Mishal explores the top-flight potential of former NXT and WWE United States Champion, Andrade!
In today’s WWE there are few talents, few superstars, that we can say are naturally gifted to be a professional wrestler.
None of this is to say any other WWE superstar is without talent or credibility to become something special, because everyone that sets foot on a stage the size of WWE generally possesses a unique quality that makes them stand out considering the amount of talent the WWE currently holds under its belt. Whether it be the ability of a wrestler on the microphone, in the ring, on camera, interacting with crowds or their unique characters, professional wrestlers always have an aspect to them that is essentially ‘larger than life’, every now & then, however, we come across a few that seem like they’re born to dance in the squared circle.
In my humble opinion, Andrade is one of those very few.
At this current moment, WWE is almost in a transition period of sorts, with lots of new pairings being made on screen, new talents flooding their way to the forefront of programming & dozens of new pairings battling it out every single week. Despite the circumstances, it’s an exciting time to watch the product with so much experimentation going on. Every brand has something new planted into its weekly line-up & even though the product is dividing fans, at is has the tendency to, it’s nice to see the winds of change coming through at a time when it’s desperately needed. In the mix of all this, there have been downsides, namely talents who have gotten lost in the shuffle with so much going on. It’s sad to admit, but Andrade is one of those names.
Being the current, reigning United State Champion gives you the impression that a superstar like Andrade might be prioritized to get the spotlight as much as possible in WWE considering his status since in the past many men holding the belt have made it amongst the most illustrious in the company. It’s a belt that can help talent ascend up the WWE ladder in many cases, looking at guys like Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan or The Miz are pretty solid examples that it’s the title that one day could have you leading the very brand you’re a part of.
Andrade hasn’t followed the pattern of success that the other names I mentioned have, or at least doesn’t seem to be on the same path they were either. And this realization has prompted the question; Can Andrade be a top star in the WWE?
Rather than simply provide an answer, it’s important to look at his track record in the company as a whole, because a question like this isn’t just answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
The Glory Days
Like any NXT call-up to the main roster, these were Andrade’s glory days in the WWE, at least to date. In those days Andrade was referred to as Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, a nod to his days wrestling in companies such as CMLL or NJPW where his persona referenced the words used in his name, based around the traditions of Lucha Libre in Mexico. His start on the roster displayed talent, but Andrade was always pretty plain considering the name he carried over from his days wrestling South of the border, there was talent there but nothing to get fans invested in his character.
Andrade was featured prominently on NXT programming, yet acted more like a superior enhancement talent than anything significant. He picked up an initial victory over Tye Dillinger that really did nothing to add value to him, but was then treated to a string of losses against the likes of Bobby Roode, Cedric Alexander & The Revival that left him aimless.
All of this changed in mid-2017 when Andrade appeared alongside an unnamed woman (now known as Selina Vega) to re-establish him as a worthwhile talent on the NXT brand. Vega’s appearance fueled his character with the charisma he displayed at stages in his early NXT career, not only bringing out a more ruthless aspect in him but making him a formidable force to contend with inside the ring. With Vega and his newfound confidence came a rise in the TV time he received, picking up a series of wins against Johnny Gargano which were simply incredible, leading to an NXT Title Match against then-champion Drew McIntyre that would set the course of his career back on track.
His match against McIntyre was a success at NXT Takeover: WarGames, resulting in a great match without question, more importantly, Andrade was holding onto the brands most coveted prize after 18 months of feeling like someone who was bound to be forgotten for the most part. This period was the defining one for the character of Andrade, as his next series of rematches against Johnny Gargano & Aleister Black remain among the greatest in the history of NXT in its entirety. The matches he put on with both pairings define the very essence of what professional wrestling is all about, encapsulating incredible stories, some of the best action the business was seeing at the time (and arguably has since) & establishing himself and everyone around him as a genuine superstar. More than just a champion, Andrade was the ultimate enhancement talent in the ring, making everyone around him look like a million dollars once the bell rang, everything the best in this industry are when it’s all said and done.
Main Roster Arrival
After losing his coveted NXT Championship to Aleister Black at NXT Takeover: New Orleans during WrestleMania weekend in 2018, Almas followed many other former NXT Champions in debuting following the biggest show of the year, on the blue brand of SmackDown Live as a part of the ‘Superstar Shake-Up’.
Almas was a welcome addition to the brand, which was having one of its oddest periods over the previous 10-months following a WWE Championship run by Jinder Mahal of all people & some odd booking that left its roster in a bit of flux. He started off on the right foot, scoring victories over the likes of Sin Cara, Rusev, R-Truth & fantastic performances against Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles & Jeff Hardy despite the losing effort. Where his talents really started to shine, was through his impromptu feud with Rey Mysterio, a perfect match with Andrade’s more Lucha libre style of in-ring work.
