Andrade made a statement at the Royal Rumble Sunday night in Phoenix, Arizona. After having his named shortened simply to Andrade, the man formerly known as Andrade “Cien” Almas has been on fire on SmackDown Live. A spot in the final four of the Men’s Royal Rumble was the icing on the proverbial cake for Andrade’s month. Is a WWE Championship Match with Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania in his future?
After his name change and reemergence, Andrade first tore the house down in back to back weeks against Rey Mysterio. Both of those matches have already been talked about as Match of the Year candidates for WWE. To follow-up those barn burners, Andrade was the last remaining SmackDown Live superstar in the Men’s Royal Rumble Match.
Ultimately, Andrade eliminated fellow SmackDown rival Randy Orton on the way to being one of the final four remaining men. He was eliminated by Raw superstar Braun Strowman, which now raises this question: Is Andrade ready to one more giant step on his way to superstardom?
Known as “La Sombra” in Mexico and Japan, he signed with the WWE and was put in NXT upon his arrival. Andrade won the NXT Championship and had a memorable match of the year quality contest at NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia with Johnny Gargano. He held the title for almost five months before being dethroned by Aleister Black in New Orleans on WrestleMania weekend.
In the months after being called up to SmackDown Live, a lot of folks felt Andrade has been underused. There were rumors that Andrade himself was unhappy with his direction in the WWE. Yet Andrade was being matched up with Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles, the two best wrestlers on SmackDown for a period of time. He was defeated by both men, but certainly had nothing to be ashamed of in those losses.
Andrade continued to put on amazing performances night after night, yet still wasn’t receiving the respect he felt was earned. Last month, Andrade was rumored to have told international superstar Rush that the “WWE wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” Rush ultimately signed with Ring of Honor.
That’s when Andrade “Cien” Almas became simply Andrade. Since then, Andrade’s matches have become must-see televison. The duels with Mysterio have been instant classics and he was the last man standing in the Rumble for SmackDown. Now, Andrade needs a dance partner moving forward, and we need look no further than reigning WWE Champion Daniel Bryan.
Bryan retained his WWE Champion against AJ Styles at the Royal Rumble, and now his options are limited. The majority of the strength with the SmackDown Live roster is in the heel section. This leaves Bryan looking for opponents to battle going forward. Contrary to popular belief, we can only see him face AJ Styles so many times. Especially since both men are the most gifted wrestlers on the roster.
There’s currently a shortage of fan-favorites on the SmackDown brand. Bryan could face Rey Mysterio, which would certainly be an intriguing battle. He also could challenge upstart Mustafa Ali once again, this time at WrestleMania. However, I don’t feel Ali is quite ready to garner that type of headline. The correct answer to who should face Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania is Andrade.
Andrade has been gaining fanfare with his recent performances. Crowds have begun to take notice and are starting to cheer for the man whose valet Zelina Vega has been known to twist a match in his favor. We could see Andrade enter the Elimination Chamber match in February and end up across the ring in the final pairing with Randy Orton.
Seeing as the two men tangled at the Rumble and the ‘Viper’ is a more established villain, the crowd would most likely side with Andrade. A face turn would be just as simple as pinning Orton and potentially Samoa Joe in the Chamber on his way to earning the WrestleMania title match with Daniel Bryan. How awesome would that be?
Andrade has already been the stalwart of NXT, now it’s time for him to take another step in the pantheon of the WWE. What better way to continue his recent hot streak than taking on the WWE champion on the grandest stage of them all?