WWE world heavyweight champion Alberto Del Rio turned his back on his supposed best friend and personal ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez on the August 5 edition of Monday Night Raw. He viciously attacked Ricardo after losing to Rob Van Dam in a non-title match, and now it appears the men have officially parted ways.
And Alberto is more heel now than ever before.
I suppose it was only a matter of time until this happened. After all, Alberto's latest heel run has been pretty successful so far, and he has left his recent turn as a babyface character long behind him. Del Rio's time as a face was not widely accepted among the WWE faithful. Many fans felt he was hopelessly miscast in that role.
I, for one, agreed with that sentiment. Something about a smiling, happy Alberto Del Rio just never felt right to me. We had always seen him as an antagonist up to that point, and he had always done very well wearing the black hat.
So when he embraced the crowd and left his rule-breaking ways behind him, it was a hard pill to swallow for fans who appreciated all he had done before.
But the one constant for Del Rio in both of his roles was his sidekick.
Ricardo has been there from the beginning. His golden pipes heralded Del Rio's arrival every night as Alberto drove a different luxury automobile into one arena after another. The two men were inseparable. You never saw one without the other.
Ricardo was, in many ways, the perfect complement to Alberto. During Del Rio's initial WWE run, Ricardo played the clown for guys who had heat with Alberto. Ricardo as the buffoon took the fall so Del Rio didn't have to, allowing Alberto to remain strong while entertaining the crowd at the same time.
Ricardo was the comic relief, and Alberto was the straight man. Del Rio often berated Ricardo for the mistakes he made and would even leave him behind as a distraction to save his own skin. This was their routine, and it worked quite well.
But perhaps it was working too well. Eventually, Ricardo began to be cheered for by the crowd, though Del Rio was still very much hated. Rodriguez was seen as somewhat of a sympathetic figure, a man who was being used and abused by the one person he felt was his best friend.
However, when Alberto's face turn happened, suddenly the roles became much more similar. Now, Del Rio was the softer, gentler WWE Superstar. He was much easier to get along with, a man who had apparently realized the error of his ways and had decided to make a personality change.
He was remorseful for the things he had said and done in his WWE career, and that included his mistreatment of Ricardo. Ricardo had practically been a servant; now, Del Rio considered him an equal.
While I never truly bought Alberto as a very convincing protagonist, I did enjoy the interactions he had with Ricardo. That part of the equation felt right and seemed to work on every level.
It worked so well that when Alberto turned heel for the second time, I had the same thought many fans likely had: Is Ricardo turning heel too?
That seemed a little hard to believe considering Alberto had been a changed man as a babyface, a guy who was trying to do the right thing by his best friend. Even if Del Rio had now reverted back to his old ways, why in the world would Rodriguez go along with it, knowing what would likely be in store for him?
Ricardo was headed back to a life of more degradation, more verbal abuse and more moments of playing the fool, all at the whim of Del Rio. Would Ricardo truly do that?
But that is exactly what he did, at least for a very short time. Now, however, Alberto has finally stabbed his friend in the back and left him for dead. Their friendship appears to be over.
Now, Del Rio's heel run can be maximized to its fullest potential. Without Ricardo acting as his conscience and his good side in times of turmoil, Alberto is finally free to be as evil as he wants to be. If Ricardo had simply left on his own, the door would perhaps be open for some type of reconciliation at some point down the road.
But Alberto is the one who ended their partnership. He is the one who has terminated Ricardo's services with extreme prejudice and has thrust Rodriguez back into the role of the sympathetic figure. Now, Ricardo can come back to the cheers of the fans, and Alberto can continue being the heel he was meant to be.
Alberto Del Rio's recent return to his heel roots has been a welcome sight for many fans who believed he should not have been a babyface to begin with. However, Del Rio still had a crutch, a built-in opportunity to turn face again in the future with Ricardo Rodriguez as his best friend. Now that the friendship is over, Del Rio can become a much stronger heel, and Ricardo can become the lovable good guy fans want to see.
This routine should work very well, indeed.