In the midst of looking around to acquire more talent, WWE may have stumbled across a potential power play with the signing of lucha libre star La Sombra. WWE has made their desire to have a big Hispanic star public knowledge as of late, bringing back Alberto Del Rio and pushing Kalisto into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament. Clearly, however, Del Rio is only a short-term answer and not the future, while Kalisto is being built up slowly.
According to the official announcement made on WWE.com, La Sombra, real name Manuel Alfonso Andrade Oropeza, has reported to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando and will join NXT probably sooner rather than later.
From the announcement:
Formerly known as “La Sombra,” Oropeza is a third-generation luchador whose grandfather, father, uncles and cousins all competed in Mexico. Oropeza signed with Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL) in 2007 at age 17, where he trained under El Satanico. While there, he held many titles, including the CMLL Trio and Tag Team titles and the NWA Welterweight and Middleweight titles.
The WWE Performance Center’s newest luchador also brings experience from Japan; Oropeza made multiple trips to Japan for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), winning the organization’s Intercontinental Championship in 2013.
This is a major development for many reasons. For several years, Oropeza has been one of the top wrestling talents in the world, holding a bevy of the CMLL’s titles and defeating top stars El Felino, Olimpico, and Volador Jr. for their masks. He also competed for New Japan Pro Wrestling as a result of the talent exchange between the two companies, headlining New Japan’s Fantasticamania tour and defeating Shinsuke Nakamura for the company’s Intercontinental Championship.
Recently, Oropeza’s fortunes had changed, signaling that he was reaching the end of his tenure with the two companies. In August, he lost the NWA World Historic Middleweight Championship to Ultimo Guerrero, and the following month, he lost his mask to Atlantis in the main event of CMLL’s 82nd Anniversary Show. He was expected to be announced as participating in New Japan’s World Tag League tournament and 2016 Fantasticamania tour, but when his name was absent from both lists, suspicions about his future deepened. There were reports going around that La Sombra was close to signing with a major promotion, but many felt that he was leaning toward New Japan Pro Wrestling. He has spent time in Japan and was becoming a star there. NJPW was reportedly ready to offer him a relatively good deal and called his departure a major blow to their organization.
At only 26 years of age, Oropeza has plenty of time to learn WWE’s trademark style and become a major star in the organization. Due to working in Japan, he has been with people who work in styles that transition over to WWE well. The early implications are that WWE will most likely have him perform without his mask. They put his picture on WWE.com without his mask visible, which should signal to everyone their intent.
Some lucha libre performers will not work without a mask, as they prefer it, and it is a major deal to remove it. Some do not care as much about the mask and have taken it off more times than not. The one thing we know is if WWE gives him a good character, then a mask may not be necessary.
Oropeza is a fantastic signing and one that shows they are, at the very least, trying to give the WWE a breath of fresh air. Signing proven lucha libre talent to wrestle top stars in the company or possibly to bring back the cruiserweight division could be a remarkable marketing tool. Standing at five-foot-11 he has drawn more similarities to Del Rio instead or Mysterio, but could possess more upside than both. Seeing him on the main stage and used in a major way should not be a shock to anyone.
WWE is hungry for a major Latino star to replicate the past successes of Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero. Oropeza is the first third-generation luchador that WWE has ever signed, which is a big deal. With Alberto Del Rio already struggling after less than a month back with the company, he may be WWE’s best hope for success!
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