Their feud, while not the longest, established Andrade as one of the very best on the roster amongst the younger crop of talent. Every match they had reminded me of the early days WCW Cruiserweight matches, featuring insane athletics, constant one-upmanship, an incredible pace & finally giving something from Andrade that was a little more than just a fine performance. This mini-feud built on his character, making him more aggressive and a true threat since he took down one of the most popular stars in company history.
His remaining time on the roster was filled with a combination of fun matches between Mysterio, Samoa Joe & R-Truth, competing in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal, before yet another career shift. Andrade’s time on SmackDown wasn’t without its moments but left a lot to be desired considering the level of quality produced during his time in NXT.
Moving to Monday Night Raw
Moving to Monday Night RAW has always been something I dread my favourite superstars do. Not because it’s an outright terrible career move, but a 3-hour RAW is always going to be a more sizeable effort to get through as opposed to a 2-hour SmackDown.
When the company shifted the former NXT Champion over to the red brand, however, there was lots of potential for him on a new show, the issue was that WWE took far too long to capitalize on his potential. Andrade didn’t exactly stagnate during his time on the brand, just seemed to be floating in and out of opportunities with no real goal or direction for his character to end up or head to. Andrade was turning in fine performances, namely against the likes of Seth Rollins, Finn Balor & revisiting his old feud against Rey Mysterio, but was essentially headed nowhere as the rest of the roster was surging ahead.
All of that would lead to the December 26th show in Madison Square Garden, where Andrade would defeat Rey Mysterio to claim his first championship on the main roster, claiming the United States Championship in an unaired match. From there the tide starting to shift, as Andrade found footing as a prominent in-ring competitor that always delivered the goods, defending his title numerous times (even with a wellness policy violation) and finally making a name for himself.
Even with the COVID-19 pandemic making its mark, Andrade continues to turn in solid performances. He’s managed to spotlight the likes of Humberto Carillo, Street Profits & Angel Garza, who are all talents that in my eyes still lack the identity necessary to make a proper mark on the product.
The real question is; where do we go from here?
Conclusion: Can Andrade Be A Top Star?
The reason I chose to do a brief overview & analysis of Andrade’s time on the main roster is simple, it’s to understand that despite the immense level of talent the man has & has displayed in the past, Andrade hasn’t been given the perfect platform to work with like what was given to him in NXT. None of this is a nudge to anyone necessarily, just a realization that the world of the main roster in WWE is a crowded one, with so many talents vying for the top spot that makes it difficult for others to stand out.
Andrade was tossed into a crowded landscape when he was called up in 2018, and in 2020 there’s only even newer talent shifting its way up from NXT as that brand expands itself onto a new horizon. Any new star in this atmosphere is essentially fighting for survival with younger talent being the current priority, as we can see with the likes of Otis, Austin Theory, Humberto Carillo, Angel Garza, The Forgotten Sons or Apollo Crews, who seems to be getting a second chance.
In my opinion, none of this is an indicator that the main event-level star we’ve seen before can’t come to fruition again with Andrade.
If his past is any indication, we’re only patiently waiting for another classic to unfold from the incredible skill set that will surge him back to where he once was, only he’s under a very different predicament as opposed to his NXT days. Andrade is facing the likes of Seth Rollins, Drew McIntyre, Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton, AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan & so many more, a crop of superstars so talented that it takes the absolute best to get slotted in next to. While he has had his exchanges with Drew McIntyre as of late, even the booking of those encounters isn’t like their NXT Championship back in the day, Andrade isn’t booked as the threat he should be representing but that only changes with fixing the booking issues that exist within WWE’s creative team.
Many will point to issues such as the language barrier, his lack of size as opposed to the prototypical big-time WWE superstar or his record with wins & losses, but since when has this held back other non-American performers in the past? The likes of Eddie Guerrero & Rey Mysterio are proof that the WWE mould isn’t exclusive to what fans necessarily want from their product, and with the right tweaks, Andrade could very well join them in that select group if executed right. And in today’s WWE, it’s not like wins or losses are a good measure of how successful a star will one day become with 50-50 booking still going strong amongst their mid-card with every passing week. Even the issue of the language barrier can be the key to crafting a masterful heel, one that refuses to address his audience in their own tongue & relies on his own management to stoop to their level rather than himself.
Despite all the concerns I can think of, Andrade leaps over almost all of them for the most part.
Obviously my opinion might differ to others reading this, or across the internet & I’d love nothing more than to hear an opposing view because to me Andrade has the potential to be one of the companies biggest heels with the next generation rolling out. He possesses everything that an effective WWE heel should in order to craft a memorable, well-booked storyline, and in many ways feels like what the company was looking for in a superstar like Alberto Del Rio once upon a time.
I hope I’m not wrong with this opinion, but Andrade has the potential to be what the WWE has been looking for in an international star for so very long & I’m keeping my mindset as optimistic as possible that they don’t let him slip through their fingers.