wrestling / Columns

Has Rusev Been Underutilized? We’re About To Find Out

October 6, 2019 | Posted by Steve Cook
Rusev WWE

To be honest, claiming somebody is “underutilized” is one of the easiest takes that an opinionated wrestling fan can throw out there. You see somebody on one of these shows that looks like they should be doing more. They never do anything more. They stay at or around their same spot for years while fans say they’re underutilized. We’ve all had that take. I’ve complained about more people than I can count being underutilized by various wrestling promotions. It’s an easy way to provide content on a slow news week. (Or a busy one, as this one seems to be.)

One of my favorite guys to give the “underutilized” tag to is my fellow Nashville Predators fan, Rusev. The guy is built like a house, can put on solid matches and has a funny sort of charisma about him. He’s been on WWE’s main roster for almost six years now and has had plenty of secondary title runs & feuds/interactions with top stars, but it’s never felt like his push was at the level that fans wanted it to be.

Take the whole Rusev Day thing. They had a silly segment one week on SmackDown where Rusev was given the key to his hometown & the mayor declared the day “Rusev Day”. Rusev started declaring every day Rusev Day, and it easily could have been one of those things people forgot about five minutes later. They didn’t, and “Rusev Day” was one of the most widely-chanted phrases for nearly a year afterwards. It turned him babyface, even with WWE fighting it every step of the way.

They eventually won that fight too, though it took some doing on their part.

After the Rusev Day saga finally ended, Rusev was turned heel and booked to put people over until he went on a five-month vacation. Dude came back for the Saudi show to get some money, but other than that & the occasional Twitter kerfluffle, Rusev was nowhere to be seen. Sometimes, nowhere is the best place to be. If Brock Lesnar’s past seven years have taught us anything, it’s that nowhere is the best place to be. Once you pop up somewhere, people will be happy to see you again.

Rusev returned on Monday Night Raw three weeks ago and immediately made his presence known by…coming out to beat up Mike Kanellis.

This, of course, led to plenty of questions, as many classic Paul Heyman storylines do. Was Rusev the father of Maria’s baby? What did Lana have to say about all this? Could you really blame Maria for ditching Mike for a man with that kind of mustache? OK, the answer to that last one was pretty obvious.

Seven days later, Rusev returned to Raw to destroy EC3, another man that often gets painted with the “underutilized” brush. I try not to buy into conspiracy theories that I don’t start. However, considering their usage of EC3 since signing him, it’s tough not to think that they signed him only because other feds were doing things with him. They still don’t get why some people might like him, they just want to make sure other people don’t have him.

I would say “Poor EC3″, but this run will help finance whatever else he does with his pro wrestling career.

Soon after this, Rusev became an official citizen of the United States of America, which can only help his status with WWE or any other wrestling promotion based here. WWE saw the hype Rusev’s official status got online, and decided he neded to be on Hulk Hogan’s team at the next Saudi show. Because Hulk Hogan is a Real American or whatever the fuck. I try to censor myself for these columns nowadays, but when I need to talk about something involving WWE still hyping Hulk Hogan’s racist ass in 2019 I’m going to let an F Word slip in there. Sorry.

This is where things get complicated. I think WWE was trying to make Rusev a heel upon his return. But I’m not really in tune with WWE thinking these days, certainly not with the Mike/Maria angle. First, she tried to claim that Ricochet was the father of her yet to be born child. Ricochet denied it as the good guy he is. Rusev marched out right when Maria was going to bring out the real father, then denied it later on. Which made zero sense because YOU MADE YOUR BIG COMEBACK RIGHT WHEN MARIA WAS GONNA ANNOUNCE HER BABY DADDY. Why in the heck would we not assume that Big Daddy Rusev got it going with Maria?

We all know that WWE is all about the 50/50 booking. So if Rusev is imagined by a corner of the fanbase to be a mackdaddy, we gotta make sure he’s shown to be a…”beta cuck”? Is that the term? Corey Graves will let me know if it is? Anywho, Big Daddy Rusev rescued Seth Rollins from a beatdown from Ric Flair’s boys since apparently Slick Ric is from Brazil or whatever. This didn’t stop Rusev from challenging Rollins to a title match. I’m a Rusev guy, but I would be hard-pressed to argue that somebody that beat Mike Kanellis & EC3 should get a Universal Championship Opportunity. Apparently that’s all it takes these days in WWE.

So, Rusev got the title shot. And this is what we got as a finish:

A lot of people like to romanticize Paul Heyman’s booking as being more sophisticated as Vince Russo’s, and maybe back in the heyday it was, but it typically had the same result. “Let’s have these people makeout” got Paul E kicked off of most of his stations when he had Beulah & Kimonah do it. You can’t tell me that Rusev/Lana/Bobby isn’t something Russo would do if he had the book. He absolutely would, and obviously so would Paul E. It speaks to our inner instincts as men.

“Who could possibly steal Lana from Rusev? A big man like Bobby Lashley!”

Trying to get Lana away from Rusev has been a theme of WWE booking for several years. I know we’re supposed to ignore the hot news items like “WWE thinks Lana should be with somebody better than Rusev”, and we’re supposed to ignore the multiple attempts from WWE to book Lana with somebody else, but these are things that happened. I’m just here to comment on it, as it keeps happening over and over again.

And some people will comment “well actors date all the time and they can be professional”. 1. Wrestlers aren’t as good at acting as actors. 2. Actors are usually smart enough not to act opposite each other once they get hooked up. Pretty simple facts there.

All I know for sure is that we’re about to find out whether or not Rusev is “underutilized”. If he is, he will carry this storyline through the mud, blood & the beer and make it worth watching. If he isn’t, we’ll be back here in four months wondering why they don’t do more with the Bulgarian Brute.

article topics :

Rusev, Steve Cook