Romance can kill a Superstar’s career. You don’t think so? Ask Rusev. As Rusev he sees his career being slowly ripped away from him by a storyline that turned the “Super Athlete” into the “Love Sick Puppy Dog”. It’s a damn shame that one of the biggest monsters of the last year has been reduced to Milhouse Van Houten chasing an ambivalent Lisa Simpson.
After suffering a broken foot on a Smackdown taping, WWE creative were unsure what to do with the Bulgarian Brute. Seems pretty simple to me. Keep him out of action for a while, then bring him back in explosive fashion a couple of months down the line for a SummerSlam showdown with the next big patriot. But no, somebody in WWE is clearly in love with that Lana/Rusev/Ziggler love triangle and do not want to let go of it. So Rusev’s career has been sacrificed for the glory of that particular creative person’s precious angle.
Struggling to find him things to do that doesn’t involve squashing jobbers, the social media team have decided that he needs to be a creepy, obsessive ex-boyfriend, stalking his ex and her new interest. It looks pathetic. He looks like the kind of lonely nutjob that winds up on a register.
Rusev was a monster. If he wanted Lana he wouldn’t beg for her, he would take her. And if she didn’t want him he would find someone who would and forget about her. He wouldn’t sacrifice his dignity and by extension the dignity of his athletic career. How anyone can take him seriously as a threat after lurking around corners, taking pictures of Dolph Ziggler as he’s using the gent’s, is anyone’s guess.
Since when did they even start dating? The gimmick for the longest time was that he was an ambassador for the Russian way of life and she was his KGB style handler. He was a force of nature and she bottled him up. Yes, in real life, they’ve been an item for a while but on the show, they’re relationship has been purely professional. You can’t expect the audience to be keeping up with ever social media post they make as well as watch three hours of Raw.
Then the problem became the crowd. Every time they would see Rusev without Lana, they would chant “We want Lana!” for, you see, Lana is smoking hot. If she wasn’t a part of the show, but Rusev was, the crowd would feel cheated. This kind of reaction doesn’t go unnoticed in WWE. When they see the potential for cheers they smell merch money.
Lana, therefore, must become a Face. If the crowd are going to cheer a Russian hottie, then they are going to cheer one who works for the home team. WWE sees the unwavering rigidity of its moral compass as the foundation of its popularity in Middle America. The Boondocks would turn off in droves if a Putin sympathiser would be the object of a positive portrayal. So let’s get her ips locked in with the nearest bleach blonde, all-American boy as soon as possible. By the time you’re reading this, she’ll probably have had her hands on the American flag and it won’t be to tear it up, it’ll be to wave it.
This might give Lana more limelight, but it severely diminishes her character. The power between her and Rusev has swapped. Once, she was telling him when to talk and when to walk. She held the leash that kept him on the rails. But as soon as it was time to make her a marketable entity that relationship had to change. All of a sudden she wasn’t the boss of a Super Athlete, she was the put upon girlfriend and the man was calling all of the shots. She once had the power over his actions, now she’s being told when she can and can’t come down to the ring. You can’t be a powerful woman and be liked in WWE.
But the aftermath has left all three of the main players with severely diminished roles within the company. Ziggler is caught up in a feud that he’s the third wheel in. Lana becomes a damsel when she was once the Red Queen. And worst of all, the once proud and mighty monster Rusev has become Zack Ryder. They’ve taken the tiger’s teeth. They may never be sharp again.
It’s too early to say if his career is dead in the water but it wouldn’t be the first time that an angle like this put the brakes on a wrestler’s rise to fame. Come back next week to find out why wrestling and romance doesn’t mix, and what WWE could do to change that.