He won the title again?
That seemed to be the Internet’s reaction when Dolph Ziggler lost the World Heavyweight Title at WWE Payback to Alberto Del Rio. It was a short reign for the talented Ziggler and for Del Rio another World Title. Counting the WWE Title, this is his fourth Championship reign. Not bad for a wrestler who has only been in the WWE for about three years.
In past articles, I examined two Divas (Trish Stratus and AJ Lee) using film studies Professor Richard Dyer’s “Star Text” theory. Alberto Del Rio, one of the most important wrestlers of the current WWE, will be examined in the same way. By looking back at his history, we can determine if Alberto Del Rio is going to fit that valuable role the WWE is grooming him for.
Alberto Del Rio or Alberto Rodríguez is one of the heaviest investments in the long line of Latino stars in the WWE. The WWE recognizes this is a target audience they cannot ignore and to their credit they have had lots of great Latino stars over the years: Pedro Morales, Tito Santana, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio. With the money making Mysterio virtually done with his career, the examination of Del Rio’s “Star Text” will hopefully answer the following question: “Is Del Rio the next money making star?” The WWE sure hopes so.
One of the best ways to establish your star text is to establish your ethos or credibility. As we begun to learn about him in June of 2010, we learned of his impressive background. He came from a family of professional wrestlers, was almost an Olympic wrestler and was a long reigning CMLL champion. The WWE wanted us to know of his success and quickly establish him as a star.
The ability to self promote is very valuable in creating a star. His vignettes describing his “greatness” created a JBL-type rich villain before he ever debuted in August 2010. He was aided in his cocky character by having fancy cars and more importantly Ricardo Rodríguez. He seemed important after two months of build, coming out in a fancy car and having a personal ring announcer who has always been with him.
If the goal was to build the next Latino star, it was quite evident in his first match. He was in the main event on August 20, 2010 against Rey Mysterio. This is not the place that most wrestlers start but the push to establish a star was clear from the beginning and going against the established star of Mysterio did just that. He was successful in his first match.
Establishing his toughness and dangerous persona seemed to be the next route the WWE took in establishing his “star text”. He “injured” Rey Mysterio, Matt Hardy and Christian. Not bad for a wrestler only in the league a month. He proceeded to spend the next few months feuding and ultimately defeating Rey Mysterio. The drive to make Del Rio the next major star was evident.
In TLC 2010, less then four months into his WWE career, he had a World Heavyweight title shot. This is quite rare for a WWE superstar thus providing more evidence in his star-making push. While he was unsuccessful in this title match he would continue his success by winning the only 40-man Royal Rumble in history the following month. He was clearly being pushed as a star whether the fans liked it or not.
However one think that might damage a “Star Text” is pushing a star too soon. Overkill and overexposure of a star can hurt your audience appeal. I believe this is the case here judging by the lack of reactions Del Rio was getting from fans in early 2011. After losing to Edge at WrestleMania XXVII and to Christian at Extreme Rules, he went down to feud with the Big Show to reestablish his toughness.
But the investment in Del Rio continued shortly with his Money in the Bank win in July 2011. The fans didn’t really seem to buy into his character too much but the league was invested. In the old days of Hollywood, the Studios created the stars through investment. You cannot deny the WWE was desperate to do the same with Del Rio. The following month, he cashed in that Money in the Bank at Summerslam 2011 and won the WWE Championship. Not bad for less than a year in the WWE.
The best way to maintain a solid “star” is to establish credibility in the role. The issue was Del Rio was not booked as a strong champion. I never understood why he lost less then a month later to John Cena at Night of Champions 2011; this seemed like a perfect way to establish credibility. When Cena turned around and lost it back to Del Rio two weeks later, I believe the damage to his credibility was already done. This is quite evident by the fact he lost the title to CM Punk at Survivor Series 2011 and proceed to disappear from the top of the card after his required rematch in December’s pay-per-view.
After injuries derailed his first part of 2012, in June of that year he was back in the title hunt again against Sheamus. You cannot dispute his multiple chances at the title he always seem to get as proof of investment in Del Rio. He used many excuses to get three straight pay-per-views against Sheamus but was always on the losing side in this feud.
After a few more months of feuding with Randy Orton, Del Rio underwent a dramatic change in his character. I believe diversity of character is the key to building your star text and the decision to make him a babyface was a smart one. You could tell this when Del Rio defeated Big Show in an excellent match in January of 2013 to win the World Heavyweight Championship. The crowd cheered for Del Rio with some of the loudest support he had ever received. Had the WWE finally made him a star?
He proceeded to have a feud custom made to finally make him a star for WrestleMania 29. He would compete against Jack Swagger, the evil Tea Party villain. It was a very unique feud in making the “pro-America” character the villain. It seemed tailor made for success.
But much like most of Del Rio’s career, it seemed to not connect with the audience. I believe it was too soon. We had a brand new good guy. He was competing against a brand new villain. We had two mouthpieces that had to do a lion share of the talking for the wrestlers. We had an idiot who got arrested during the biggest push of his career. A potential moneymaker fell a little flat and it quickly ended.
Fear not Del Rio fans, he always gets another shot. After only six months of trying to establish credibility as a hero, he proceeded to become a bad guy again based on his assault of Dolph Ziggler at WWE Payback. Del Rio had come full circle and held a title again.
So going back to the original question, “Is Del Rio the next money making star?” It is still difficult to say. With Rey Mysterio close to retirement and Sin Cara looking to be a flop in the WWE, the league is desperate for a Latino star and seems to have no other viable options at the moment. Del Rio is a good wrestler and a decent talker but he isn’t at the top level for either in the current WWE landscape. There simply are too many other talented wrestlers that are connecting better with the fans.
I believe Del Rio’s character has been mismanaged. He was pushed too soon and the audience wasn’t quite ready. We never had a chance to build to his main event level; he was always there and believes this causes some fan resentment. When there was the chance to establish credibility, he either lost the wrong match (Cena, Night of Champions) or faced the wrong opponent (Jack Swagger). However if history is any judge, Del Rio will be given many more chances to become that star the WWE desperately wants him to be.
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