
If WWE wants to keep Del Rio going, they need to develop that storyline. Keep him ruthless and relentless. Make him a mean machine.
I liked the idea that Del Rio tried to beat Orton with his own finisher. Perhaps that could be incorporated into future feuds.
Imagine Del Rio hitting an Attitude Adjustment on John Cena. A 619 on Rey Mysterio. A Brogue Kick on Sheamus.
The crowd would go bananas with their boos. And just as he does with those fancy cars, Alberto Del Rio could drive that heat right back into the uppercard.
But you already knew that.
Follow Bill Atkinson on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.