Do the Right Thing Alberto!
When I first saw Alberto Del Rio a few years ago on RAW, I never expected that he was going to become such an important figure in my wrestling fandom. Now, I can’t imagine a world where he wasn’t. In the past year, Del Rio has gone from an unspectacular, mid level presence to one of the most talked about wrestlers in the world. It started with a slap of a WWE employee that supposedly made a racist joke towards Del Rio. That slap got ultimately got Del Rio fired; it also turned him from a performer most fans were indifferent towards into a sympathetic figure, especially in his hometown of Mexico. Riding the wave of support from fans and creating a “damn the man, screw WWE!” image along the way, Del Rio became the top star in Mexico almost overnight, and suddenly became interesting for the first time in his entire career. It was almost the opposite of the Dark Knight quote; instead of living long enough to become the villain, Del Rio lived long enough to become the hero. In a business where you generally cannot escape perception, Del Rio managed to do just that, and then some.
Now, he’s doing it again. A year after seemingly burning his bridge with WWE, Del Rio is back. Not only is he back with WWE, but he’s the new United States Champion, defeating John Cena just a week ago at Hell in a Cell (cleanly may I add). That, coupled with a salary rumored to be close to $1.5 million (though some reports dispute this) has Del Rio not just looking good, but also the talk of the town. Well, that and the fact that he’s still currently the holder of the AAA Mega Championship, the lucha libre empire’s top title. That little hold up has perhaps generated the most discussion; when will Del Rio drop the title? Will he drop the title? Who will he drop the title too? All great questions and all which have answers that appear to work out for everyone except AAA. Indeed, the recent rumors suggest that Del Rio, who was booked for several dates with AAA this month and perhaps even next, will not be returning to AAA at all; not to drop the title, vacate the title, nothing. It’s as if the Monday Night Wars and a Mexican telenovesa fused together to create a captivating, if bizarre real life soap opera.
I’ve remained quiet on this subject for the past week, a surprise I’m sure to some considering I’ve covered every other angle of the Mega Champion fiasco. Truthfully, a lot of that is by design, due to my constant changing of emotions towards the ordeal. At first, I was ticked off with Del Rio; I thought him leaving AAA to return to WWE was borderline cowardly; the actions of a man who preferred being a squire instead of a king. When I saw how much money he was making, it made more sense, and I honestly couldn’t blame him. By this point, I’m basically indifferent to the whole scenario, with one exception; this whole Mega Championship business. The longer we’ve gone through this whole ordeal, the more unlikely it seems that Del Rio (whether by his own doing or WWE’s insistence) will ever return to AAA to drop the belt. What once seemed unfathomable to me now seems to be a mathematical certainty. It would also be a mistake; a grave mistake. The fact of the matter is that not only should Alberto Del Rio return the belt to AAA, he should lose it in a match. No vacating, no multi man matches where someone else takes the fall; Del Rio should be going out on his back, end this fiasco on good terms and head back north, while AAA begins their post Del Rio era with a new champion.
Now I’m sure that opinion is going to ruffle several feathers of WWE fans out there. Truthfully, I do get the hesitation on WWE’s part (who do appear to be the ones more reluctant to have Del Rio go back to drop the title than the man himself). Del Rio going to an AAA event and getting hurt would be a devastating blow, considering he is now WWE’s U.S. Champion and the truckload of money they just spent to get the man. Furthermore though, there’s a legit chance that the man Del Rio loses the title to is a guy not just signed to AAA, but Lucha Underground as well. Why is that a big deal? Simply put, an LU/AAA superstar beating Del Rio presents an opportunity for him to appear on LU TV and brag about a) beating a man John Cena couldn’t and b) taking the Mega Championship away from a now top level WWE star. A superficial reason for WWE to be upset? Probably; and yet, couldn’t you see Vince losing his mind over that scenario playing out? From those two perspectives, I can understand WWE’s reluctance, and in some ways even agree with it.
Those hesitations however are not a good enough reason for WWE and Del Rio to keep toying with AAA. Some people may argue that Del Rio doesn’t owe AAA anything, a true statement in regards to the poor contract AAA clearly put together that Del Rio easily got out of. There’s just one problem; Del Rio does owe AAA. When the WWE fired him a year ago, AAA was the organization that immediately picked him up and helped turn him into a bigger star than he’d ever been. They made him their top champion and their top draw the entire time he was there. Hell, you could make the argument that without AAA (and to a lesser extent Lucha Underground), Del Rio doesn’t get this sweet deal from WWE. For him to then leave without giving more than 24 hour notice (after it appears he knew he was leaving weeks prior), all while not doing the honors of dropping the title on his way out? Perhaps Del Rio doesn’t owe AAA as many dates as they like, but considering he’s only gotten his WWE deal because of his great AAA run, he does at least owe them the right to have him put over their next guy. It’s the right thing to do.
There’s other reasons you could argue as for why; WWE is counting on Del Rio to be a draw with the Hispanic crowd (another thing Del Rio acquired due to his AAA run), and screwing over AAA could anger and even potentially alienate some lucha fans (though that can’t be conclusively proven). Hell, this past week may have already started that; whether you agree with my reasoning, believe Del Rio is 100% in the wrong or is 100% in the right, the perception with most fans (US and Hispanic) is that Del Rio and WWE are putting the screws to AAA because they can. That’s not a perception WWE or Del Rio should want in the slightest, especially since WWE would be on the warpath right now if Seth Rollins had done to them what Del Rio just did (and rightfully so may I point out). In the end though, I just keep going back to this one point; Del Rio dropping that title in a match is just the right thing to do. It’s wrestling tradition, it’s what he owes to AAA for helping to turn his career around, it’s what may save his relationship with lucha libre if things go south with WWE and, perhaps most importantly, it’s what may save his reputation. The truth is Del Rio has come full circle; last year he lived long enough to see himself become a hero, only to now find himself once again the villain. It’s not yet too late to change that narrative once again.
Simply put Del Rio; drop the title, and not in a half assed way. Show up at Guerra de Tiantes next month, take a pin to Aerostar, Angelico, Texano, Cage, Mundo, Mysterio, whoever, and then go about your merry way. That’s all I’m asking. It’s all any of us are asking.
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