Rusev is perhaps at the lowest point in his career. Is it too late to rebuild the Bulgarian Brute as a credible character?
Rusev would become one of the earliest NXT graduates to transition into the main roster when he made his debut in the 2014 Royal Rumble. From then on, he would be booked as an unstoppable force of nature as he squashed opponent after opponent. It would fair to say Rusev was booked much like Braun Strowman once. For months he would dominate the main roster. That was until he lost to none other than John Cena at Wrestlemania 31. He would lose his United States title then and the match would officially be counted as Rusev’s first pinfall loss.
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Following this, the Bulgarian Brute’s career would begin spiraling downwards. He would find himself losing a couple more matches to Cena. Creative would create dissension between him and Lana and even insert Dolph Ziggler and Summer Rae into the mix. The angle even devalued Lana and presented her as a soft character compared to the iron ladylike character she would portray during Rusev’s initial days.
However, in 2016 WWE would begin to rebuild Rusev as a monster heel once more. He would go on to win his second United States title in May. Things seemed to be going well for one of WWE’s best organic heels. However, Rusev would hit another wall in the form of Roman Reigns. After dropping the title to Reigns, his stock would fall even rapidly as he would fail to recapture the gold on multiple occasions.
Presently, the Bulgarian Brute is in the middle of a program with Enzo and Cass with nobody benefiting from the program. Moreover, Lana is in an even worse spot when compared to Rusev. She is nowhere near the stature she possessed during her initial days on the main roster. Her character would get objectified and made to look shallow on multiple occasions.
His momentum would subside seriously and the character, overall, has fallen to subzero momentum. Which would bring us to the original question: is it too late to rebuild the Bulgarian Brute? Yes.
That would remain as a painful proof that contradicts with everything today’s new era promised. A young and talented wrestler who is surprisingly agile for his size, along with a great and attractive talker on the mic as his manager, equipped with a character that can organically generate genuine heat any day of the week; is struggling to stay relevant.
Creative could always go back to the canvas and try to rebuild him. However, they would have to first stop portraying him and Lana in their reality TV series – Total Divas. Rusev isn’t the type of character you place in a soap opera like reality feature alongside divas. Frankly speaking, neither is Dean Ambrose but the lunatic fringe is in a much better spot than the Bulgarian Brute. Secondly creative would have to follow it up with some strong wins that showcase his brutality. His recent outings with Jinder Mahal against Enzo and Cass is not doing anybody any favors. The program would start with hints of Rusev showcasing more emotions and a potential face turn. However, all hope would be lost as the angle would progress.
In their attempt to rebuild him earlier in 2016, creative would try too many things. They would give him squash matches and then have him mistreat Lana. Going through the same path once again would not only be repetitive but evoke rejection from the WWE universe. Creative could rather have him showcase his brutality on numerous occasions and Lana return to her cold persona.
He could begin by brutally thrashing Jinder Mahal. However, there would always be only one spot for a monster heel in the main event scene. Braun Strowman seems to be placed solidly there. He could find better luck if he were to be drafted to SmackDown instead. Even then, with all that the character has gone through, it remains doubtful as to whether Rusev could ever be the same monster heel he was destined to be.