Last night at WWE’s Hell in a Cell, Alberto Del Rio made his shocking return to World Wrestling Entertainment and defeated John Cena for the United States championship. He was re-introduced by another return (though he had not been released) in Zeb Colter. It was an unexpected return for Alberto Del Rio to WWE.
When Del Rio was officially released last year following an altercation with an employee being racist to him, it couldn’t have come at a better time in his career. It wasn’t that long ago that the discussion about Alberto Del Rio was just how stale he had become in the WWE and that nothing they were trying with him was working. He went from one of the quickest to establish headliners in the company to floundering between weak babyface and heel turns. It was hard to find a place for him anymore that was going to be interesting, especially since his wrestling had become repetitive. Even if he didn’t have his altercation that cost him his contract, he probably should have walked when his contract expired anyway.
Del Rio first had to get attorneys to get him out of his contract with the WWE before he could return to Mexico, which he did to big fanfare as the newly christened Alberto El Patron. As El Patron he established himself as the biggest babyface in Lucha, even wrestling in Lucha Underground to major fanfare. With fanfare came money: El Patron said he was making similar money in Lucha/AAA/Indies to what he made in his good years in WWE.
However, El Patron was not positioned as the main star of the program. That was Prince Puma, the Lucha Underground created entity who held onto the Lucha Underground championship, which he lost in the final show to Mil Muertes. El Patron worked a feud with El Texano Jr. (who he had been feuding with in AAA) before moving onto a great storyline with Johnny Mundo, another former WWE talent. El Patron was fantastic in Lucha Underground and many were looking forward to what he would do in season two. Unfortunately, El Patron did not see it that way and was unhappy that he wasn’t the central figure of the promotion.
Things had been odd when it came to El Patron ever since it was reported he missed a charity event for unexplained reasons and word last week was that the former Sin Cara left AAA to rival promotion CMLL due to ongoing heat with El Patron. Word came out that the WWE was interested in renegotiating with El Patron from all of this news, all the more surprising since they let him go for hitting an employee and then tried to hold up his contract.
What isn’t strange is WWE having the desire to bring him back in as Del Rio. The WWE has been suffering in television ratings, and a portion of that could be the lack of a Latino star for Latino Americans to tune into. Rey Mysterio Jr. is gone to AAA and might be the new superstar of Lucha Underground, while Sin Cara flamed out and is now played by another wrestler in the underpushed Lucha Dragons, there was definitely a void to be filled. The return of Del Rio, who looks to be starting out as a heel would fill that void in the short term.
I applaud the WWE for getting this done and bringing back a major superstar, despite the damage this does for Mexico and the independents to lose a name like El Patron. It was a good business move. That said, what is Alberto thinking? Putting the United States championship on him is definitely a step down from what Lucha Underground/AAA had been treating him, and very kindly paying him for a lesser schedule. WWE might have offered a lesser schedule and a financial kick for Del Rio but creatively? Del Rio should have looked at the returns of some of his peers like Sheamus. Sheamus returned with a new look and soon became the winner of Money in the Bank. He’s still holding the briefcase and worked a throwaway six man tag match in the Hell in a Cell kickoff. The WWE did not do a good job selling the audience to the exciting return of Sheamus and eventually he turned into just another guy on the roster. Del Rio might have Cena’s US championship, a belt held in higher regard for the past several months than the WWE championship (thanks to WWE always feeling like Cena needs to beat his heel opponents on weekly television and that heel opponent just happening to be the WWE champion…) but we know how this story is going to go. The shine on Del Rio’s return will dull from poor booking and general disinterest in the midcard before he’s “just another guy” through 50/50 booking. Del Rio was very vocal about how you can get fined for anything and everyone in the company is scared to make waves. Does he think anything has changed?
I hope the contract with the WWE isn’t long and he hasn’t burned bridges with AAA, though Dave Meltzer has reported that AAA had no idea about him signing. He’s currently the AAA Mega champion, so that sounds like a bridge burned. That said, Alberto Del Rio’s bridge had also been burned by the WWE and him last year. It didn’t take long to repair. Hopefully the WWE handles him like the superstar he can be, otherwise he’s just another extremely talented wrestler they will end up blaming for not getting over.