There is a small, elite, circle of athletes who have generated the kind of sustained run that Rusev has enjoyed this season. Simply put, he's on the roll of a lifetime.
Yet, I have some reservations to reconcile before I'm willing to lump him in with the all time greats. Is he a phenomenon who can parlay his early success into sustained championship runs like Bill Goldberg or Ultimate Warrior? Or is he a star streaking across the night sky, destined to burn out like Tatanka.
Take the example of Ryback. The lightly regarded, social media savant of the tag team division, was a completely different guy back in 2012. Maintaining an undefeated record throughout the year, he earned a shot against WWE Champion, CM Punk. Michael Cole accurately described the encounter as having a "big fight feel." Big Hungry was physically dominant and the self-proclaimed "Best in the World" simply could not compete. The fact that a crooked referee cost Ryback that particular title match should have been immaterial. Ryback had proven that he belonged at the top of the sport.
Except it didn't play out that way. Along with the match, Ryback lost something else that night. Dare I say... his hunger? The results speak for themselves. Ryback began enjoying less in-ring success. His attitude also took a nosedive, resulting in a failed flirtation with Paul Heyman as manager and eventually into tag team mediocrity with fellow flash in the pan, Curtis Axel. Ryback went from big-bad sensation, to sensationally bad.
This isn't to say that Rusev is in line to lose anytime soon. In fact, none of the WWE's heavy hitters seem to have any interest in taking a bite off the big Russian's apple. So who will be the one to truly test Rusev? Big E and Jack Swagger are fine wrestlers with a lot of promise, but they clearly don't press Rusev beyond his comfort zone.
There is; however, a certain Olympic hero of a free agent. One who is rumored to be returning to the WWE in the near future. He's got the Intensity, Integrity, and Intelligence necessary to topple a Soviet superman. Hell, he already pulled such a stunt to win a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics. And he did it with a broken freakin' neck. Oh, it's true. It's damn true!
The Kurt Angle we all know wouldn't stop with toppling the Russian Star award winner. Rumor has it that WWE COO, Triple H, has offered Angle a full time contract. And with the time off Angle has enjoyed recently, he may well be at 100% and primed for another run. But let's not assume he'll return at his "Wrestling Machine" best from the middle of last decade. For the sake of this discussion, let's peg him at a comparable run as the year 2000, his first full season in WWE.
Thanks to our friends at profightdb.com, we can see that Angle's Wrankings total to this point in the 2000-01 season is a hefty 56 Wrestler Wrankings points. That's good enough for third place, ahead of Seth Rollins and behind only Sheamus and Rusev, himself. And that's with Angle participating in a ton of tag matches as a member of Team ECK, and without the benefit of WWE Main Event and the extra point potential it provides.
Suffice it to say, Kurt Angle returning at anywhere close to his best, and with something to prove, would make a major mark on WWE. Stopping Rusev's momentum is just the type of motivation he needs to return. Likewise, Angle is just the sort of opponent that Rusev needs to establish himself at the top of the world's purest form of sport. It would be a titanic encounter.
Let's hope The Authority can seal the deal on this super fight. It's the type of attraction that wouldn't just move WWE Network subscriptions, but also book quite a few trips to Santa Clara, CA.
OFFICIAL WRESTLER WRANKINGS FORMULA
ANY WIN = 2 POINTS
US OR INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE BOUT = 1 POINT
WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE BOUT = 3 POINTS
NON "BIG 4" PPV BONUS = 1.5X
SUMMERSLAM, SURVIVOR SERIES, ROYAL RUMBLE = 2X BONUS
WRESTLEMANIA = 3X BONUS
The WWE season begins on the day after WrestleMania 30 and culminates with WrestleMania 31. The wrestler who accumulates the most points over the course of the season, wins the coveted Wrankings Championship!
Monday Night Raw -- 10/13/14
Main Event -- 10/15/14
Smackdown -- 10/17/14
WRESTLER WRANKINGS, WEEK 29 *TOP TEN*
1. RUSEV -- 81 points
2. Sheamus -- 61
3. Seth Rollins -- 55
4. Cesaro -- 53
5. Dolph Ziggler -- 52
6. John Cena -- 51.5
7. Bo Dallas -- 50.5
8. Roman Reigns -- 41
9. Bad News Barrett -- 37
10. Adam Rose -- 29
Thanks for reading, Cagesiders. We'll see you back here next week!