May 24, 2013
Injured Ziggler still in Alberto Del Rio's sights
By GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
Though Alberto Del Rio's match on Sunday's Extreme Rules pay-per-view was officially an "I Quit" match, in retrospect, it was more of a "Last Man Standing" affair. After all, the original concept was going to be World champion Dolph Ziggler defending against both Del Rio and Jack Swagger. Now, with both Ziggler and Swagger out with injuries, Alberto stands alone.
"I'm the number one contender for the World Heavyweight title at the moment. Unfortunately, the World Heavyweight champion is hurt, Dolph Zigger; but once he's ready, I'm going to be ready for him," vowed Del Rio Thursday, while on a publicity tour, which included a stop at the massive Latino TV station, Telemundo.
Ziggler is out with a concussion, suffered at a Smackdown TV taping on May 7, which aired three days later.
"This is a physical business and unfortunately concussions are around us all the time," said Del Rio. "The company is really, really interested in taking care of us, and preventing concussions."
While Del Rio confirmed WWE has taken steps to ban certain moves where the impact is onto the head, he did not specify which ones. "Yes, a lot moves that have been used in wrestling for years, we're not using them because of that," he said. "The company is trying to prevent concussions, they're trying to take care of us."
As for Swagger, he worked through an injury for the "I Quit" match on Sunday's PPV from St. Louis, going down to defeat, despite the nefarious scheming of his manager, Zeb Colter, who threw in the towel that belonged to Del Rio's second, Ricardo Rodriguez.
"He's one of the best performers in the company," Del Rio said of Swagger. "I am fortunate to be working with him. Unfortunately, he got hurt a week ago in one of the live events, and he's going to be out for a while. But he'll come back and be ready."
Colter's tricky towel toss was undone by instant replay, and the bout restarted, with Del Rio winning by submission. Doesn't that set a precedent for instant replay? The three-time world champ (two WWE titles, one World title) tried to explain. "We only use those things in shows like pay-per-views, but we don't usually use them in regular matches or in any other TV shows or live events."
As for Rodriguez, Del Rio seems to understand that he won't be at his side for all time. The flamboyant ring announcer has trained as a pro wrestler for many years.
"I'm pretty sure he wants to be a wrestler one day. I feel that will happen in time," Del Rio said. "At this moment, he's just working by my side, being my ring announcer, my manager, my friend, but I'm pretty sure the company will eventually do something with him -- I don't know when or how, but I'm sure it will happen one day."
This weekend, Del Rio takes his act to Western Canada, with WWE shows in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Those are not exactly Latino-heavy markets.
"Now that I'm a good guy, I've got people cheering for me. Of course, if I go to specific areas where the Latino audience is bigger than the American audience, I'm going to get a better reaction," he said. "That's normal, because the Latino audience wants to cheer for their own. In my case, I'm lucky to be one of the superstars who gets a reaction everywhere."
The travel has become fairly routine, though the rewards are there.
"We were in Europe just a month ago, and the reaction from the crowd was just amazing," he said. "It doesn't matter if they're Latinos or Chinese or Americans, if you do what you do well, and you put all your heart and your soul into it, they're going to cheer you. They're going to respect you for that."
But he doesn't see himself as a mentor at all to youngsters like Langston who are climbing the proverbial WWE ladder.
"We have NXT, FCW, and that's the developmental territory for us. We have amazing trainers over there that are helping all the guys coming to the main roster of WWE," he said. "That's not my job. I'm just one of the superstars in the company, and my job is to go out and perform every single day. I'm not there to help anybody but myself."
Down in NXT/Florida Championship Wrestling is Del Rio's brother, Guillermo, who is wrestling as Memo Montenegro. He has been there since August 2012, and is following in some big footsteps.
"This is the family business," Del Rio said of pro wrestling / lucha libre. "My grandfather, my father, my uncles, there were amazing performers around the world, and now I'm doing the same thing in the biggest company, the most prestigious wrestling company in WWE. Yes, there's some pressure for my brother, but he's handling it really well, he's learning a lot, he's improving a lot. Hopefully in one more year, he'll be here with me on the main roster."
Greg Oliver is the Producer of SLAM! Wrestling. He can be emailed at email@example.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @gregmep.