There is no question that Alberto Del Rio has received a significant crowd reaction since turning face and winning the World Heavyweight Championship. Despite the general audience's approval, many fans still aren't sold on him as a top face. Even so, Del Rio should remain world champion heading into WrestleMania.
Del Rio was admittedly stale, and it became a chore to sit through one of his promos or matches. Much to the WWE's credit, it realized this to be true and turned him face. It can be argued that the WWE acted a bit too swiftly in putting the World Heavyweight Championship on him within weeks, but the majority of fans have embraced him, so it's tough to be too critical of the move.
Should Alberto Del Rio be World Heavyweight Champion heading into WrestleMania?
The fact that Del Rio is defending his title in a singles match against Big Show rather than in a chamber match at Elimination Chamber, would seem to point toward him retaining it until WrestleMania at the very least. That is far from a guarantee, though, due to the presence of Mr. Money in the Bank, Dolph Ziggler.
I consider myself to be a huge Ziggler fan and can't wait until he becomes World Heavyweight Champion, but even I see the value in waiting and allowing Del Rio to keep the title. Part of that is because the road to WrestleMania presents the WWE with the perfect opportunity to continue building Del Rio into a top face. It's clear that has been the goal so far, and there is no point in stalling the momentum that has been created.
The WWE has embraced Del Rio's Mexican roots since he turned face, and it appears as though the company wants him to be the next Latino icon in professional wrestling.
Rey Mysterio has held that distinction since the untimely passing of Eddie Guerrero, but Mysterio may not have many years left as a full-time competitor. Del Rio is a logical heir to Mysterio's throne, but he needs some truly great moments on his resume before he can rival Mysterio in that regard.
One way to do that is an entertaining feud heading into WrestleMania coupled with a victory at the event itself.
The Elimination Chamber match to determine the No. 1 contender for the world title is fairly wide open at the moment, but the ideal choice would be Mark Henry. Del Rio has already conquered one monster heel in Big Show, so doing the same to someone like Henry would give Del Rio even more credibility.
When a face takes on a tough, nasty heel like Big Show or Henry, the crowd can't help but root for him. That type of support on the big stage would definitely help Del Rio garner even more fans and it would likely establish him as a top face in the company. That may not be something that everyone wants to see, but there is no question that it makes sense from the WWE's perspective.
In addition to that, keeping the title on Del Rio would allow Ziggler to have his WrestleMania moment as well. Del Rio could score the win over Henry, but that would result in Henry attacking him following the match. Ziggler would then come to the ring and successfully cash in his Money in the Bank contract to become the world champion.
In an ideal scenario this would occur prior to a match between Ziggler and Jericho, putting the World Heavyweight Championship on the line. Ziggler would win that match and look like an incredibly strong titleholder by beating Del Rio and Jericho in the same night. Del Rio would still look strong as well, though, due to losing the title through unfair means.
That would then lead to a Del Rio vs. Ziggler feud that could span a few pay-per-views. Del Rio would be a red-hot face, Ziggler would be a red-hot heel and both men could potentially establish themselves as full-fledged main eventers. If Ziggler wins the belt before WrestleMania, though, it won't have the same effect, plus Del Rio wouldn't earn the added rub of a WrestleMania win.
WrestleMania should be about putting over as many superstars as possible and setting them up for success in the future.
Having Del Rio retain the title until WrestleMania would definitely help accomplish that. It's understandable that some fans are growing impatient when it comes to Ziggler's push, but good things come to those who wait, and hopefully the WWE subscribes to that theory as well.