There is no doubting the magnitude of Alberto Del Rio’s current run in WWE. The former aristocratic heel now gets monster pops from the crowds and continues to bask in the glow of winning his first World Heavyweight Championship.
Of course, having comic relief by his side in the form of Ricardo Rodriguez has helped. Even at the height of his heelness, the WWE Universe always seemed to have a bit of an attraction for Del Rio thanks to Rodriguez.
With that said, however, selling Del Rio as a World champion has been tough for WWE. Winning the World title within weeks of the turn may have, in the eyes of some fans, peaked his face career for now.
Outside of The Big Show, from whom Del Rio won the belt, he has not defended the title against anyone else. Sure, he has wrestled on television, but the belt was never up for grabs. His next title defense, against Jack Swagger at WrestleMania 29, could possibly be his last.
Even Dolph Ziggler’s potential cash-in of his Money in the Bank briefcase seems to have become an afterthought, especially in the wake of Monday’s announcement that Ziggler and Big E. Langston will face Team Hell No at WrestleMania 29 for the tag team championship.
Ziggler still is expected to cash in at WrestleMania 29 against the winner of the Del Rio-Swagger match. So the possibility exists that Ziggler could walk out of New Jersey next month with two major WWE titles.
Nonetheless, it is possible that Del Rio won the World title too quickly into his face turn.
Sure, he chased Big Show to avenge the storyline injury and humiliation suffered by Rodriguez at the hands of Big Show. But it seems that WWE only can come up with interesting storylines for Del Rio’s championship as long as it involves revenge on behalf of his ring announcer.
If you boil it down, Del Rio really is not a WWE marketing phenom. His character does not scream merchandise sales like other wrestlers. As a matter of fact, if you check out Del Rio-related merchandise on the WWE Shop, all you find is an outdated T-shirt from his heel days.
It’s hard to understand the rationale for pushing T-shirts featuring Cody Rhodes’ mustache, but at the same time failing to hitch its wagon to one of the company’s top champions. Del Rio may not be the T-shirt kind, but certainly they could have created Del Rio-style scarves, for goodness sakes.
Perhaps it would be easier to sell Del Rio’s character as a former rather than current champion. With Swagger’s future in WWE uncertain past WrestleMania and the likelihood that Ziggler will emerge from WrestleMania as World champ, it would bode well for WWE Creative to find a way to keep Del Rio in the title picture without going the way of revenge.
Hints have been dropped that the Rodriguez injury storyline is a test for Del Rio as a true solo act and a precursor for possibly separating them. Rodriguez is such an integral part of Del Rio’s popularity surge that separating them now would be an epic fail on WWE’s part.
Whatever happens from this point on—title or no title—Alberto Del Rio offers the WWE Creative Team a challenge. They have to build and maintain story arcs that will keep his character as spicy as the cuisine from his native Mexico.
Follow Bill Atkinson on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.