Rewind two year calendar years, and you’ll see a very different WWE product. Wade Barrett was the Intercontinental Champion, Brock Lesnar was the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, and Triple H was feuding with Sting. However, arguably the most interesting feud was between John Cena and the undefeated United States Champion, Rusev.
At that WrestleMania 31, Rusev rode to the ring in an actual tank to defend his title against John Cena. He suffered his first loss, but he looked like a monster, and obviously better things were still to come. Fast forward to 2017, and something far worse has happened to Rusev.
How to Save Rusev
Has there ever been a guy with more obvious upside than Rusev? A quick glimpse tells you all you need to know, and a thorough investigation proves he’s a dream come true for the WWE.
First of all, he’s huge. He’s only six feet tall, but he’s 300 pounds. He’s a former pro-power lifter, and is one of the most believable ass kickers in all of pro wrestling. Rusev could easily be the biggest heel on Monday Night Raw and nobody would blink an eye.
And he’s not so bad in the ring either. Despite being huge, he’s a great athlete and can have a pretty good match with most wrestlers. Rusev has the kind of in-ring ability that even the most hardcore of indy wrestling fans can get behind.
Dig a Little Deeper
A few weeks ago, Rusev and his wife (getting there) were on Talk is Jericho with Y2J himself, and we got to known the Bulgarian Brute a little better. Listening to him talk, it’s obvious he’s got serious passion for the business. He grew up in Bulgaria, doing whatever it took to get his hands on WWF tapes. When he came to America, he was homeless for periods of time, but all he wanted to do was being a pro wrestler. How can’t you love a guy like that?
Despite the fact that English isn’t even Rusev’s first language, he’s still pretty solid on the microphone. His promos can go from furious to hilarious, and he always gets a reaction out of his opponents and the crowd.
And all that is without including Lana. Oh boy, what is there to say about Lana? His real-life-wife is not only beautiful, but talented on the microphone and she has such obvious chemistry with the brute that they’re almost impossible to hate.
With all this going for him, what are Rusev’s plans for WrestleMania?
What is Rusev’s plan for WrestleMania? Do you know, because I certainly don’t. Once booked as an unbeatable monster, the Bulgarian Brute has a clear schedule on April second. At this point, it looks like he’ll be a part of the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal, and if that isn’t a tremendous waste, I don’t know what is.
WWE’s apathetic approach to Rusev wouldn’t be so bad if they were just ignoring him, but it’s so much worse. Over the last month or so, he’s been stuck in a tag team with renowned jobber, Jinder Mahal. Not only has Handsome Rusev been stuck in tag team action, he’s been losing.
He’s been used to put the likes of the New Day and the Certified G’s over instead of pulverizing other wrestlers. Again, this wouldn’t be so bad, but then FastLane happened. On Sunday night, Rusev did have a singles match… but it was against the Big Show.
Don’t get me wrong, Big Show looks great, and I’m proud of the work he’s done to get in shape, but he’s 45 years old. He’s 45 years old, and with Shaq bailing for WrestleMania, he doesn’t have clear plans either. And not only did Show get a match with Rusev… but he won convincingly.
Why in the world is Big Show beating Rusev on a pay per view in 2017, four weeks before WrestleMania? This is just hideous booking, and it makes no sense. Rusev should be one of Monday Night Raw’s biggest stars, and instead he’s being booked worse than James Ellsworth. So how can WWE save Rusev?
How to Save Rusev
First thing’s first. He can’t turn face. Sure, everyone loves him already, and it seems easy, but it won’t end well. Ignoring Vince McMahon’s alleged xenophobia, WWE just doesn’t have a history of managing their former monster heels as babyfaces. Hell, Rusev wouldn’t even be the first Russian monster heel they tried to turn face. Remember Vladmir Kozlov? He ended up teaming with Santino. That’s not what we want for the handsome one, so he has to stay heel.
At this point, the big guy needs a makeover. He needs to become fresh in the eyes of the WWE Universe again. He’s been thrown out and fed to the Big Show, Enzo and Cass, and even Shawn Michaels. Once upon a time, even John Cena struggled to beat the former United States Champion, and now he’s losing to WCW alumni.
The first thing WWE can do is take Rusev off of TV for a while. They’re stretched for talent, and they’d be losing one of their best stars, but frankly, they need to at this point. Open up the cruiserweight division, call up some wrestlers from NXT, and even bring guys back like Drew Galloway, but keep Rusev off of TV.
Once he’s been off TV for a few weeks, you bring him back, and you bring him back strong. Instead of having him out there with Jinder Mahal and tag team specialists, feed him a few jobbers. And while they’re at it, they should kill the comedy stuff. He’s great at it, but so is Kevin Owens, and we all know how much better the serious version is.
Rusev’s first feud post-return should be with Sami Zayn. Why Sami Zayn? Because he could make a loaf of bread look strong in a feud, and at this point, Zayn deserves his own “how to save” article. Sami Zayn is the most naturally lovable character in wrestling, and the fans wouldn’t cheer Rusev as he MATCHKA’d hopeless Sami into submission.
This is where my booking gets a little screwy because I’m going to propose something that definitely won’t happen. In a pay per view match, possibly SummerSlam, Rusev is refusing to let an unconscious Zayn out of the Accolade when Kevin Owens comes to the rescue.
Yes, in my imaginary booking world, Kevin Owens turns babyface. But it could work. Even on Raw last week, Owens mentioned Zayn as his former best friend, and maybe the duo could start working together again. Raw needs more tag teams, and these two could tear the house down if they got together. El Generico would be proud (rest in peace).
Anyway, this leads to a feud between Rusev and Owens for the United States Championship. A. It’s obvious that Owens is winning the belt off of Jericho at Mania, and B. Rusev has been a great United States Champion both times he held the belt. The two could feud for a couple of months, with Rusev ultimately ending up United States Champion for the third time.
That’s pretty much it. A monster yet again, holding the United States Champion, Rusev would be in the position he should be. From there, you can have him hold the U.S. title for months or even go after the Universal Championship. By this point, either Finn Balor or Roman Reigns will have beaten Brock Lesnar for it at SummerSlam, and Rusev could put on a great feud with either man.
We’ve seen Reigns vs. Rusev before and it was quality, and who knows what Rusev and Balor could do, albeit with subtitles. In any event, Monday Night Raw would have be a stronger show with a stronger champion, and maybe things could get back on track.
Until then, I’m just gonna keep calling him Handsome Rusev.