Alberto Del Rio's abrupt exit from WWE is the latest in the company's string of roster issues to overcome.
As he begins the next phase of his career, Del Rio leaves behind a hole that needs plugging. WWE will be without a high-quality ring worker who was extremely dependable and was the company's bridge to the Latino market.
On Thursday, the company let the former world champ go, per WWE.com, citing "unprofessional conduct and an altercation with an employee" as to why the move was made.
Dave Meltzer added on F4WOnline that "The story going around is that he slapped a a Social Media manager, at this week's television, but there are a variety of different stories going around regarding what led to this."
The full truth is sure to emerge over time, but regardless of how this came to be, the fact is that the roster is now minus Del Rio.
Fans have often labeled him a "boring" wrestler who lacked charisma, but Mexico's Greatest Export was a valuable member of the WWE team—an experienced, skilled mat technician.
His absence will be felt with a drop in match quality. WWE loses one of its most consistent performers with Del Rio's exit.
Steady Hand in the Ring
Del Rio is the type of wrestler WWE could throw into a ring with just about anybody and count on excellence.
He regularly brought out the best in his opponents, sometimes leading them to some of their finest work. That was likely WWE's mindset when it paired him up with Batista upon the powerhouse's return.
Batista hadn't been in the ring since 2010. He was going to have to be eased in.
That meant working with Del Rio early on. The Animal battled him at Elimination Chamber and then on WWE Raw the next night. Batista hadn't yet returned to where he was as a wrestler four years prior, but Del Rio helped him make the transition while he knocked off ring rust.
Last year, when Big E began to break out as a singles star, Del Rio was one of his early opponents. That helped Big E look like a formidable force right away and compose high-quality bouts as well.
It's no coincidence that emerging stars Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose have met Del Rio recently. WWE clearly wants to elevate them, and Del Rio has aided that process.
As he saw with Reigns' win on the July 25 edition of SmackDown, Del Rio helped lead him to one of his most impressive solo efforts.
In a lengthy match on Monday's WWE Raw, Ambrose was made to look like a gutsy warrior and a top-tier star in waiting.
WWE could place those men in the ring with Del Rio and be confident of the results. Del Rio's resume says as much. He's shined against a variety of foes including Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler and Big Show.
The company has one less man to be a constant in the ring now.
Del Rio's departure leaves WWE without a wrestler who could be used to bring up rising talent like Reigns or ease in veterans like Batista. It also means WWE is now without one of its workhorses.
During his tenure, Del Rio has proved that he is a reliable, steady presence on the roster. That has meant he's been someone WWE can turn to in terms of churning out matches but also someone who can tough out injuries which ups his value.
That's more than John Cena, Randy Orton or Kane have contributed so far. And Del Rio is not pulling an Adam Rose and being a part of blink-of-an-eye matches either. He's been in a large number of lengthy bouts.
The number of his televised matches this year to go past the 10-minute mark is remarkable, per TheHistoryofWWE.com.
|Raw-Jan. 20||Rey Mysterio||14:46|
|Main Event-Jan. 21||Sin Cara||12:00|
|Raw-Jan. 27||Kofi Kingston||13:37|
|Main Event-Jan. 28||R-Truth||15:00|
|SmackDown-March 14||Dolph Ziggler||11:46|
|Raw-March 24||Christian, Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus||11:56|
|Raw-March 31||Big E||10:28|
|Raw-April 14||Rob Van Dam||10:34|
|SmackDown-April 18||Big E||10:01|
|Raw-May 5||Daniel Bryan||15:29|
|SmackDown-June 27||(w/ Cesaro) Dolph Ziggler and Rob Van Dam||10:37|
|Main Event-July 8||Sheamus||17:01|
|SmackDown-July 25||Roman Reigns||12:28|
|Raw-Aug. 4||Dean Ambrose||15:42|
WWE now has to find a new way to fill those 10-plus minutes on those shows, and it's not as if every wrestler can come in and entertain for that long. Men like Fandango, R-Truth or Heath Slater don't have the kind of in-ring resume that Del Rio has.
The company will need to look elsewhere to round out its shows with a top-level mat worker.
Besides providing a healthy quantity of bouts, Del Rio been unbelievably tough as well. Last July, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t WrestlingInc) reported that Del Rio suffered a broken rib during WWE Raw.
As reported by James Caldewell on PWTorch.com, he was wrestling just days later on the SmackDown taped on July 25 against Ziggler. The clash didn't even air. That dark match main event was a Street Fight, one where Del Rio wowed the crowd, broken rib and all.
That's evidence of Del Rio's dependability and invaluable toughness. WWE has been able to lean on him for quality matches even when he's banged up in a major way.
WWE has less certain options when looking for someone to plug in now. The company doesn't yet know how much it can rely on newer talent like Big E, Rusev or Bo Dallas.
One of its go-to stars is now gone. WWE must decide who slides upward to take his spot, unsure if that person can deliver in the same way.
A Way to Reach the Latino Demographic
Del Rio heading elsewhere also means WWE's top Latino star is gone. The fervent reactions the former world champ received in Mexico point to how popular he was south of the border.
That's also true in U.S. cities with large Latino populations.
As someone who has attended WWE live events in San Antonio, Houston and El Paso, Texas (all cities that fit that description), I can tell you that he was especially well-received in those areas. The Latino demographic is a powerful one, with 53 million Hispanics living in the U.S. as of 2013, per The Huffington Post.
With Rey Mysterio's career all but over and Sin Cara not gaining much traction, that left Del Rio as WWE's most prominent Latino. His absence creates a gap that WWE has to close.
That may mean calling Kalisto up from NXT or focusing more on Sin Cara, but it's a problem that the company didn't need to address so urgently until it showed Del Rio the door.
WWE has to hurry along Kalisto's rise or alter the way it has been presenting Sin Cara. Either way, the Del Rio incident forces the company to make a change.
That is true in terms of WWE's hierarchy as well. A former world champ and Royal Rumble winner who has produced in the ring as reliably as Michael Cole plugs the WWE Network is gone.
WWE must now survey the roster in search of his replacement.