Ever since Alexander Rusev debuted on the main roster back at the 2014 Royal Rumble, fans knew that he was somebody to keep an eye on. It required the combined effort of four other superstars to eliminate the Bulgarian Brute. Since then we watched him rise, then slowly fall while others rose, yet all the time knowing the potential he held and not losing faith in his credibility, which is what I fear WWE have done.
His wrestling career began outside of WWE, and he was taught by past superstars such as Gangrel and Rikishi, eventually joining WWE via FCW in 2010, where he would train further, debuting for the first time on a televised event in mid-2011. While in FCW he would suffer injuries that sidelined him for long periods of time, including a broken neck which saw him paralyzed in one arm. During his healing process, he traveled to Thailand where he learned Muay Thai, a skill that is evident in his moveset.
He returned to the company in what was now NXT, where he would cross paths with Lana and adopt her as his wicked manager. Never showing mercy when yelling “Rusev, CRUSH!” to which he would oblige, much to the dismay of his victims. He left NXT for the main roster having never held its main belt, but this would not stop Rusev from becoming one of the most dangerous stars on the main roster.
When their music hit and the two of them came charging to the ring, more often than not I expected the opponent to lose, and lose badly. He had an undefeated streak going, having wins over a lot of top stars including former World Heavyweight Champions Jack Swagger, Mark Henry, and Big Show. He was being booked strong, to have victories over Henry and Show are things that are given to people in the midst of a push.
In late 2014 he would even have a segment on Raw where he was forced from the ring by The Rock. Also, something that is given to few people. During his tenure, he has also been in a WrestleMania segment with his faction The League of Nations where they laid out a challenge which was met by Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, and Mick Foley. He’s had his fill of top-notch encounters.
He has also won the United States Championship on two occasions, usually centered around the feud between America and Russia, who Rusev aligned himself with storyline-wise to gain legitimate heat, which spread as far as his home country of Bulgaria, who didn’t take kindly to him promoting Russia. He would successfully defend against John Cena at Fastlane in 2015, before succumbing to ‘Big Match John’ at WrestleMania that year, suffering his first main roster loss.
After this, he and Lana would go back and forth with him banishing her from ringside. They had a storyline where he was with Summer Rae, which was rumored to be a punishment for his real-life engagement to Lana being done in secret and announced online. Something that would have been better in WWE’s eyes if done for instance on Total Divas. Micro-management at its finest. This pattern was seen again when he would cut his hair, which they saw as a problem due to merchandising and toy lines etc.
Him joining the faction alongside King Barrett, Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus, followed by spending a period of not doing too much, was his alleged punishment for such disrespectful actions. How dare he decide to change his look or have a love life with another superstar without their permission.
By 2016 the faction had disbanded, after many attempts at gold with no success. Rusev with Lana back in his corner would go on to have his second reign as the United States Champion, forcing Kalisto to tap out at Extreme Rules. He defended the belt multiple times, and it seemed like his push may have been on its way back.
The duo was drafted to Raw where Rusev would feud with Roman Reigns, who he would eventually drop the belt to, also coming up short in the rematch. So much for the push…..
Then there was that storyline with Enzo and Lana, which Rusev was dominant in, but did little for him and seemed to just be filling time and giving him something to do. As Enzo had Big Cass, Rusev had Jinder Mahal as his partner for this time; however, the two would eventually clash and go their separate ways. It seemed like WWE had run out of ideas for his character so just bundled him with the other people they were also unsure of.
In 2017 he would join SmackDown where he would have pay per view matches against John Cena, which he lost, Randy Orton, which he lost in ten seconds. During his feud with Orton, he would gain Aiden English as his sidekick, seemingly another one of those ill-fated pairings. At a time where he had been left with some good stories here and there he was doing the job for the bigger up stars when it mattered most, at the bigger events, little did he know that he was about to get over big time. Well, with the fans at least.
He was granted the key to his hometown of Plovdiv, Bulgaria by the Mayor on August 22nd, 2017. The first ever official ‘Rusev Day.’ Us fans love something to chant, and this was perfect, made even better by the fact that English would serenade the crowd with his songs to celebrate Rusev Day, which luckily for us is every day.
