United States Championship
Alberto Del Rio (c) vs Kalisto
Kalisto and Alberto Del Rio match up tomorrow night at the Royal Rumble for the hot potato United States title. It is being advertised as the rubber match, which is true on a couple of levels. In US title matches, both men have a record of 1-1. They are 2-2 all time, which includes their WWE title tournament match in November that del Rio won and the matches that built to tomorrow's bout.
The story isn't a unique one. Someone wins a non-title match over a champion to win the right to face the champ for the title. Then that person wins the title. The former champion gets his automatic rematch and wins the title back. And a rubber match is set. Nothing new. We've seen it plenty before.
However a story like this often will span a couple months, involving multiple Pay Per Views to build intrigue and perhaps add some layer of story to the match. When it comes to Kalisto and Alberto Del Rio, this story has been compressed from a couple months to a couple weeks. It's like hitting the fast forward button on the DVR through the entire feud. Let's take a look back, shall we?
January 7, 2016, SmackDown: After denying John Cena another US title rematch, Alberto Del Rio instead says he'll fight any person who is not John Cena. Enter Kalisto to accept that challenge. The men faced each other then and there, and despite Del Rio controlling much of the match, Kalisto was able to sneak a victory with a roll up to defeat the U.S. Champion.
January 11, 2016, Raw: Because of his non-title win over Del Rio just the Thursday prior, Kalisto earned himself a US Title match on Raw. It was an enjoyable match, where Del Rio continued to get most of the offense and was able to avoid many of the high flying maneuvers from Kalisto. But in the end, Kalisto was able to ensnare Del Rio in a another roll up to upset the champion and win the title.
January 14, 2016, SmackDown: Not wanting to wait for his revenge and for a chance to win back what was his, Alberto Del Rio invoked his rematch clause just three days later on SmackDown. In this match, Del Rio had added fire and increase brutality, clearly angry that he had lost his title on Monday. He also had fellow League of Nation member Wade Barrett at ringside, who would pay dividends for the champ. Towards the end of the match, King Barrett pushed Del Rio out of the way of Kalisto who was aiming for the challenger with a suicide dive. That was just enough for Del Rio to get Kalisto back in the ring and apply his cross armbreaker, to which Kalisto had no choice but to tap.
In the span of 8 days, Kalisto won the right to fight for the title, won said title, and then lost it back to Del Rio. Last Monday on Raw, both men were on opposite sides of a tag team match that Alberto's team would end up winning, but it did not add to the story.
This Sunday, they will have their final bout with the US title and a some pride on the line. For Kalisto, he looks to avoid being a footnote on the lineage of the US title. Alberto Del Rio wants to prove that his title loss to the smaller man was just a fluke. Someone will walk out with the title and someone else will walk out disappointed.
The Royal Rumble airs tomorrow night at 8 EST on the WWE Network. Vote in the poll below with who you think will win this match.