Rusev Udria. Rusev Machka -- Rusev (do) punch/strike. Rusev (do) crush.
Although I had some problems with last night's RAW, including the speed with which someone crossed over and "invaded" the other brand, I also enjoyed a good bit of it. At the top of that list was the decision to place the United States Champion in a feud we're all interested in seeing. It's a nice change. It's refreshing. It feels right.
For all the talk of this guy and that guy being poorly booked or not used correctly, no one may have a better case than Rusev. While I admit to being a radio host in Nashville, where he and Lana live, I'd feel the same if he resided in Namibia. The character is money. He can work. He can sell. And, he can talk, and does so in a way where the occasional bad English is utterly hilarious. Lana is the ideal valet, and thank god WWE 86ed the awful romance angle from 2015 that, despite good performances from Rusev and Summer Rae, was pitiful and a complete waste of time and talent.
Even his gear is tremendous. I do miss the satin jacket, but I feel it could make a return at any moment.
Since becoming United States Champion, WWE has booked Rusev with a fleet of lower card guys, which has helped to build him, but has felt like a carbon copy retread of how he was used when he first debuted. Other than the victory over Sheamus, the first run was pretty forgettable. He found himself in incessant matches with Jack Swagger and Mark Henry, which gave JBL a chance to berate Henry for letting down the entire country.
The Champ was better than his material, and really until it was time for John Cena to join the party, he didn't have much to work with, but still managed to stay relatively over. His SummerSlam 2014 feud was successful, even though no one gave Swagger a chance at defeating him.
After the complete disaster of the League of Nations and the reported heat from Rusev and Lana's engagement, he was nearly dead in the water. That gimmick almost murdered all those guys, and in effect it basically has, with Bulgaria's finest being the lone exception. The night after Survivor Series, RAW main evented with Rusev vs. Roman Reigns, and though there was no finish, the pairing showed potential. The match was anything but special, but the circumstances gave it little room to breathe. Plus, the run-in finish was inevitable.
Following a match with Mark Henry last night and feuds with Titus O'Neil and Zack Ryder, finally Rusev has a program he can really benefit from, as can his opponent. Roman Reigns looks like a star, maybe more so than ever, and as he stalked to the ring, went eye to eye with the US Champion, and battled him for a few seconds, the crowd went nuts. The Superman Punch off the steps was one of my favorite spots of the entire year, because of the height, the timing, and the sell. Everything clicked, and this is a program with staying power.
Due to the suspension and the way his title run played out, Roman Reigns is in a unique position to make some guys. He did it last week with Finn Balor, and even if he's the one who triumphs in this feud, Rusev is likely to be far better off after its conclusion than he was prior to last night's show. It's interesting that the two men Balor defeated to earn the Universal Championship shot at SummerSlam appear to be on a collision course of their own. In a way, that could elevate Finn even further, particularly if the feud continues to work. All it takes is a few well-placed comments from Corey Graves about Balor's road to Rollins to remind us of the gravity of the superstars he pinned.
Rusev has not had the great angle yet, as even the Cena program failed to deliver anything overly compelling in the ring. This Roman Reigns, the one out to prove himself and overcome his mistakes, he's going to be ready. These two are matching up at the perfect time, because not only do the visuals of the two staring each other down fit the bill, but these are two beasts who are going to try and kill each other in Brooklyn. This isn't Kane and Big Show lumbering for 15 minutes. This is two young stars at the top of their games.
I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see these two hook it up at SummerSlam. It's a different match than any other we'll see on that card. The story is about strength, power, and will. It can be the United States vs. Bulgaria/Russia angle, but it won't be nearly as ham-handed as the Cena feud. Reigns can represent America without having to stick it down anybody's gullet. This one can just be about two big hosses getting after it for a Championship. Immediately, that secondary title means a lot more, and regardless of who's holding it in the end, it's good business.
I had predicted and hoped that Reigns might work with Kevin Owens, but there's time for that and undoubtedly it will happen at some point in the near future. It's possible it turns into a multi-man match, but I'm tired of them. I'm really excited about the possibilities of Reigns and Rusev, and I'm thrilled for the Champ, because he's earned this stage. He is exactly the kind of superstar Vince should look to push, and apparently someone got the memo. His ability to sell this match via promos and whatever else he's asked to do is going to prove him worthy of the big match with the big dog. He's one of the best characters in the company, bar none.
Reigns will be up to the task, and so will Rusev. It should be a glorious thing to watch.
Last Monday, Finn Balor had one hell of a birthday.
This Monday, Rusev got one hell of a wedding present.