Since then the fans have gone crazy for this gimmick that was meant to be annoying, but we chose differently, we embraced it, it was chanted at Ring of Honor shows and during other WWE superstars matches, even signs outside shops and other things non-wrestling related. It was natural, it wasn’t pushed on us as something we were meant to like, that’s why we chose to. He is still suffering his losses to other people’s pushes, which is why he is embracing this natural push. His merch sales went up, and he was added to the United States Championship Triple Threat at this year’s WrestleMania making it a four-way. He took the fall in this match, which I believe was purposefully done. Not to bury him but to make sure that he wasn’t the title holder going into the ‘Greatest Royal Rumble’ in Saudi Arabia, the plan is for him to be buried by Undertaker and with the fact that it’s an all-male card, having a champion set up in a non title match wastes one of their slots, which will obviously be filled by that title match.
Could it be that with his gaining popularity amongst more fans and WWE noticing this, plus a match with a ‘Taker, another one of those rare encounters with top level, past superstars that Rusev has had, that his ‘push’ was finally back?
Rusev may have done the wrong thing though, sending out a tweet that read ‘Bury me softly, brother,’ indicating his respect for the Phenom but also the fact that he was going to lose, a fact which we all knew due to his opponent being the Undertaker. His role was though was to be the heel and be putting Undertaker on notice.
He would rectify this, or attempt to in a TMZ interview, an interview that was titled as click bait and contained phrases in the title that were never said by Rusev. This would be addressed by Undertaker’s wife, Michelle McCool, followed by Rusev being pulled from the match and announce to be in the Rumble match itself, and replaced by Chris Jericho, who himself tweeted similar comments to those that may have gotten Rusev into hot water. Despite being announced for the Rumble match, all mentions of WWE were removed from his social media accounts and said it will always be Rusev Day somewhere. Dave Meltzer, when asked by a fan if this was all a work or has he left the company stated that it was a storyline, also stating the same for the current Kevin and Sami angle.
I’m not here to fantasy book Rusev, that’s another story for another day, I am here to celebrate Rusev Day, which in essence is the heart and soul of what being a wrestler is in my opinion. Having something that resonates with the crowd that they enjoy, that goes outside of wrestling and is even felt in other promotions, we feel happy for how happy he is in the gimmick, and it got over. It’s WWE that is the problem in this relationship, and it goes back to what I said about micro-management. They had a good thing to start with, same with Bray, same with Finn. Then they tried to slowly evolve the character rather than letting it evolve on its own course, which of course is now evident that the formula works, he has run with this gimmick, and rightly so. The WWE has such a large roster of talent, and the next big stars constantly fall to the stars of yesterday, such as Cena and Orton.
It’s not their fault, they are not burying anyone.
It’s WWE’s choice to have them constantly beat the rising stars when it would have more of a beneficial effect big picture wise to have the new person win, a passing of the torch. I think we need a face run for Rusev, as he has much more to show us, yet he is likely to stay in the heel persona, despite him now being cheered. That’s the second problem with WWE. They want to home-grow characters and talent, yet when they have someone that is being naturally gravitated towards by the fans, it’s almost like it is halted simply for the fact that we chose to like it when WWE didn’t choose for that to be the case.
I was hoping that him being announced as facing the Undertaker, that WWE had finally seen sense. A match with the Undertaker is a good thing, the loss wouldn’t hurt Rusev, a win would do his career wonders, but as mentioned before, us and Rusev included knew how it would and should have gone. Undertaker doesn’t need to lose again. Plus I’m sure it will be agreed by the fans, WWE and the three men mentioned, that Jericho vs. Undertaker will be a bigger ticket seller and marquee match for the event.
I hope that with all that has gone on with social media that we are being worked, I actually have faith for the first time in a long time that WWE has regained their ability to swerve us and work us again. My second hope is that Rusev is in the midst of the push he should have had in the first instance, by winning the Royal Rumble and the subsequent Championship match.
It is the least he deserves, and if WWE continues to ignore a good thing that’s right in front of their faces I can only suggest that Rusev may be better off ‘pulling a Cody’ and seeing what life in the indies is like nowadays. I think he would flourish, and despite being unable to use the Rusev name unless he legally changes his name like Ryback did, the chants would continue, and unless Aiden English decided to leave with him, the gimmick would die flat anyway.
Fingers crossed that the right people are steering this the right way and it won’t be another gimmick that gets wasted, simply because it became more than what their original vision was. It should be embraced, if it isn’t then, they risk losing possibly one of the stars with the most potential of this current generation. He could be up there, and it is credible, the WWE just need as much faith as we have in it. With that, I bid you farewell and a Happy Rusev Day!