World Heavyweight Championship Match
Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Jack Swagger
The former luchador had a change of heart about his elitist ways, coincidentally at the same time that WWE decided it needed a Latino to replace Rey Mysterio in their marketing plans. Del Rio won his title and some measure of popularity by vanquishing the giant Big Show. Can he retain the former while recapturing some of the latter in this WrestleMania match-up against the former champ and newly anti-immigrant Swagger?
The Road to WrestleMania 29
The Mexican Aristocrat had struggled to win the World Heavyweight Championship (WHC) for much of the past year. He always came up just short in his efforts to separate Sheamus from the belt. But when his personal ring announcer and mejor amigo, Ricardo Rodriguez, was threatened by then champion Big Show, the now técnico underdog finally broke though to victory and to wearing the big gold belt:
Shortly thereafter, while Del Rio was embroiled in a series of rematches with the world's largest athlete, a former World Heavyweight Champion and All-American collegiate wrestler returned to Smackdown on February 1st after a long absence.
It wasn't too long before we learned who Jack Swagger had been learning from and training with during his self-imposed exile, as he introduced us to his friend and mentor, Zeb Colter:
The Oklahoma native's time out of the spotlight had definitely improved his track record in the ring, as he ran through every opponent placed in his path and eventually defeated five other men in the Elimination Chamber to earn a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania. And the challenger and his associate wasted no time in setting their crosshairs on Del Rio and Rodriguez:
In the real world, the controversial angle caught fire with conservatives and others associated with the Tea Party political movement in the United States at about the same time that Swagger was arrested for a drug-related vehicular offense. Seeking to capitalize on the former while minimizing the latter, the company taunted right-wing TV personality Glenn Beck and released an unprecedented, kayfabe-breaking promo from Jake Hager (Swagger) and Wayne Keown (Colter).
This war of words continued, including a hilarious if overplayed retort from Del Rio and his partner, when Swagger raised the personal stakes when he attacked the champ and Rodriguez following a match on Raw:
Following the wounding of the uber-popular ring announcer, the feud has regained some steam due to thing staying physical rather than verbal. Even when the violence isn't directed straight at his WrestleMania opponent, there can be no doubt about the message that Del Rio is sending:
What's at Stake?
Even more than the title, it feels like the chance of either man establishing a legacy with the WWE is at stake.
Swagger has been given every opportunity to make himself a star: a Money in the Bank win, a run with the WHC, kept in the spotlight when that fizzled via a role in the way too prominent conflict between Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler that allowed him to work with Stone Cold Steve Austin and finally by being paired with Dolph Ziggler and heat magnet Vickie Guerrero.
If this latest repackaging and push meets a similar fate as his last time in the main event scene, it's hard to imagine how many more shots he'll get at the big time with the world's preeminent pro wrestling company.
WWE is similarly invested in Del Rio, but despite failing to catch fire during his time with the company, he probably has more leeway than his opponent. He was getting consistently good reactions in southwestern states and when his issues were with a strong heel. He hasn't been a potential risk who works stiff or dabbles in extra-legal behaviors. And, there are no Hispanic Superstars on the radar for a company who wants to solidify their global presence.
And then there is that championship. Regardless of who wins this match, there is a certain Show-off running around who is entitled to a title shot whenever he chooses. Could Dolph Ziggler try to create a WrestleMania moment for himself on April 7th?