After what appeared to be some stalling when he ran over Santa Claus a couple of weeks ago, it looks like the WWE is going full speed ahead with Alberto Del Rio’s babyface turn.
The decision to do so, however, has drawn a lot of criticism from fans across the Internet.
Since Del Rio is such a natural heel, many don’t see why, of all its superstars, the WWE would choose to turn him face instead of someone else.
In fact, plenty of fans have already thrown in the towel on ADR’s face turn and deemed it a failure, even though it is still in its infant stages.
With such a strong negative reaction to the turn, the WWE could always pull the plug on it in the near future. But let’s just assume that creative stays the course with the turn.
What will Del Rio’s worth as a babyface ultimately prove to be?
It’s easy to look at how well ADR performed as a heel and simply dismiss his babyface run, but ultimately, he should prove to bring a lot of value to the WWE as a good guy.
If you look at what Randy Orton’s done as a face over the last three years and think of the similarities between him and Del Rio, you might be able to see that Del Rio could follow a path similar to that of “The Viper.”
Since turning face in early 2010, Orton has performed mostly as a borderline main-eventer on the SmackDown brand.
He’s feuded with guys like Dolph Ziggler, Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes and (oddly enough) Del Rio, and he’s had two world-heavyweight-championship reigns that have come in the midst of lengthy main-event runs.
Something similar could be in store for Del Rio.
Just as Orton has never been viewed as the guy during his three-year run as a babyface, Del Rio is not going to be viewed as the top good guy either. But he and Orton do mirror each other in a lot of ways.
The general consensus with both men is that they’re better off as heels but also that they’re great performers in the ring, regardless of what roles they’re in. You could easily make a case that Orton and Del Rio are two of the WWE’s most consistent and well-rounded performers.
At the same time, though, both Orton and Del Rio are often viewed as “boring,” in large part because the creative team books them in a way that isn’t always all that exciting.
It may also have a lot to do with the fact that neither Orton nor Del Rio seems inclined to be the happy-go-lucky babyface that a guy like John Cena is. Rather, both guys fit more into that “tweener” role where they’re cheered despite often acting like heels.
Perhaps that’s why the WWE is keeping a babyface Del Rio aligned with Ricardo Rodriguez.
Though technically a heel, Rodriguez has long been one of the WWE’s most beloved and sympathetic characters. He’s absolutely hilarious, and it’s earned him a bit of a cult following from the fans, which should make Del Rio’s face turn much easier.
With Del Rio aligned with Ricardo, he can still act a bit more heel like than most faces do but will likely get treated like a face because he’s associated with Rodriguez, who’s grown to be really over with the crowd.
In turn, that’ll allow Del Rio to stay true to his heel roots while he’s actually a face, which might be the best of both worlds for him.
After all, we’re seeing the rise of a lot of up-and-coming heels right now, including Dolph Ziggler, The Shield, Wade Barrett, Antonio Cesaro, Big E Langston and many others.
The face side of the WWE, however, isn’t as deep, and the company is going to need to push some former heels as top faces going forward.
Del Rio can definitely be that guy.
With rumors circulating that Orton could go heel any day now, it seems very likely that he and Del Rio will essentially trade places. Orton becomes the borderline main-event heel while Del Rio takes over Orton’s role as the reliable top babyface.
It’s a great position for ADR to be in, because he’s accomplished just about everything he could accomplish as a heel, so it’s worth seeing how he performs as a face.
If he fails, he can always turn heel again. If he succeeds, then the WWE may have found a new veteran face who can thrive in the upper midcard and enter the main-event scene when need be.
Del Rio has all the tools to make a babyface character work. All he needs is the support of the creative team.
Don’t count out ADR just because you think he might fail as a good guy. After all, there’s always the possibility that he will.
Rather, look at what Del Rio has done in the ring, and you’ll probably realize that he could be an Orton-like face who more than thrives in that role.
ADR is not going to be the WWE’s No. 1 good guy, but even if he’s its No. 5 face, he’s still going to play a crucial role in the company going forward.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!