I have to shake my head when the WWE tries so goddamn hard to manufacture an ethnic superstar. Alberto Del Rio’s recent return has as much to do with his Mexican heritage as it does his alleged star power.
I’ve learned through hindsight that one of the key differences between current WWE head Vince McMahon and his late father, Vince McMahon, Sr., is that the latter understood that ethnic heroes like Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, Argentina Rocca, and Victor Rivera came from grass-roots support. In other words, the fans wanted to love these guys.
Vince Sr. didn’t decide one day that the WWWF needed a Latin superstar and started to push around Morales. Instead, the fans reacted to Pedro, and the build followed. It worked for 12 years for Morales, who was WWWF Heavyweight Champion and later among the biggest names who established the new Intercontinental Title.
I remember when Vince Jr. did the house show promos for his dad’s TV, Morales would go off on his opponent in Spanish, which must have thrilled folks in the area who spoke that language because it let them connect with Morales on a personal level (check out 2:00 into the clip below).
Does anyone ask Del Rio to speak a few words outside of English? Nope. But that might be a good idea.
Another obvious step that I can’t believe Vince Jr. doesn’t recognize is that an ethnic hero needs to be a babyface. Del Rio in his return – and for most of his time in the WWE – has been a heel. I think that sort of character development just reinforces stereotypes, that the white wrestlers can’t trust the heel Mexicans. Rey Mysterio worked great because he was always a good guy that kids looked up to. Del Rio is a dude you want to boo – that’s the wrong formula.
I saw the fans’ reaction to Del Rio at the Staples Center in Los Angeles during the Hell in a Cell show, and clearly he had a strong following among bout the Mexican-American fans. You want him to be a crossover star to the Hispanic people who watch WWE? Then let them relate to him through their ethnicity and language, and not some corporately-derived plan to create a Mexican draw.