By Ben Woodburn (@WrestleBox1)
Recently Alberto Del Rio has worked his way into the position of one of the top babyfaces in the WWE, but something has been bothering me about his current role, and furthermore his involvement in the Jack Swagger/Zeb Coulter angle and it is this which occupies the main thrust of the following article. Does Del Rio work as a Babyface? Is it his best position? Can the role he fills at the moment be described as ‘the good guy’?
Cast your minds back to Del Rio’s feud with the Big Show, although the payoff was their match at the Elimination Chamber, a solid match in which for the first time Del Rio looked like he could legitimately take down the World’s Largest Athlete, there were several instances that disturbed me during the angle. Starting with their match at the Royal Rumble (Which confusingly opened the show, despite being a World Heavyweight Championship Match), Del Rio won the match by taping Shows legs to the bottom rope with the assistance of Ricardo Rodriguez, meaning that Big Show was unable to answer the 10 count and lost the match thanks to the Last Man Standing stipulation. There were two disadvantages to the decision to end the match that way in my mind. Firstly it made it seem like Del Rio could not take down the Big Show without resorting to underhand tactics, thusly making the World Heavyweight Champ look weak. Secondly, taping your opponent’s legs to the ropes in order to win a match is typically a heel tactic, and Del Rio was being presented as the Babyface to the audience. The do anything to win mentality that was employed by Del Rio in the match reminded me of Eddie Guerrero and the whole ‘If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying’ philosophy. However Del Rio is not Guerrero, not by any stretch of the imagination, furthermore to the best of my knowledge Guerrero was never painted as a straight forward Babyface, so why did Del Rio use tactics traditionally adopted by heels?
Moving on from his feud with the Big Show, there have been general patterns in Del Rio’s matches that he never seemed to lose from his run as a heel that are not needed at the moment. In particular his personal ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez. Good guys don’t need ring announcers, managers or enforcers to help them win their matches, yet Del Rio still continues to use Rodriguez as a distraction during his matches. If he wants to be accepted as a babyface he needs to drop Rodriguez, not matter how funny the guy is he is having Rodriguez jump on to the apron to distract either the referee or Del Rio’s opponent whenever ADR is in trouble takes away credibility and makes it seem as though Del Rio cannot win on his own. We are supposed to believe that the babyface can win on his own and he is meant to overcome impossible odds to incite a reaction from the audience when he wins. Entertaining he may be, but Rodriguez needs to go.
Looking to his recent feud with Jack Swagger, who seems fairly re-invigorated since his return, is there hope for Del Rio yet? The premise of the Del Rio/Swagger feud, other than Swagger winning the Elimination Chamber Match, is that Swagger claims to be a ‘Real American’ who, along with ‘Mr Moustache’ Zeb Coulter, is opposed to immigration into the United States, and thus the Mexican Del Rio provides a target for his grievances. Swagger claims that people like Del Rio put hard working Americans out of work by taking the same jobs but for less pay, however Del Rio was previously billed as a Mexican aristocrat who used to drive a myriad of expensive cars to the ring, he is not the kind of person that Swaggers vitriol is aimed at. Sin Cara may have been a better target for Swagger, perchance WWE creative are just taking advantage of circumstances and using Swaggers views to build heat and intensity between the two but there is still something a little illogical about the whole angle. Moving on however can Del Rio become a better-rounded babyface? As I have previously mentioned he needs to drop Rodriguez, and that should be the first priority for the WWE at the moment, but Del Rio seems to have an inherent unlikeabilty to him, he is not an accessible character to me, having been billed as a rich aristocrat I can’t connect with him on any level. The reasons that people like Steve Austin, Mick Foley and even John Cena work is because the audience can connect with them, they represent the everyman, Del Rio does not. This brings up the question of Del Rio’s best position in the WWE, there is no doubt in my mind he works far better as a bad guy, he seems to have an inbuilt arrogance and confidence from his previous character that, coupled with his in ring ability, works well, and as a face he is simply not convincing.
Please don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a shoot on Alberto Del Rio himself, I think he is a fantastic in-ring worker and has a lot to offer the WWE at the moment, I just think he is better positioned within the company as a heel, much like Ric Flair he seems to naturally work well there.