Rusev and Lana make a great pairing. Lana, the Ravishing Russian, is the perfect valet for Rusev, the Bulgarian Brute. It’s almost like something out of Rocky and Bullwinkle.
As an old school fan, Rusev’s squash matches have become a highlight of Monday Night Raw. Call me old-fashioned, but I love watching him destroy his opponents, throwing them around the ring with ease. All of this is a setup for his dreaded accolade submission hold (a camel clutch), with which he happily tortures his foes while donning a hilariously stoic facial expression.
In a bygone era, Rusev would easily have become a star. Rusev is a physical specimen at 6-foot and 300-pounds seemingly etched in granite. He’s a legitimate strongman with a background in power-lifting and rowing, and he also practiced Muay Thai while recovering from a broken neck in 2012.
Will today’s fans accept Rusev? It’s possible, but I don’t think so. The days of huge men methodically battering their opponents are over. Yesterday’s fans appreciated perceived toughness and strength, but today’s fans take to speed, agility, movement and charisma. That’s not to say Rusev isn’t a showman, because he is. He’s just a different kind of entertainer — one who would have gotten over huge in another era.
Rusev’s problems will escalate as he moves from squash matches to lengthier contests. He’s untested in these environments, so it’s hard to judge how he’ll fare, but his style simply isn’t tailored for long, main event style matches. It’s really a shame, because WWE might have something with this guy.
The company is attempting to take advantage of the worldwide heat on Russian President Vladimir Putin by adding him to Lana and Rusev’s act. They dedicate their matches to him and look to him as a source of inspiration. For now it’s a great way to rile up the fans, but in the long run I could see it getting stale. Furthermore, WWE doesn’t exactly have the greatest track record when it comes to politically inspired storylines.
Hopefully WWE gives Rusev every opportunity to succeed, but it’s a stretch to envision the Super-Athlete enjoying long-term success. For the time being, however, keep those squashes coming!