Rusev, the massive Bulgarian heel who is so over with the WWE fan base, did the unthinkable on Tuesday night by defeating Randy Orton in a tag team match with Jinder Mahal vs. the current United States Champion and Bobby Roode. The win earned the former U.S. Champion a shot at gold in a “Fatal Four Way” match at WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans.
I have been a big proponent of Rusev as a monster heel and possibly one of the most popular wrestlers on WWE’s current roster. But what the win on SmackDown Live did was create another path to the “Show of Shows” in less than a week.
WWE has done a solid job of booking matches that involve as many superstars as possible. In this case, it could lead to a feud between Mahal and Rusev in the months ahead. While the two were once tag team partners, it looks as if they are better suited to be on opposite ends of a wrestling ring.
As we have spoken before, this could be another Nikita Koloff storyline – where the big foreign monster wins wrestling fans over. The “Rusev Day” chant has done its job – keeping the crowds in arenas engaged. Koloff was a raw wrestler who was an ant-American wrestler who eventually became a fan favorite because of the injury to Magnum T.A. Thanks to Dusty Rhodes, Koloff went on to bigger and better things.
It’s possible booking could have the same kind of impact for Rusev, only with a different storyline. It could mean a run toward the WWE World Title against Shinsuke Nakamura or A.J. Styles once WWE moves on from WrestleMania 34.
Rusev is one of those characters who is likeable even as a heel because of his size, power and presence in the ring. His encounters with John Cena, Nakamura and Roman Reigns has only increased his profile. WWE fans may want to see him pared with his wife, Lana, but in this case his connection to Aiden English is one of the best things going today.
There is championship gold in Rusev’s future once again. Like Kevin Owens, he could carry the red or blue brand as a babyface. WWE may want to look into a run in that direction. His character is evolving. He is more engaging and ripe for a turn to good side. It’s up to the company to make that happen.
In the meantime, fans will continue to get behind the Rusev gimmick and hope he can win next Sunday at WrestleMania 34. Then it truly will be “Rusev Day” in WWE.