While many will criticize Vince McMahon for the Roman Reigns debacle, the WWE creative behind Alberto Del Rio may be even more egregious. The disastrous second WWE stint for Del Rio will and should go down as one of the lowest points in this era of WWE booking.
Del Rio’s nine-month return to the WWE should have been an easy success. The return of a former champion and then-face of Mexican wrestling was an easy ticket to riches in the Latino market. Yet somehow, some way, the WWE creative team unequivocally blew it. A look back at Del Rio’s nine-month stint reads more like booking you’d see from WCW at its worst point than a company that just produced one of the biggest WrestleMania events in history.
The die was cast for Del Rio the night he returned. I don’t think anyone with a brain thought that pairing Del Rio with Zeb Coulter was a disaster the second they walked out together. Taking a guy that was brought back to be a Mexican hero and putting him with a guy whose gimmick was to hate Mexicans sounds like a big rib on the booking sheet…but it wasn’t. That was the plan and according to several reports that idea was Vince McMahon’s.
The fun didn’t end there for the creative team. Del Rio came back strong with a clean win over John Cena for the U.S. title. Great start! From there, Del Rio’s next pay-per-view/Network event was the Survivor Series where he lost to Roman Reigns. It gets better. From there Del Rio was booked to feud with his old nemesis, Jack Swagger. Now if you weren’t already aware of this you’d probably think I was kidding you but I’m not. It doesn’t get much better.
Del Rio was then booked in the League of Nations. Now there has been a lot of criticism behind the L.O.N. as a team doomed to fail. I thought it did have some potential although it was marred by Sheamus and Wade Barrett who were low-card guys at this point and Rusev who was in the doghouse. While the team had an association with Triple H and the McMahons, they were booked weak and worst of all, Del Rio was a background player with little to no speaking time.
I don’t know if the Jack Swagger feud was the lowest point but Kalisto was certainly not a highlight. This is no disrespect to Kalisto who is fun to watch but I say it in almost every blog. Perception is reality. The perception of Kalisto was that he was a low-card guy at best. Now all of the sudden this low-card guy is beating Del Rio for the U.S. title. Again, this all seemed like a big rib on everyone.
So to recap, in the nine-months Del Rio was brought back he was…
- Booked with Zeb Coulter
- Feuded with Jack Swagger
- Teamed with low-card guys in something of a comedy team
- Feuded and lost to Kalisto
It wouldn’t be so bad if Del Rio a) wasn’t brought back with a big money deal and b) wasn’t tearing it up everywhere he went prior to returning to the WWE. The blue print was already laid out and Del Rio was red hot as a babyface in Triple A. As a babyface, Del Rio’s promos were awesome and the realism behind his plight to those that knew his story made him authentic. It was so easy just about anyone else could have booked him to succeed…anyone except Vince McMahon and his team of THIRTY-PLUS writers.
While Riccardo Rodriguez buried himself in a nine-foot hole with the comments he made about the company in shoot interviews and podcasts, his presence could have been a difference maker. There was something special about the pair of Del Rio and Rodriguez that would have made this work. It would have required the company to swallow some crow, but money is money and if you were going to make that big of an investment in Del Rio, putting ego aside to bring back Rodriguez would have been a small price to pay.
The win over John Cena was huge, yet the pairing with Coulter and lack of follow up was the start of a slow descent. Del Rio could have been a huge babyface feuding with Seth Rollins over the WWE title, although it was much too important to keep Seth programmed with Kane (sarcasm). Imagine how hot he would have been with the Latino market if you brought the true story behind his previous departure into the feud with Seth, who was a surrogate for Triple H?
The interesting thing to note from all of this is that when Del Rio returned in November, it was a surprise. It was not a surprise to see him back but it was a surprise to see him so soon. Del Rio was originally scheduled to come back for a “big WrestleMania angle” and his return was expedited. I would love to know what those Mania plans were for Del Rio and what changed between those months. Hopefully we’ll find that out at some point once Del Rio starts doing interviews.
Is Del Rio to blame for any of this? Well, he wasn’t having the best matches on the cards but they weren’t bad. If there is one thing Del Rio has going for him it’s his promos and they got much better when he left. I don’t think you can blame him for not getting the time to talk and shine on promos.
At the end of the day someone needs to be held accountable for this. The creative was a complete mismanagement of resources and it starts and likely ends right at the top. I can’t recall seeing booking more blatantly botched by the crack WWE writers since….Del Rio’s babyface turn and alignment with 3MB.
Anyone seeing a pattern here?