With NXT call-ups happening on the Raw and SmackDown Live after WrestleMania, the Superstar Shake-Up has also brought a few NXT Superstars to the main roster. Here, we're looking at former NXT Champion Andrade "Cien" Almas, who has been called up to SmackDown Live, along with manager Zelina Vega. While we've only seen videos hyping him so far, it was revealed last week that he'll be on SmackDown Live for the first time this coming Tuesday. Here's everything you need to know about "El Idolo"!
Getting the call to SmackDown Live
While he has yet to debut on SmackDown Live, Andrade, along with manager Zelina Vega, was recently revealed as one of the superstars to move to the brand during this year's Superstar Shake-Up. While he is new to SmackDown Live, Andrade has had more than a decade of in-ring experience. While in his home country of Mexico, he debuted at the age of thirteen for his father's promotion under the ring name Brillante Jr., in honor of his father.
Since debuting in 2003, Andrade has worked for CMLL, where he was one of the co-founders of the stable Los Ingobernables, and NJPW. While in CMLL and NJPW, working under the name La Sombra, Almas held a mass of championships including the NWA World Welterweight Championship, the CMLL World Tag Team Championship and the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.
Andrade signed a developmental contract with WWE in November of 2015. He later reported to the WWE Performance Center to begin his WWE career, with his main focus initially being on improving his English language skills. He made his NXT debut at NXT TakeOver: The End, with a victory over Tye Dillinger. His success started to dwindle after that victory with Andrade losing to Bobby Roode and Roderick Strong at the following TakeOver events he appeared at. That was until the July 19, 2017 episode of NXT when Zelina Vega made her first appearance as Andrade's new manager. He returned to NXT the following month, with Vega in tow, defeating No Way Jose and securing a match with Johnny Gargano, which he won.
Almas then disappeared until October, where he, once again, defeated Gargano. On the November 1, 2017 episode of NXT, Almas signed a contract securing him a title match against Drew McIntyre at the next TakeOver entitled NXT TakeOver: WarGames. In a moment that many viewed as a surprising upset, and with the local Houston crowd and their love of lucha libre behind him, Andrade defeated Drew to win the NXT Championship at the WarGames event. After retaining the title against Johnny Gargano at TakeOver: Philadelphia and making his main roster debut during the 2018 Royal Rumble match, Andrade lost the NXT Championship to Aleister Black at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans during WrestleMania weekend.
Character and In-Ring Style
NXT has definitely helped a lot of their superstars ensure that they have a unique look and character. Andrade may have taken some of his look from his prior persona La Sombra, but when he debuted, he proved that he can work any character he is given. The way he performs his character, he could easily transition from a heel to a face which could also result in ditching Vega as his manager.
While he has improved in speaking English, having Zelina Vega as his voice is definitely helping his career. Zelina can speak for him while Andrade backs up her words in the ring. While his character as of this moment is described as a heel, Andrade still keeps the fans guessing and has a huge following, even though he is supposed to be portrayed as a bad guy.
His in-ring style can be described as a Luchador, which is a throwback to his days as La Sombra. However, he adds in some classic heel tactics and power moves along with it. Despite being only 5' 9'', Almas makes use of every ounce of his 210-pound frame. While he no longer wears the mask, he still holds that prestige of being a Luchador in high regard, especially while in the ring. His finisher, the Hammerlock DDT, can be hit at any time and normally spells the end for whoever opposes him. He even has a variant where his opponent is draped over the ropes before being brought down with it, a great thing to save for high-profile matches or intense rivalries.
While in Mexico and Japan, his finisher was known as the Sombra Driver (a schoolboy suplex) but while in WWE, he has adopted other moves to his arsenal which makes him one of the more difficult opponents to deal with in the ring, let alone defeat. While a few people have kicked out of the Hammerlock DDT, it is still a difficult move to kick out of after being hit with it, especially if he pulls the draping variant out of his bag.
What does the future hold for Andrade "Cien" Almas?
Andrade has yet to make his official debut for SmackDown Live but there is a lot of options for WWE to go with when he does. One option would be for him to chase the United States Championship held by Jeff Hardy. Although many main roster call ups begin their career by defeating enhancement talent, throwing Andrade into the deep end with a title chase would do wonders for his main roster career. While he may not win the title right away, you could also put him in the ring with many of the great talent SmackDown Live possesses, names like Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, The Miz, even WWE Champion AJ Styles.
You could even add him to the tag team division and have him team with any fellow heel characters, like Shinsuke Nakamura, The Miz, newly turned heel Shelton Benjamin or even Big Cass. With the Money in the Bank Ladder Match on the horizon, qualifying for that match could immediately give him added credibility as a mid-card or even top-tier threat. While it's unlikely that Almas would capture such a prestigious prize so soon, even a losing effort could help jumpstart his career and put WWE on the path to having the main event caliber Latino superstar they've so desperately wanted in recent years.
It is unclear what the current plans for Andrade are, and with it being unclear if he's working as a face or a heel on the main roster, we may not know for a while. One thing is for sure; Andrade should not be overlooked.
Are you excited to see Andrade Almas on SmackDown Live? Let us know in the comments below!