“I was a millionaire back then just in the ring when I had no money in my pocket,” says Alberto Del Rio with a laugh, adding, “Just kidding.” There is an insight to the strange world of professional wrestling.
It’s been six years since the millionaire character of Del Rio made his debut as a bad guy, or heel, in the World Wrestling Entertainment. A lot has changed during that period of time. Long gone are the fancy cars and the personal ring announcer of the Mexican aristocrat. Now, the wrestler plays a less fancier character and by the looks of it, he is having fun with it.
“Now, I’m just being me and enjoying it. I’m a really good wrestler when it comes to ring skills but the way I started to make an impact was playing a rich guy from Mexico or Spain, I don’t even remember now,” he says with another chuckle.
For someone who plays the bad guy in the wrestling ring, a smile comes quite easily to the 39-year-old. But that’s not what he wants to portray to the millions who follow the WWE programming across the world.
“I don’t even like being a babyface (good guy in wrestling). I don’t ever want to be one again. When you are the bad guy, you are the one controlling the crowd and the one having more fun out there,” he explains.
The art of professional wrestling comes easily for Del Rio. After all, it’s in his blood. “I come from a wrestling family. My grandfather, uncle (Mil Mascaras) and father (Dos Caras) were all wrestlers. I grew up watching and admiring them and always wanted to be a wrestler. My dream as a little boy was this,” said Del Rio, who is a qualified architect.
“I was trained by my dad. People like to say it was my uncle because he was very popular but he didn’t have anything to do with my training. I’m here because of my dad,” stresses the man who almost made the Olympics team for his country.
While it’s an open secret that pro wrestling is scripted, and perhaps even looked down upon in certain circles, the art-form still remains elusive — the actions, while predetermined, are not without consequences.
“It’s not an easy business, there is a price. You know you are putting your body on the line every single day,” reveals the former World Heavyweight champion.
“Injuries are part of pro wrestling. You know that when you go out there that someone is going to kick you and you are going to kick somebody. It's a physical sport and when you practice that, you are going to get hurt but the company takes care of us. We just had an incident with a wrestler in Mexico. He died in the ring and I am 100 per cent sure that if they would have had a doctor in the arena, he would have still been alive,” stresses the Real Madrid fan.
“People can say whatever they want but if someone is going to come to me, and being a world class athlete and a wrestler who was part of the national team in Mexico, I will say, if this is so easy, why are you not doing it?,” he adds.
And if you are with a promotion that is as big as WWE, then it's quite a lonely one as well. “We spend so much time on the road, more than 200 appearances a year. When I go home, we don’t even talk about wrestling. I’d rather use that time to enjoy my family. It’s difficult but it's like any other job. If you want to make money and be famous, you have to be willing to pay the price,” opined Del Rio who was in India for a promotional event for the WWE.
But despite the hardships and the long hours, Del Rio and many others like him still continue to soldier on for the entertainment and for that explosion of noise from the fans. Therein lies the drive. It’s a show, and it must go on....