It won't become official until the show airs on Friday, but Alberto Del Rio is the new World Heavyweight Champion, as he defeated Big Show in a Last Man Standing match at the Miami SmackDown taping on Tuesday. Although the title change is shocking, it's ultimately a smart move by WWE.
The WWE first reported the title change late Tuesday night on WWE.com and it came much to my surprise, and to the surprise of WWE fans everywhere. A match between Big Show and Del Rio had been announced on Raw, but there was no indication that it was a title match, and it didn't seem like there was ever any intention to take the belt off Big Show.
Because everything came from out of nowhere, some fans have a propensity to overreact and call it a stupid decision. The fact of the matter is that the WWE had obviously been planning this for quite some time and decided to pull the trigger. This was a calculated choice and it promises to pay big dividends.
When I first learned about the title change, two things came to mind. This is either a way to have Dolph Ziggler cash in his Money in the Bank contract, or it's a trial run for Del Rio to see how over he has gotten as a face and how effective he can be in that role as a main-eventer. No matter how you slice it, this is a low-risk, high-reward move by the company.
The WWE definitely made the most of what it had with Big Show, as his character was on point for the most part and his feud with Sheamus had its high points. His in-ring work was better than ever and he served as a respectable holdover champion.
The fact of the matter is that Big Show is a veteran with no real need for the World Heavyweight Championship, so nobody is going to be crushed by the fact that he lost it.
Del Rio, on the other hand, needs something to kick-start his face turn. It began at TLC when he saved Ricardo Rodriguez from an attack at the hands of 3MB and it has slowly gained steam ever since. Big Show has knocked out and attacked Ricardo on numerous occasions, which has prompted Del Rio to rush to his aid and quickly develop a rivalry with The World's Largest Athlete.
Most probably figured that the feud would culminate in a world title match at Royal Rumble with Big Show retaining against Del Rio, but that obviously won't be the case. The next few weeks will be all about selling Del Rio as a top face on SmackDown, and depending upon how the crowd reacts, the creative team definitely has some different avenues to explore.
He figures to retain against Big Show even if he falls flat, but if the fans aren't really behind Del Rio, then perhaps Ziggler will cash in at the Rumble or at some point between Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber.
Failing that, one would have to think that Del Rio will drop the title at Elimination Chamber, as the likes of Big Show, Sheamus, Randy Orton and other top stars figure to be involved.
If Del Rio's star takes off to unprecedented levels, then the WWE can decide to keep the big gold belt around his waist and have him defend it at WrestleMania.
Regardless of how you look at things, the WWE has the flexibility to make this decision work. Del Rio could be a top star, but the WWE could just as easily move on to a contingency plan.
I, for one, believe that Del Rio will excel as a face champion. He was admittedly among the stalest and most boring superstars in the entire WWE a month ago, but things are different now that his persona has changed.
Del Rio clearly needed to shake things up, and he has done that with great success. Del Rio is suddenly slick and cool rather than repetitive and annoying, and the fans are already responding to him.
The reason for this title change is quite simple. Big Show has done a lot in the business and is definitely the safer choice, but his upside is capped. Big Show could hit the proverbial glass ceiling with a million Knockout Punches, but he won't break through it.
Big Show reached his potential long ago, and the WWE already knows what it's going to get out of him.
Conversely, Del Rio has a chance to be an iconic figure in the WWE. Not only can he be a top face overall, but with Rey Mysterio nearing retirement, Del Rio may be able to take his place as the top Mexican star in the company. Del Rio wrestled as a tecnico (face) in Mexico for the most part, so he knows what it takes to get over in that regard.
It didn't take Del Rio long to become one of the WWE's top heels, and even though he ultimately fell flat and became stale, the potential for greatness is still inside him. Unless the WWE gives the fans a reason to care about him, they'll never know how big he can be.
This is a golden opportunity for Del Rio, and whether or not he takes advantage of it, giving him the world title was the right move by the WWE.