Alberto Del Rio was first exposed to viewers last year through several vignettes. The vignettes showed us what Del Rio was all about before he ever stepped foot in a WWE ring. He has cocky, rich and according to the man himself—born into and destined for greatness.
Del Rio immediately made an impact as he made Rey Mysterio submit in his debut match with the company. He would also take out several superstars, such as Matt Hardy and Christian, with the same move. Then came the Royal Rumble and Del Rio was shot straight to the moon.
In a move that few saw coming, Alberto Del Rio actually did what he said he would do, as he won the 2011 Royal Rumble. It became clear that huge things lay ahead for the Mexican aristocrat. Del Rio was now set to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 27.
Jack Swagger is another young superstar that also ran through his competition upon debuting with WWE. Swagger made quick work of his fellow ECW superstars and soon found himself defeating Matt Hardy for the ECW Title.
WWE had big plans for Swagger, as he was soon drafted onto Raw, the company's flagship show. After being lost in the shuffle for several months, Swagger was set for his WrestleMania debut in the Money in the Bank ladder match.
To the surprise of many, Swagger grabbed the briefcase and now had a shot at any title he wanted. Swagger would waste no time in cashing in the briefcase, as just five days later on Smackdown, he challenged a weakened Chris Jericho, defeating him and becoming World Heavyweight Champion.
Swagger’s World Title win also gave us a new Jack Swagger. The smiles were now gone. Swagger would now come out in a suit, usually covered in sweat, and would now be dead serious in whatever he did. The personality was gone. The idea backfired immensely, and just a few months later, Swagger would drop the title to Rey Mysterio.
Not only did Swagger drop the title, he dropped off the ladder of relevance as well. He was soon relegated back to the lower mid-card with no hope of making it out. Swagger was recently appointed Michael Cole’s "trainer" and while it forced him off the WrestleMania card, it wasn’t completely rock bottom, as it may lead to a resurgence in his career. None of it takes away from the fact that a man who had so much potential, failed so dramatically when given the ball.
Alberto Del Rio’s WrestleMania World Title Match has come and gone. In a very good match that opened the show, Del Rio found himself on the wrong side of an Edge spear and walked out of the big show without the big gold belt. The WrestleMania loss could prove to be more beneficial to Del Rio than if he would have won the match.
In the case of Swagger, as we saw it was too much, too soon. So in a way, I was very glad that WWE did not make the same mistake with Del Rio and was taking a different approach altogether. Del Rio was not going to be just handed the title like Swagger was. Del Rio would have to earn it the hard way and prove he was not like so many failed experiments that came before him.
Alberto Del Rio, barring something wildly unexpected, will be World Heavyweight Champion soon. I’m sure not too many disagree with that. Del Rio has the pedigree and everything else needed to be the champion. It’s not going to happen the way WWE wanted it to happen—a hard fought feud with Edge has been taken off the table. Regardless of that, when it does happen, it can still be a very special moment for Del Rio and a key moment for WWE.
The question that comes from all that is: will WWE make the same mistake with Del Rio that they made with Swagger? Assuming Del Rio eventually becomes World Champion—what would the aftermath of his reign be? Once Del Rio drops the strap, would he also drop down to the mid-card and become a forgotten man? Or will Del Rio be a main-stay in the main-event scene like many believe he should be?
For the similarities that the two men do have, I see major differences as well. Let’s face it: Swagger’s lisp had a huge negative effect on the man and it became much more noticeable when he received the spotlight and became the man holding the big gold belt.
Del Rio has to worry about none of that. The Mexican aristocrat exudes charisma, and as I mentioned before, has the appearance of a champion. That more than anything separates the two men.
So far it also appears that WWE has way more trust in Del Rio than they ever did in Swagger. Del Rio won his initial feud with Mysterio (the man Swagger lost the gold to), won the Royal Rumble and participated in one of the World Title matches at Wrestlemania.
All these things occurred in the short seven or so months that Del Rio has been with the company. By the looks of it, WWE also has way more invested in Del Rio than they ever did with Swagger.
I believe WWE will do whatever it takes to see that Del Rio is a huge success and one of their top stars for years to come. I hope I am right, and I do believe WWE will learn from the mistakes they made with Jack Swagger.
Alberto Del Rio is no flash-in-the-pan. He is the next big thing.