While Triple H and Randy Orton are commanding attention with the dominant storyline on the company’s flagship show, the Champion of the Blue Brand is quietly establishing himself as one of the premiere wrestlers in the company. Many call him boring, but if you look deeper, that label may not fit. Call him what you will, but he’s a different brand of wrestler and a different kind of heel. While the most popular heels in the WWE make their money off their ability to run down an opponent and to sway a crowd, Del Rio creates his heel identity largely through his in-ring work. He may not be particularly engaging for most, but the dependable, deeply-skilled wrestler has proved himself to be a crucial part of the WWE.

alberto tresTo call him boring would be missing the point. There’s no denying that he can be much better on the mic, but his calling card and appeal is in the ring work that he displays. He’s a wrestler with years of amateur wrestling experience, a MMA career, and Mexican wrestling all in his background. He’s fused all of those three chapters of his life with the WWE style to create a unique manner of wrestling, and he’s become slick in the ring. He’s one of the few wrestlers who can create a good match with a wide variety of wrestlers on the roster. He’s a sound submission wrestler with both the cross armbar and a variety of ways to weaken an arm in preparation for that move. He’s a good brawler who uses kicks that are reminiscent of Muay Thai to subdue opponents. He’s a solid wrestler who still prominently uses suplexes and slams in a landscape where strikes are the dominant form of attack in the ring–he’s pulled out german suplexes, tilt-a-whirl backbreakers, and even backstabbers from a number of unpredictable angles and places while wrestling opponents.

Alberto unoFor a boring wrestler, his in-ring work is exciting and as we saw from his reaction to Sin Cara’s finger sprain, he’s passionate about that aspect of his on-screen character. Funny that in a time where traditional wrestling (suplexes, technical work, slams) is starting to disappear and Punk/Bryan/Cesaro are highly regarded, Del Rio(a highly-skilled, well-trained wrestler) is called boring. Yes, wrestling is dynamic and built on personalities, but why can’t Del Rio just be that old-school vicious heel who was legit in the ring and said little? A newfound spin on Arn Anderson, if you will. He reliably puts on good matches, and his niche is being an aggressive skilled grappler. He doesn’t need to be the smoothest guy on the stick because with his aggression and Cole’s orders to tell stories not call matches, the combination of Del Rio’s work in the ring and Cole’s narrative can communicate what Del Rio can’t verbally.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAI wondered how he would do without Ricardo but he improved. He’s a freer wrestler, and a more devastating heel seeing that he’s booked to rely on nothing but his ability and devious creativity. This smoother Del Rio–who’s starting to adjust to the WWE style of wrestling–is doing good work on Smackdown as World Heavyweight Champion. He’s evolved into a no-frills, vicious, aggressive heel that puts on memorable matches. In a smackdown landscape that’s seen it’s share if change, evolution, and even sentencing, (Dolph Ziggler) Del Rio has been the stable presence atop the mountain, defeating Swagger, trading title reigns with Ziggler, defeating Christian, and being the crooked foil to RVD’s unstoppable, seismic momentum. With an ever-changing Smackdown landscape, Del Rio is a needed presence.

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