[WARNING – this content contains spoilers]
A lot of us went into WrestleMania with high expectations. We had The Rock back on our TV screen teasing some form of altercation with John Cena, and perhaps even The Miz. We had yet another streak match with The Undertaker looking to go 19-0 against HHH. And, a lot of fans were looking forward to efforts from Mysterio/Rhodes as well as CM Punk/Orton.
And in all fairness, while it generally has been panned (after the fact) as having been an average or slightly above average effort, the matches that did deliver were quite good. One in particular that stuck out, was the Edge versus Del Rio bout, which kicked off the event.
Before the pay-per-view started, it seemed to be (to me at least) a foregone conclusion that Alberto Del Rio, who most had grown to generally despise, was going to be victorious. Yet, by the time we were taking our first bathroom break from in-ring action, the title defense had been completed and it was Edge standing tall with that big gold belt. Which begged the question as to why?
Both casual and more dedicated wrestling fans quickly came up to speed regarding Edge’s medical issues, which were revealed to the world first online and then, more formally, on RAW the next evening. Edge’s cumulative injuries over the course of his career, sadly had resulted in his premature retirement from in-ring competition. Wow. Didn’t see that coming.
Now in the short term, I was able to devour these details, make sense of them all, and move on. One can only assume that (regardless of what stories are making the rounds) word had come down, prior to this match, that something was up. Whether it was Edge who made the ask, or whether it was Vince who made the call (hopefully the latter), the decision was carried out to let Edge compete in his last match to open WrestleMania and secure a victory, thus retiring as the world heavyweight champion.
It was a feel good moment and one that I can respect as someone who has followed the business for some time. I remember thinking that it was odd that this match in particular was the curtain-jerker, and that the outcome was not at all what I had been expecting. But, 24 hours later, everything made a lot more sense. When it came to a long time loyal employee and doing the right thing (he just happens to be Canadian) Del Rio’s time was going to have to wait.
Fast forward a couple of weeks. Coming out of the recent WWE draft, it was revealed that Alberto Del Rio had been shifted over to the flagship RAW brand. Now historically it’s always been the case that WWE has operated with two championships; one being represented on SmackDown, and the other on RAW. At the time, the WWE champion was The Miz, who evidently was targeted to stay on the RAW brand.
With that in mind, combined with the feel good moment in waiting in the form of Christian winning the big gold belt on the heels of Edge’s retirement, the outcome of the Extreme Rules PPV was all but telegraphed. And indeed, Christian did win the match. But a bit of a shocker has leaked out regarding his title reign. As of the latest SmackDown taping, Randy Orton has beaten Christian to become the latest World Heavyweight champion on the blue brand.
Which brings me back around to Alberto Del Rio. Having now moved to Monday nights, it would appear that his “destiny” just may be shifting gears to one John Cena—given one of the other outcomes of Extreme Rules was for John Cena to recapture the WWE title from the Miz (and John Morrison).
Del Rio has lucked out in some ways, and here’s why. Along with the corporate go-to guy John Cena, Del Rio’s little amigo Rey Mysterio was also been moved over to the RAW brand. If you will recall, both of these individuals spent a good portion of time over the last year feuding together. Rey was able to help establish and solidify Del Rio as a top notch heel by putting him over week after week for what seemed like an eternity.
Mysterio, a perennial fan favourite, clearly helped Alberto establish himself as a threat to the roster, given Rey’s status and perceived star-drawing power. For those keeping score, Del Rio has been penned as a major player for some years to come and is seen as a key player, given the company’s desire to maintain a direct high profile link into the Hispanic market.
Bottom line is, Del Rio has suffered an unintended setback at the hands of fate (coming in the form of Edge’s real life swerve). Del Rio’s proficiency in the ring should effectively allow him to successfully “re-apply” for the role as most hated heel on a major sports entertainment weekly program. He’d already all but won that job on SmackDown, but he’s now set to run the same gauntlet again on RAW.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing. A little more seasoning in working the WWE style is not a bad thing. Alberto has adjusted well, and his promotions have quickly become relative must-see-tv. But WWE has been caught before rushing new talent into main event spots only to find themselves with their pants down, scrambling to re-write the script for the next month's TV and PPV.
The viewership for RAW and SmackDown are not necessarily the same either. Some folks are truly loyal to a brand and one or more wrestlers than they are a show, while others hang their hats either on Monday or Friday night. For those who might not have been avid SmackDown viewers, the next couple of months are an opportunity for Del Rio to once again show his stuff and gain another following of loyal haters.
If the dirt sheets are accurate, although he may be starting his journey working with his little Mexican friend again, the near term plans (SummerSlam) point to a possible John Cena feud. And given Cena’s stature in the company, who wouldn’t want to work a program with Cena?
The end result will be an even brighter star in the form of Alberto Del Rio. He’s got all the tools to deliver as a first class heel, to all demographics. While he may feel like he’s having a little deja vu in the interim, the long run says this change of scenery probably will do more good than harm.
Del Rio just needs to shake off the Groundhog Day feeling he may currently be undergoing, rub his eyes a little like a seven-year-old would on Christmas morning, and re-adjust his sights from chasing the big gold belt on SmackDown, to (in the very near future) chasing the WWE title on RAW.
The only question is, with the long term planning around WM28 with Rock and Cena, will Del Rio have the same probability of winning the WWE belt as he was set to have with the World Heavyweight Title?