First and foremost, happy Rusev Day everyone! Yes, the gimmick that is taking the WWE Universe by storm is none other than Rusev Day. Admittedly I was extremely critical of this gimmick at first. So you’re telling me Aiden English comes out, improvises a song about how great Rusev is, then Rusev comes out and wishes everybody a happy Rusev day…. every day? Sounds like you could get a laugh or two out of it but that’s about it. Was it fitting for someone once as dominant as the Bulgarian Brute? Well, consider this article me eating crow.
It’s excellent and the fans love it. It’s got legs, and it’s ready to run. Rusev is terrific as the goofy, bruising heel and the added flair of Aiden English has only made it better. “Rusev Day” is often chanted in arenas when the superstar himself isn’t even present. At times it has even replaced the “boring” chants the crowd usually reserves for matches they aren’t enjoying, instead now electing to express they’d rather be watching the big man and his musical cohort.
On the March 27th edition of SmackDown Live, it seemed as if the WWE higher-ups started listening. Rusev has been added to the Wrestlemania 34 US Title match. What was originally a Triple Threat between Jinder Mahal, Boody Roode, and Randy Orton is now a Fatal Four Way that includes Rusev. But would WWE really pull the trigger on this? Seemingly altering a storyline, they already had set to appease fan support? What does Rusev’s history with the company say?
Russian Enforcer and US Title Run
Rusev made his main roster debut in the 2014 Royal Rumble coming out 6th. Billed strong from the start it took a joint effort of four wrestlers to eliminate him. He then came back in April on an episode of Raw. He came out the gate as a Brute and was treated as such. Even though he is from Bulgaria, his initial heel run was done as if he was a proud Russian citizen who would fight for Russian ideals and ways of life. A classic trope of playing off current events and tension with other countries by WWE that they have used both successfully (see Iron Sheik) and unsuccessfully (see Muhammad Hassan). By having him win the US Title, it helped shape the anti-American persona. Add in the Ravishing Russian Lana as a manager and a feud with Mr. America himself John Cena, and you have a great run. It all ended at Wrestlemania 31 with his first main roster pinfall loss to Cena. Despite the loss, it was a massive moment for him. He could only go up right?
The League of Nations
It seemed as he was on an upward trajectory but following storylines didn’t help to continue said trajectory. He followed up his Wrestlemania 31 performance with a loss to Cena in an “I Quit” match. He blamed his loss on a miscommunication with Lana thus propelling them into a story in which the two were separated. He ended up in a feud with Dolph Ziggler who had seemingly become romantically involved with Lana, all the while replacing Lana with Summer Rae dressed to look exactly like her predecessor. In this time Rusev also began coming out with the Bulgarian flag effectively dropping Russia from his angle. Following a few more small feuds the real momentum killer came, The League of Nations
The League of Nations was a stable that consisted of four non-American wrestlers. Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Wade Barrett, and Rusev. On paper that’s a great line up. The stable even held the World Championship (Sheamus) and the US Title (Del Rio) at one point. Unfortunately, the WWE didn’t book them as powerfully as the actual roster deserved. Often booked as a semi-powerful group that you knew the “good guy” would dispatch of. It did not last long and did not help all involved. Half of the stable doesn’t even perform with WWE anymore. Both Barrett and Del Rio no longer work for the company.
After the LON disbanded Rusev went on to defeat Kalisto for his second US Title run, but it never had the same shine his first run had. He later found himself in a feud in which Enzo Amore would hit on Lana. Gone were the days of him destroying main eventers with The Accolade. The days of him being unbeatable. The days of us totally believing this brute would come to the ring in a freaking Russian tank. It seemed that Rusev was just treading water. Until everyone’s favorite day came along…
Finally, it’s Rusev Day!
At first, when he was moved to SmackDown Live with the Superstar Shake up, it seemed it was going to be more of the same. A flag match with John Cena. Getting squashed by Randy Orton in ten seconds. Was he doomed to be a mid-card enhancement guy? Not if Aiden English had anything to say about it.
That fall he was partnered with Aiden English. Another superstar who had been out to sea since his tag partner, Simon Gotch, of the Vaudevillians was released. English tapped back into one of his NXT characters and brought out the sniveling, singing, thespian heel. He began to literally sing Rusev’s praises while Rusev would declare that whatever day he was speaking on was, in fact, Rusev day. The fans ate it up. It’s hard not to catch “Rusev Day” chants in arenas now. Though it seemed the WWE was dead set on keeping him in the enhancement role.
Even as recently as the pay-per-view Fastlane he was in an enhancement match with Shinsuke Nakamura. Albeit a high profile enhancement match, the company was not going to have the Royal Rumble winner and soon to be Wrestlemania headliner lose in the opening match of the proceeding pay per view. It looked as if Rusev was cruising for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. That was until this past SmackDown Live it was announced he would be fighting for the US Title at ‘Mania! Would they be crazy enough to put the belt on him?
My opinion? No. Putting him in the match was to appease fans and get them excited for a match that had some fire behind it but maybe not as much as the company wanted. On the plus side is now we get more Rusev on the main stage and hopefully, it leads to even more. It shows the WWE brass have taken notice and have decided to dip their toe in the pool that is Rusev Day. The fans have hijacked things before in the form of Daniel Bryan, and it could happen again. Maybe not on the World Championship level, but at least the US Title level…
Happy Rusev Day everyone, and here’s to Rusevmania!