Alberto Del Rio
This past Sunday night, Alberto Del Rio emerged as the victor of the 2011 Royal Rumble. Last week in my column I looked at the top competitors which I felt were only 39 eliminations away from headlining Wrestlemania. I highlighted Del Rio’s keys to success:
This is the man who has arguably the biggest target on his back going into the match, bested only by John Cena’s conflict with the post-Nexus factions. Del Rio has been smug and presumptuous with his Rumble aspirations. Easily one of the favorites, but with so many competitors his victory will have to come as a result of attrition and determination. His goal to win the belt at ‘mania must not surpass his presence of mind during the match.
Foe(s): Del Rio has made a lot of enemies and will need to be on the lookout for all them, especially former Rumble winner Rey Mysterio
Did Del Rio do his homework and heed my advice? Let’s take a look.
Alberto Del Rio entered the Royal Rumble at #38, nearly an hour into the match. At the time of his entry, Ezekiel Jackson, Wade Barrett, John Cena, Sheamus, Kofi Kingston & Rey Mysterio were in the ring.
Del Rio was very smart in his entrance. Rather than chugging down to the ring like the misguided Bushwacker that set the then record for shortest time in the Rumble, Del Rio casually drove his hilariously expensive car onto the entrance ramp. He had his personal ring announcer introduce him, and then sauntered down to the ring. Del Rio did not actually even enter the ring until entrant #39, Randy Orton, ran down to confront him.
Del Rio took an unfortunate bump into the steel steps via the Viper’s Irish whip, and was then rolled into the ring. Orton immediately connected with a devastating RKO that left Rio collapsed against the bottom rope.
As the #40 entrant, Kane, made his way down to the ring, Del Rio had yet to land an offensive blow in the match. Kane’s whirlwind of destruction led to the elimination of Ezekiel Jackson. Del Rio was smart to stay on the mat and avoid the wrath of Kane.
After Rey Mysterio eliminated Kane via a hurricarana, Barrett immediately followed up by eliminating Mysterio as he teetered on the apron. While some might criticize Del Rio for not knocking Mysterio to the outside, many have recklessly charged to eliminate an opponent only to find themselves flying to the outside of the ring. Perhaps Del Rio had learned from Ezekiel’s elimination just moments before and decided the risk wasn’t worth the glory of being able to say he eliminated Mysterio. Del Rio had his eye on the prize, and wasn’t going to take any unnecessary risks.
As the match dwindled to the final four competitors (Alberto Del Rio, Randy Orton, John Cena, Wade Barrett), Del Rio no doubt sensed that he had a one-in-four chance of accomplishing his dream. Wade turned his attention to Cena, and Orton went to the corner to work on Del Rio.
Orton clobbered the face of Del Rio with a slew of punches, and then as Del Rio slumped to the mat, Orton kicked him in the gut repeatedly. Orton lifted him high into the air, the closest that Del Rio had come to elimination thus far. Del Rio wisely grabbed hold of the top and bottom ropes to brace himself. As Orton tried desperately to throw him over the top rope, Del Rio essentially made himself dead weight, furthering Orton’s difficulties. Del Rio finally escaped the clutches of Orton with an elbow to the side. Orton responded by returning to the gut kicking action.
Del Rio was granted a reprieve as Orton turned his attention towards John Cena. Del Rio stayed snugly in his corner until Barret attacked both Orton and Cena. As Cena was stranded in the middle of the ring, Del Rio kicked him in the skull, and followed up with a couple of punches. Del Rio took his first real risk of the night as he charged across the ring for a flying punch. He connected, however on the ensuing run off the ropes, Cena lifted him up into the air and connected with the Attitude Adjustment. This was the second finisher absorbed by Del Rio in the match.
Fortunately for Del Rio, Cena was winded and could not capitalize. With another stroke of luck for the Mexican warrior, Alex Riley and Miz entered the fray to distract and eliminate Cena. At this point, the final three all took to a corner to rest.
The three men circled each, and it was Orton that was first to act by attacking Wade. Credit has to be given to Del Rio for having the restraint to not attack first. This allowed him to circle behind Orton, and work a two man attack in the corner with Wade. The ensuing double team move resulted in Del Rio’s face meeting the fist of Orton. He was then met with a clothesline, followed by a backbreaker. Orton dropped to the mat and was looking to set up for the RKO. Del Rio was offered another stroke of luck as Wade inadvertently saved Del Rio by halting Orton mid-run. This was the moment that would seal Del Rio’s victory. Orton responded to Wade’s attack by chucking him to the outside of the ring. Del Rio, who had been avoiding the scuffle, ran up behind Orton and threw him to the outside of the ring,
Victory! – or so it seemed.
There are a lot of people who would like to discredit the re-emergence of Santino. To do so, would be very foolish. I’m not going to pretend that Santino is the most formidable foe on the planet. Truth be told, even I have a hard time taking him seriously in some matches. BUT, he is the current Tag Team Champion as well as a former Intercontinental Champion.
In battle, it doesn’t matter if it is a knight, a squire, or the court jester that stabs you in the heart. Either way, you are going to die.
Del Rio was in an incredibly vulnerable position as Santino made his way back into the ring. Despite the urgings of referees to turn around, Del Rio was celebrating his victory and couldn’t be bothered with whatever they were trying to tell him. This allowed Santino 15 crucial seconds. Normally, Santino has great difficulty in hitting his finisher. It takes so long to power up, that his opponent often has a chance to gain his bearings. In this case, Del Rio was oblivious. This allowed Santino to absolutely maximize the potential of the Cobra. Santino struck, and Del Rio was hit with his third finisher of the evening.
How Del Rio was able to stay conscious is anyone’s guess. I doubt that there is a single person, wrestler or otherwise, that can take an RKO, Attitude Adjustment and Cobra, and then have fortitude to stand on their feet. Del Rio was met with another stroke of luck as Santino wasted away a great opportunity for victory. Instead of immediately going for the elimination, Santino trumpeted his way around the ring and got lost in the atmosphere of the crowd.
Santino lifted Del Rio to his feet, and began to charge towards the ropes. This way a key mistake by Santino. Had he opted to throw Del Rio over the ropes that he was closest to, there is a good chance the outcome of the match would have been monumentally different. Instead, Del Rio was able to use the momentum of Santino as they ran towards the ropes, and rolled his way down to the mat. Santino was left without anything to hold onto, and flew out of the ring.
Victory belonged to Alberto Del Rio, for real this time.
Del Rio won this match because he was smart. He took a very long entrance, which gave him 90 free seconds. Several wrestlers did not even last that long. He stayed on the mat as much as possible. In a Rumble you need to go over the top rope, the lower your center of gravity, the lower your chance of being eliminated. Del Rio kept his anger in check. As tempting as it may have been to run over and eliminate Mysterio, he wisely stayed on the mat and avoided a possible running elimination. In the end, it was his determination and presence of mind that resulted in the win.
Was Del Rio perfect? No, he had some mistakes which would be expected from a rookie, but he minimized his risks, and chose his moments carefully. Future Rumble participants would be wise to study tape of Del Rio in this match.
So ‘that’s a wrap’…. Love it? Hate it? Disagree with everything I said? Just want to chat wrestling? I’m always up for reading your thoughts so send them ’em on over.
Look for the newest edition to the WrestleView Radio Network: “The Teacher’s Lounge” featuring Anthony Valvo (From the Desk of Mr. V) and myself this Saturday!