Last night's WWE SmackDown featured what could be looked back on as an important moment in company history.
For the first time in his career with the company, Kalisto was featured as a viable singles' star.
When the luchador then known as Samuray del Sol signed a WWE deal, fans and industry observers alike saw it as a move by Vince McMahon and team to replace Rey Mysterio as the company's top Latino babyface. Despite the fact that he has U.S. and Mexican roots resulting in a command of both English & Spanish, and a crowd-pleasing lucha libre style that he knows how to use while working with larger and less acrobatic men, he's been used almost exclusively as a tag team guy.
Even then, he hasn't been presented as a star. He and Lucha Dragons partner Sin Cara (the former Hunico) were NXT tag champs, but it was an unremarkable reign that lead to what has thus far been a middling run on the main roster.
But a few weeks back, the Dragons were featured in a video package on Raw. Now, Kalisto has picked up a big singles' win over Ryback in the tournament to determine the next WWE champion and, if the above interview is any indication, his second round match with Alberto Del Rio will probably be his most heavily promoted angle since signing.
Though it's curious Creative seems to think they can only build hispanic stars by feuding them with each other (Del Rio's first run with the company was kicked off by a program against Mysterio and featured so many matches with the first Sin Cara that it was basically a running joke), this could be a launching point for Kalisto - win or lose.
And why not?
We hear over and over how important the Spanish-speaking audience is. ADR has struggled as a babyface in WWE, and does not speak English as naturally as Kalisto. Even if Rey comes back, he struggled to stay healthy in his last run and will have more years & matches on his surgically-repaired knees than when he left. And the less said about hiring Mexico's top star (Mistico/Myzteziz/whatever-the-hell-he's-gonna-call-himself-in-CMLL-now) and trying to shoehorn him into the WWE, the better.
The Chicago-raised wrestler isn't the most dynamic promo in English, so I imagine he probably doesn't set the microphone ablaze in Spanish, either, but it's not like Rey was legendary on the stick. Like Mysterio, Kalisto will pop crowds - and sell masks - with his athletic abilities.
This isn't a call to give him the WWE title, or even make him a challenger immediately. Mysterio could be used in that kind of spot (obviously, as a 3 time world champ), but more often than not was in personal feuds on the periphery of the main event.
NXT's roster is becoming more international, but there isn't another Latino star who appears close enough for WWE to give him a chance at this kind of spotlight.
Kalisto may flounder in the role Rey Mysterio played for Vince McMahon throughout the aughts. But with so many stars injured or busy outside of wrestling, it's time to give him a sink or swim moment.