In the 2014 30-man over-the-top-rope Royal Rumble main event match on Sunday, Jan. 26, NXT standout Alexander Rusev made his debut on WWE’s main roster and started his career with serious momentum.
Coming in as the No. 6 entrant was an exciting moment for everyone involved. Rusev was launched right into the heat of battle against Seth Rollins and CM Punk, and each of those stars did his best to help make the debuting star look strong.
For a moment, the WWE Universe could have believed "The Bulgarian Brute" had a chance to win.
While Rusev did not eliminate anyone, he stayed in the ring for a considerable amount of time and mounted offense against some of the biggest names in the sport. He was eventually dumped by four wrestlers that were forced to team up in order to eliminate the greater threat.
Punk, Rollins, Cody Rhodes and Kofi Kingston all made Rusev look strong by hard-selling the crowd on the struggle to dump him over the top rope.
This was the perfect way to introduce Rusev to the WWE Universe.
Rusev is a former Olympic-caliber Bulgarian powerlifter who was trained in California as a pro wrestler by former WWE Superstars Gangrel and Rikishi. He was signed by the company in April of 2011, but suffered several injuries, including a torn ACL and broken neck, per WWE.com.
The 28-year-old spent his time away from the ring training heavily in Muay Thai, a style of mixed martial arts that has a very obvious influence, as seen by his in-ring approach during his time in NXT and his debut at the Royal Rumble.
Men the size of Rusev—he is 6’0”, 305 pounds—aren’t typically as athletic and can’t pull off all the kicks and jumps that he can, but that’s what makes the Bulgarian star so unique and interesting.
There is always room in the WWE for larger-than-life stars, and Rusev fits that mold to perfection. Just as the WWE booked a Superstar like Umaga as a monster heel, the Bulgarian powerlifter would be the kind of raw prospect that could work as a bodyguard for a top heel and eventually break off to become a force on his own.
Rusev’s work on the mic has been limited during his career in NXT, but he has found success with a mouthpiece.
If the company could replicate the success it had with Rusev and his ambassador Lana in NXT on the main roster, there is no doubt that the newly debuted wrestler will be a fine addition to the midcard shuffle.
Rusev should be fighting for the United States or Intercontinental Championship within three months, but he will not reach the main event stratosphere until he finds a manager like Paul Heyman or blossoms on the mic.
With the right development and storyline, though, he could easily become a top heel sent by Vince McMahon to take down John Cena.
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