Whether you call him Alberto Del Rio or Alberto El Patron — or by his real name, Jose Alberto Rodriguez — just don’t call him a fake tough guy.
The WWE alum, Impact Wrestling baddie and Combate Americas announcer has a professional mixed martial arts record of nine wins and five losses. And before throwing (real) fists and elbows was cool, the former luchador make the Mexico National Team in Greco-Roman wrestling.
So be careful whom you send a stiff superkick toward, other TNA alums.
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The 40-year-old Del Rio (we’ll go with his ring name from a pair of runs in the top pro-wrestling promotion) knows he can take most of the locker room.
“I can tell you this and I’m 100 percent sure: 90 percent of the people working for WWE have never been in a real fight in their lives,” he said while discussing wrestlers who dabble in MMA. “But when you get someone who has been training in a real sport — like [Brock] Lesnar or myself, we have a good chance of doing it well.”
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Speaking of WWE, Del Rio didn’t exactly leave the door open for a third stint with Vince McMahon’s company.
“It’s closed from my side,” he told TheWrap. “I was never let go from that company — it was my decision to leave WWE. I had enough.”
“For my second run with them, I wasn’t feeling happy,” the former WWE Champion continued. “I didn’t feel like it was the right place for me to be. Thank God I have saved my money, I have invested my money wisely.”
“I just remember one morning waking up at 5 a.m. and I was supposed to go somewhere [on a WWE tour],” he recalled. “I said to myself, ‘Man, you’re not happy. You are a guy that has been in love with pro wrestling since you were a little boy, and now you’re not loving it anymore. So it’s time for you to move on and go and try to find that place or the company where you will feel happy. If you don’t find that place … I think it’s time for you to retire.”
Fortunately, Del Rio says he found that passion and love again at independent wrestling shows. He eventually signed with TNA Wrestling — which is now Impact — where El Patron recently underwent a heel turn. (He’s a villain again, for non-fans of the squared-circle stuff.)
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Del Rio says he’s finished with his other love, real fighting — but the self-proclaimed “Pride of Mexico” is happy to be in the booth for that true combat sport. After all, it’s safer up there, and Del Rio knows he’s a bit too comfortable in life to put his dukes up against anything but working (read: faux) punches.
Quoting “Rocky,” Del Rio knows he’s no longer got the “Eye of the Tiger” — but the young, “hungry” fighters he’s mentoring sure do. Just like in the Sly Stallone feature films, that (and a southpaw stance) makes a man dangerous.
Saturday’s one-night, eight-man Combate Americas tournament is in the style of the old WWF “King of the Ring” pay-per-view tournament, which fans of Del Rio’s (main) life’s work might recognize. To claim the night’s $100,000 grand prize, a fighter winner must win three bouts in one night. Yes, three real fights in the same evening — we’d hide behind a microphone too.
“Copa Combate” airs live Saturday night on NBC Sports Network and Telemundo, beginning at 11:30 p.m. ET.