Alberto Del Rio is headed for a third United States Championship match with Kalisto at WWE's Royal Rumble on Sunday, January 24. The match itself will surely be a good one, with the smaller Luchador getting the rub from the veteran League of Nations star.
But this one is much more about the future of WWE than the present.
Kalisto is very similar in style and size to Rey Mysterio, a fact that has surely not been missed by the WWE faithful. While Kalisto should be judged based on his own merit, the fact is he's filling a spot that has been empty for quite some time.
Rey's place as WWE's great underdog was realized the day he first worked someone bigger than him. Fans knew they were seeing something special just by the way he flew around the ring and by the way he could take a beating and just keep coming back for more.
The Rey Mysterio fans knew in WCW had been overexposed to the point of no return, even unmasking in a storyline. The Rey Mysterio of WWE was featured much differently, and he was over instantly.
When it came time for Rey to move on, he left a void that was eventually filled with Daniel Bryan. Bryan may not have been the high flyer Mysterio was, but he had the same underdog quality about him. It was the trait that put him in the fans' favor and made them want to see him succeed.
Every time Bryan fought the odds, he rallied the crowd behind his cause. He shouldn't have won as much as he did, because he was outnumbered and was never the biggest guy in the fight. It was Rey's old gimmick, and Bryan gave it new legs.
Kalisto is on the verge of doing just that right now.
He may have lost the belt back to Del Rio, but now he has another chance to win it, and really, this is only the beginning for him. WWE has paired him with the best talent to start.
Alberto Del Rio is the right man to get Kalisto where he should be right now, and the Royal Rumble is a great place for the spotlight to shine on him. The only question is, what happens on January 24?
Del Rio has all the momentum now, so technically, he's in a great spot to retain the championship. He's still in top form, is over as a heel and has the chance to succeed as one of WWE's major antagonists. The company could put the world title on him right now and it would be a plausible move, that's how over he is and how good he is at what he does.
Now Kalisto can benefit from Del Rio's experience and his ability to get a match over.
But perhaps getting over should include winning the United States Championship once again. As much as Del Rio is respected for what he can do, he is indeed hated by fans who want to see him lose in the end. That fact combined with Kalisto's popularity could equal the right time and a great pop if a title change occurs in the match.
Should Kalisto beat Alberto Del Rio for the WWE U.S. title at the Royal Rumble?
Kalisto needs this win; he could continue on his rise and grow as a singles star. The belt would help validate him as an important talent, and this match should be a high point for him, one that allows him to show what he can do on the big-event stage.
The talk for quite a while now has always been about how WWE must begin building its future and looking to younger stars to carry it through. Kalisto is one of those younger stars, and as he begins to rally fans behind him the way Rey and Bryan did, he should rise as one of the company's hot new faces.
Tom Clark can regularly be found on Bleacher Report and his podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online here