Alberto Del Rio returned in late 2015 to the shock of WWE fans everywhere.
Given how he’d left the company — a successful lawsuit and somewhat justified allegations of racism — it was a strained possibility that he would ever return and highly improbable that it would come as soon as it did.
Then Hell in a Cell happened, he answered John Cena’s open challenge, and in the snap of a finger, once again held WWE championship gold.
But along the way, he has started to sputter in popularity. The WWE put him in a nonsensical program with Zeb Colter and later grouped him in with the “League of Nations,” disallowing any chance for growth or character development.
Erik Beaston of Bleacher Report improperly diagnosed the Alberto Del Rio problem with getting over in an otherwise brilliantly written piece on the WWE’s booking problems.
“Alberto Del Rio may be a very strong wrestler but has never, ever been as over as the pushes he has received, championships he has won and his television time would suggest,” Beaston wrote, pointing out that the “‘response’ he received for his win over the masked luchador [Kalisto] Thursday night” was weak.
Beaston attests that Kalisto’s surprise win over Alberto Del Rio prior to that was a way of heating up the character only to have the push snuffed out with Del Rio recapturing the title on the Thursday (Jan. 14) episode of Smackdown.
He is not wrong about that or any of his points with regard to the failings of WWE Creative, but he does imply that Alberto Del Rio is one of the WWE brass ring carriers when he is not.
In fact, Del Rio is as much a victim of bad booking as Kalisto is. He may have the U.S. Title, but he is not being allowed to show everything he can do on the mic or in the ring.
His presence on Lucha Underground Season 1 is considerably different than how WWE packages him, and his successes as “El Patron” on the El Rey Network promotion are proof positive that Alberto Del Rio is capable of getting himself over.
Everything from mic skills to work-rate are fully on display in the one-hour wrestling program. There is an electric presence whenever he shows up that lacks in WWE as well.
Given the brevity of Lucha Underground episodes and the stacked talent roster, it’s a miracle Del Rio is able to stand out, but he was one of the most special things about that show in its first 39 episodes.
His feud with Johnny Mundo at LU — formerly John Morrison in the WWE — is perhaps the best thing the show put on in its critically- and fan-praised inaugural season.
The problem is that WWE does not understand what Del Rio’s strengths are.
You get a sense watching WWE’s handling of him that, to them, he is proof of diversity and a thinly veiled attempt to target the Hispanic demographic.
There is very little thought that goes into how the company allows him to use his talents.
They mistakenly believe putting a title on his waist is all they have to do to actually give him a push, and, like it or not, titles have very little to do with pushes.
A push is about taking the time to build a history between characters; giving them the time and freedom to explore their in-ring chemistry; and finally, building up to a special bout rather than hot-shotting back and forth, which is exactly what is happening now with the Kalisto angle.
But what do you think, readers?
Is Alberto Del Rio being given a fair shake by WWE, or is he once again getting deemphasized? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Image of Alberto Del Rio via WWE Raw screen grab]