Lutz's Blog: WWE fans have no reason to invest in Alberto Del Rio
By Jeffrey Lutz
No WWE superstar has been responsible for more questions from fans during the last month than Alberto Del Rio. Is he a babyface or a heel? How can we tell? Is he going to finally make a move on Rosa Mendes? What does he have against Santa Claus? No, really, babyface or heel?
I won't waste time hypothesizing on elaborate answers to those questions. Instead, I'll echo the attitude WWE seems to have taken with Del Rio's character: Who cares?
On paper, Del Rio has had the most noteworthy two years of any WWE superstar not named C.M. Punk or John Cena. Del Rio won the 2011 Royal Rumble, which led to a marquee World Title match at WrestleMania 27. He had two stints, however brief, with the WWE title and has been in several more main-event-level-feuds in 2012.
In reality, very little about Del Rio's achievements has been remarkable. His wins were sporadic leading to WrestleMania 27, a period perhaps best remembered for his multiple losses to Christian. Del Rio lost to Edge at the biggest event of 2011, and even his WWE Championship runs were transitional stretches leading to more important and significant reigns from Punk and Cena.
The theme of Del Rio's last year has been that he's good enough to serve as a temporary foil to top babyfaces, and even good enough to have impressive matches with them, but not quite good enough to break through against those more accomplished opponents. He's a strong enough heel to be cast as the villain who nearly killed Santa Claus, but not strong enough, apparently, to actually be a heel.
WWE, perhaps recognizing the stagnant nature of Del Rio's character brought on by the company's inattentive writing, opted to make him even less interesting by turning him babyface. We think.
Del Rio's uneventful turn made the Miz's similarly uninspiring switch from heel to babface look like Shawn Michaels throwing Marty Jannetty through the Barbershop window. Del Rio's turn came when he took exception to the actions of notorious evildoers 3MB, creating such a massive ripple in the wrestling universe that WWE didn't even need to reference it or explain it the following night on Raw. Note the sarcasm.
There is nothing about Del Rio, especially without an explanation for his new outlook, that points to a babyface character. He has a man-servant, he's rich and arrogant, and he clearly has it out for beloved mythical characters. If I'm the Easter Bunny, I'm looking over my shoulder right about now.
The poor writing for Del Rio has been a microcosm of WWE's non-committal booking that has become more prevalent in the era of three-hour Raw shows. WWE tells the beginning or ending of stories but often neglects to fill in the rest of the details. There was never a resolution to the Del Rio-Mendes story, which was told in halting fashion to begin with, and there will probably never be finality to the reasons behind Del Rio's new motivations.
Some speculation indicates that Del Rio went babyface to placate a sizable base of Latin-American fans looking for their next hero to replace the aging Rey Mysterio and the unreliable Sin Cara. A better strategy would be to invest in a Del Rio character that has a good look combined with in-ring ability and strong microphone skills so that people from all races and backgrounds will be drawn to him.
WWE has surrounded Del Rio with an abundance of curiosity but no reason to make fans want to satisfy it. Until it's clear that WWE has plans for Del Rio beyond making him a placeholder, there is no cause for fans to concern themselves with his plight.
Jeff Lutz has written for the Wichita Eagle newspaper in Kansas for over a decade and debuted with Prowrestling.net on November 4, 2012. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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