Six months on from his WWE firing, Alberto El Patrón (aka Alberto Del Rio) is still flying high and in heavy demand. He's currently working for numerous wrestling promotions around the world including Lucha Underground and Ring Of Honor in the United States, AAA in Mexico and the World Wrestling League in Puerto Rico. He'll also be working for Preston City Wrestling in the United Kingdom in March too.
Those are just the companies he's signed to work with. TNA was rumored to have offered him $400,000 for a one year limited dates contract, so that he could be their big surprise for their debut on Destination America earlier this month. Apparently Bellator, Glory and another MMA promotion are tossing similar sums of cash his way in an effort to get him to fight again too.
In a recent interview with Pro Wrestling Illustrated (covered by WrestlingInc.com), Alberto gave perhaps the most diplomatic reason ever about why he turned down TNA's big money offer. No, it wasn't because he's been advised that TNA is a sinking ship and going there would only hurt his career, but because he's loyal to AAA and Lucha Underground who helped him in his legal fight with WWE over the terms of his release:
"I don't have anything but respect for TNA. They made a really good offer to me, and I'm really grateful for that. The reason I didn't go there is because those guys at Lucha Underground helped me in all my legal proceedings against WWE. So I owed them that. It was not a matter of not wanting to go to TNA. It's just that Lucha Underground and AAA, they paid for my legal services. They introduced me to my lawyer. And the reason I'm working right now is because of them. WWE wanted me to stop working in the United States for a year. And that was going to happen if it wasn't for these guys. I'm a stand up guy. If you help me, I'll return the favor one day. That's what I'm doing with them. Plus, they made me a good offer."
Unless TNA wanted exclusivity on his television appearances in the United States that excuse doesn't seem to hold much water as he's working for both ROH and Lucha Underground simultaneously, but I understand why he wouldn't want to bury TNA publicly as there may come a day where he wants their cash.
On the other hand, he's happy to criticize WWE for their toxic working environment that stifles creativity, complaining that if he didn't stick rigidly to the exact words of their script that he'd be fined for not doing as he's told:
"In the other place, I never said anything because I wanted to. And if, for some reason, I changed one line, they were all mad and would be fining me. So people need to understand, when you work for that place, you are like a robot. You need to do exactly what they say and how they say it … You could get fined over everything … Everybody is terrified. We all were—or they are—terrified of changing something or trying something new. Of course there are some exceptions who can do and say whatever they want. But that rule doesn't apply to 90 percent of the wrestlers. "
Hopefully, Alberto's success outside of WWE can make some of their current performers less worried about sticking up for themselves, as that's one of the reasons that WWE management often makes such tone deaf creative decisions. If everyone is terrified of Vince McMahon, no wonder we get debacles like this year's Royal Rumble match!
Regarding the odds of Alberto going back into mixed-martial arts, it doesn't sound like he's keen to make the move, due to his age and the money currently being offered not being ridiculous enough that he'd be a fool to turn it down:
"There's some offers out there. But I don't want to go back to MMA, because, number one, I'm making money in pro wrestling. And I'm 37 years old right now. I don't know if that's something that I really want to do. I will do it if the right money is there. So far, all the offer's good, but they're not so spectacular as to make me go back to the MMA world. I've been saying this since the first offer came: If you make me the right offer, I will do it. I'll just need time to train and get back into fighting shape."
Given the costs of training, the wrestling payoffs he would have to miss whilst he prepared and the potential damage to his reputation if he lost in an embarrassing manner in front of a large television audience, I think Alberto's making the right decision there.