It’s taken a while for him to build momentum, but it finally appears that Rusev is on his way to becoming a player in the WWE. Alongside Lana, his propaganda-spewing valet (and real-life girlfriend), Rusev has elevated his status with the WWE Universe.
Rusev’s budding stardom was evident on Monday Night Raw. He and Roman Reigns were the final two competitors in a battle royal to determine the sixth spot in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship ladder match at Money in the Bank. The crowd in Cleveland went absolutely nuts when the two men squared off, transforming the short confrontation into a major deal. Even though Rusev lost the match, it was a win for both athletes.
The WWE is on to something with “the Super Athlete,” and their booking of the big man is the main ingredient. Rusev’s matches are almost always squashes, rarely lasting more than a minute. He has yet to be pinned or submitted since debuting with the main roster, and his unbeatable persona has captured the attention of the paying customers.
Drawing the ire of the audience with his vocal support of Russia and President Vladimir Putin, Rusev is quickly being established as a dominant foreign heel. For the record, this gimmick practically never fails in pro wrestling if executed the correct way. So far, the WWE has done everything right.
With a lack of main-event level talent on the heel side of the roster, it makes all the sense in the world to speed up Rusev’s push. It’s practically a given that John Cena and Roman Reigns will butt heads with Rusev before long. Not unlike Hulk Hogan during the height of his career, Cena’s best opponents are big guys who the fans see as unbeatable. They work as perfect foils for Superman Cena to conquer, cementing his legacy as a mighty slayer of evil.
I don’t anxiously await Rusev’s eventual loss to Cena or even Roman Reigns. As soon as Rusev comes across as human and beatable, his aura is going to diminish. Rusev must be protected at all times, especially considering his limited in-ring skills. The WWE has accomplished this in spades in the early going, but as “the Bulgarian Brute” works his way up the ladder, things will start to get tricky.
But that’s in the future. Right now, Rusev and Lana are enjoying their rising stardom. Until the glass slipper breaks, their outlook is sunny.