WWE: The Shame of Rusev (Or Why Rusev Should Be A Bigger Star) by Matt Corton

Everyone’s had a Rusev moment in their lives. I could give you a dozen different scenarios where we’ve all been ‘almost there’ and managed to blow it at the last minute.

Think about the interview you nailed. You’ve shown your experience, you’ve remembered all of your case studies and the interviewers are smiling so hard at you that you think there’s no harm in just answering that last question with a little bit of humour, something to let them know you’re not all about business, you’re fun too, dammit! Only a few seconds after you’ve spoken you realise you made that joke…

Or think about the time you were in a rock band. You had a cool band name, you had even all managed somehow to have the cool look. You were even starting to write decent songs, had played your first gig at the local pub. Only then the rest of the band finds the video of you singing along to that Britney Spears album with into a hairbrush.

Then finally think about that time you’re with the girl of your dreams. You’ve danced, you’ve bought her drinks, you’ve charmed her, this time the jokes have gone right and it’s the end of the night. You’ve walked her home. You’re outside her front door. You go to kiss her. Only you’re drunk and the little beery belch leaps from your mouth just as your lips touch hers.

All of those – the guy who makes the wrong joke, the wannabe rocker who’d rather hairbrush karaoke and the guy who snatches a slap from the jaws of a ‘cup of coffee’ – they’re all Rusev because Rusev is basically a face-palm moment.

And he, along with Bray Wyatt actually, really didn’t need to be. At least Bray has managed to maintain his air of mystery and menace despite losing nearly every feud. Rusev has lost every accolade he’s ever won in WWE apart from the finishing move of the same name – they’ve had the foresight at least to make sure that is still reasonably well protected.

Fingers point, when people talk about Rusev and they point to his Ravishing Russian Lana. They point to the uploading of the engagement photograph, a Rusev moment if ever there was one, as evidence of how the WWE were forced to bail on their current programme with Rusev. According to the people who talk about this, there’s been heat on him ever since then.

Only that’s nonsense.

It’s nonsense because the seeds were sewn before that. He had already fallen away from where he needed to be. It started in May 2015 when he and Lana parted their TV ways. It carried on when he was pinned by Cesaro for no real reason. Then it went further from August 2015 with the worst angle I’ve seen on TV in recent years, the love square. It was only after it had already gone downhill that the Rusev snowball gathered so much weight we’re just a few steps away from it smashing at the bottom of the slope to reveal a dazed Heath Rusev.

It all really started with the man at the top of the mountain, Donkey Kong himself, John Cena. He threw his barrel down at Rusev who was trying to capture Pauline. I mean, the US Title. He’d climbed unbeaten to the US Title summit. Which is really only like the first end of level boss, not the final sequence. He couldn’t get past that no matter how he tried, Cena’s living fire burned him alive and the poor man was never the same since.

It was like Cena was the one teenage crush Rusev just couldn’t get over. He left the Bulgarian Brute damaged and broken and those scars were felt rippling right down through the back of 2015. It’s a shame. All he needed was a few dominant feud wins and he’d have been back to where he was.

Instead, we just have so much about Rusev that is just a shame.

The WWE is, at the moment, crying out for a dominant heel or two. They need someone rarely, if ever, beaten who’s a bad guy. Someone who can really strike a chord of fear into the smiling faces not just be the face of it and then have that face smashed in. Rusev was right on course, right on track to be counted among the contenders to be given a chance to be that guy, but instead of just dropping the ball the WWE crushed it in their hands, for some reason, laughing as they did it.

Imagine you’ve bought a new shirt. You feel great in the shirt, it’s a perfect fit and you know it’s going to turn people’s heads. You’re wearing the shirt on your next big night out. You think everyone’s going to love it. Only you go out for a hot dog before going to the club and splodge a great wodge of mustard all down the front of it. You’re out now – no time to change – you have to go into the club like that. What a Rusev moment!

Only that’s precisely what they did. They gave Rusev a great new shirt in Lana, someone who turned people’s heads, someone everyone loved. The Rusev and Lana angle was everything the new shirt should have been and then they went and splodged mustard all over it with Dolph Ziggler and Summer Rae.

I’m not sure, just as a serious aside, that there’s ever been a feud in the history of WWE where four participants have come out of the other side so much the worse for having been involved in it. Singularly the worst, mind-bogglingly bad angle I’ve ever seen. If they had been trying to bury four wrestlers they wouldn’t have been able to do as good a job.

The fact they tried to wrestle something wholesome from it by saying “look, Rusev is going to marry Lana and he loves her” on screen for about 3 weeks before dropping that angle like a stone makes it even worse.

It’s not just bad writing or bad booking – it’s incompetently pathetic they have let this man’s star sink so far from what it was and what it could have been – and believe me it gives me no joy to be that damning.

It’s not like they only had the one shot, either. They had the perfect opportunity when Rusev came back from injury to make sure he was booked again as the true Bulgarian Brute, go on another undefeated run, re-establish the Rusev and Lana pairing. You could even have worked “media silence” into their gimmick, nodding to the fact we all know they’re engaged, but not playing up to it like a peep show as they did. They could have really made something of how angry Rusev was at missing his spot, that he was just going to go through everyone on the roster until he got what he wanted. Lana could have played the truest representation of Mrs Ivan Drago and supported her to-be-husband

It’s a shame.

Then came Monday night. Then came The Rock (apparently).

Sorry. I had a Rusev moment.

Rusev looked like nothing more than Sad Sack next to The Rock on Monday night. He should have torn Rock apart. I would actually have welcomed that. Rock had his funny moments, he popped back as a visiting star, took the mick out of Rusev, went too far, so Rusev put a stop to it. But Rusev is such a tough guy he…had a bit of a stand still while Rock talked.

Mind you, he had just come off a gruelling minute or two in the Royal Rumble match.

No, sadly I think that’s probably it for Kozlov. Sorry, I mean Rusev. Same thing, really.

He will struggle now to ever really have an impact on the main event scene in quite the same way as he could have because of how he’s now been booked.

And it’s a shame.