Monday night on Raw was something of a breakthrough for newcomer Rusev. Since his debut, the Bulgarian Brute turned Russian transplant has won a series of squash matches against his contemporaries. Unfortunately, these matches fail to draw a significant reaction from live audiences.
However, the latest outing for Rusev and his manager, Lana, was a clinic in connecting with fans. And he didn't even have to wrestle a sanctioned match.
It was all so simple, really. Hacksaw Jim Duggan, '80s wrestling icon and diehard patriot, was trotted out in front of an eternally nostalgic audience to say a couple of catchphrases (“Ho!”; “U-S-A!”) and promote WWE Network's reality show Legend's House.
Duggan was inevitably interrupted by Lana. Following a brief confrontation, Lana sicced Rusev on poor Hacksaw. For the first time since his arrival, fans seemed legitimately invested in the fate of a potential Rusev victim as Hacksaw helplessly backed into a corner.
Duggan was eventually saved by Big E, who suffered a beatdown from Rusev for his troubles, but the mission was accomplished. The message that was lost in translation through victories over nameless low midcarders had finally registered.
Rusev is America's worst nightmare.
Legend-killing should continue as a theme. Rusev's gimmick is already a throwback to '80s wrestling lore, so who better to get him over than wrestlers from the '80s? Even if a feud (read: squash match) with Big E is imminent, Hacksaw should be in tow as a supportive legend destined to get crushed.
The entire cast of Legend's House should be devoured one-by-one, culminating with the unthinkable maiming of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
Rusev needs to be fighting relics, icons and glittering personalities that resonate with wrestling fans. After all, that;s what he currently is—alongside Lana, he's a symbol of Russia who represents residual tensions from the Cold War. To further his plans for world domination, pro wrestling Americana must fall.
Prior to each of Rusev's matches, Lana draws tremendous heat by cuing up a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin before a disgusted American crowd. Often described as a bully, Putin's spirit—or at least what the American public tends to think of it—can be captured by mauling defenseless, retired and, most importantly, popular legends.
It's world domination through the most nefarious means. As Putin can attest, that's what gets heat.
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