The 26th annual Royal Rumble pay-per-view got off to an entertaining start as Alberto Del Rio successfully defended his World Heavyweight Championship against the Big Show in a Last Man Standing match.
Despite being at an obvious disadvantage physically, Del Rio produced a resilient and crafty performance to overcome his gigantic opponent in a hard-hitting match.
But it wasn’t just the result itself that bore significance; there was a whole lot more going on beneath the surface in this one.
First off, there was Del Rio’s apparently unnecessary exchange with Bret “The Hitman” Hart before the match.
While it may have seemed rather out of the blue, the interaction marked something of a culmination for the Mexican Superstar – almost a confirmation that his rather unexpected face-turn is now well and truly complete.
Furthermore, the crowd’s reaction to Del Rio before, during and after the encounter only ratified this fact.
While he may well have been aided by the creative team's booking and guest appearances from former faces, credit must nonetheless be given to the current World Champion for making a seamless transition from one of the more stale and disliked characters on the roster to a genuine good-guy.
And perhaps most importantly, he is not just a good-guy – but a likeable one at that.
Del Rio does of course play up to the crowd, but the manner in which he does so is nothing like that of John Cena or Sheamus, for example.
There are no cheesy smiles, no terrible jokes and much less of the “invincibility” that Cena and Sheamus have somehow portrayed over the years.
Simply put, Del Rio is a face that older fans can actually relate to; thus reducing the likelihood of crowds cheering for the heel – an aspect that has been growing ever more prominent in the WWE as of late.
However, it wasn’t just the champion himself who benefited from the showdown, as the match actually showed Big Show in a positive light also.
Sure, it wasn’t the paciest of fights, but that’s not something that we expect from the Big Show.
Instead, the giant played his heel role to perfection, with his slow and methodical pace really adding to the remorseless nature of his character.
And though he ultimately ended the evening with defeat, the nature of his loss certainly didn’t damage his credibility any further.
Ricardo Rodriguez’s dastardly tactic of taping Show’s feet to the bottom rope meant that Del Rio’s win was by no means clean, and thus his loss in a Last Man Standing match became more believable.
The finish keeps the possibility of an extended rivalry open, although that may not be necessary if the Big Show’s contract dispute wrangles on.
Either way, the match was booked well and on the whole reflected rather positively on both Superstars.
Del Rio’s massive bump through a table on the stage, as well as the use of foreign objects also added to the spectacle, and in the end resulted in a memorable match that got the Royal Rumble show off to the very greatest of starts.
Though it may be difficult to predict where the World Heavyweight Title picture goes from here, one thing’s for sure – Del Rio has never been better as a face, while Big Show’s reputation remains intact after the questionable finish.
Given the circumstances, it was a win-win situation for fans and participants alike; wouldn't you agree?