It's no mere coincidence that Brock Lesnar and Rusev have appeared in the same headline. This is symbolism.
The Rusev movement is growing at a similar trajectory to that of Lesnar's during his initial run. And those of you who follow me on Twitter would like to know why.
@ThisIsNasty Can wwe make big money with rusev?— jermaine jones (@jermaine611) June 19, 2014
Not only big money, Brock money.
It's so easy to compare a character like Rusev to Lesnar, who excelled in the art of the omnipotent beast. During his original rise, Lesnar was the prototype of how a limited, yet promising, monster should be booked.
He was never pinned. He slayed sacred cows like Rob Van Dam and Hulk Hogan. He brandished the once-sacred King of the Ring like it was a notch a specially tailored belt.
And, like Rusev now, Lesnar immensely benefited from being flanked by a scene-stealing manager.
WWE demonstrated patience as they committed to a step-by-step push that culminated in a career-making victory over The Rock.
Rusev's paint-by-the-numbers booking has crashed and burned with comparable anti-Americans such as Vladimir Kozlov and Tensai.
One could argue that a lack of patience led to the downfall of the otherwise talented Matt Bloom (who excelled in Japan before returning to the WWE, seemingly primed for a renaissance).
But WWE has seen enough un-American baddies succeed and fail to know what works. If Rusev was a terrible idea for a gimmick, we'd already know it by now.
Lana would have already announced a War of the Worlds invitational with El Torito answering the call. And winning.
Just five months after his debut on the WWE main roster, however, there he stood: toe-to-toe with fellow promising monster Roman Reigns.
After legitimizing himself as a dominant competitor, Rusev and Lana's serious-yet-over-the-top antics to draw heat add to the spectacle of their budding evil empire.
Rusev now carries around a gold star, which itself is almost as cheesy as the award ceremony where he was presented with the medal. And that's the point.
Lana knows that trolling American fans is as easy as displaying pictures of Vladimir Putin, but that's just her opening act.
After a certain point in every segment, Rusev and Lana aren't pandering for a reaction as much as they are exploring Russian culture on American soil for their own entertainment.
Is there anything more deplorable to the United States' lowest common denominator than that?
Make no mistake, Monday's Battle Royal was both an endorsement and indictment of WWE's future. It played out like a live-action WWE talent portfolio.
It was the wrestling version of Vince McMahon on a conference call fielding questions from investors of who can lead WWE to its next boom period.
Ziggler? Eliminated. Barrett? Eliminated. Sandow? Eliminated—quickly.
McMahon's answer to that question stood in the ring, snarling. Reigns would be the most accurate choice for now, but suddenly Rusev is not far behind.
@ThisIsNasty Should Brock Lesnar win the WWE WHC? If so, when and against who?— Teddy Couch (@tmcouch93) June 19, 2014
When you end Undertaker's streak, any ensuing world championship speculation is valid. Dating back to Lesnar's SummerSlam win over CM Punk, WWE has gone from wasting the jackpot to playing with house money.
When all is said and done, few will remember Lesnar's loss against John Cena in his first match back as much as they'll remember his win over the Undertaker.
Few scenarios, if any, will be seen as Lesnar evolving from such an elusive victory. But Lesnar with the WWE World Heavyweight championship not only keeps him trending upward, it would do more for the guy who beats him than ending Undertaker's streak.
So how does it happen? A Money in the Bank surprise? A SummerSlam challenge? A sudden hot-shot moment on Raw to manufacture a rating?
Who knows. Just know it can happen, and it probably will.
@ThisIsNasty Why has Damien Sandow become a joke? Are his days numbered or can he bounce back? He's a previous MIB winner!!!— V (@MrVDawg) June 19, 2014
There is no question that Sandow has become a joke as of late. One week he's Lance Stephenson, the next he's an interpretive dancer, the next he's [insert topical parody here].
But nobody's laughing louder at Damien Sandow's weekly punchlines than Damien Sandow.
And as he continues to garner support through self-aware ridiculousness (there was a loud "let's go Sandow" chant during his interpretive dancer gimmick from an otherwise dead crowd), his shtick has gone from punchline to satire.
Sandow may be stuck in the black hole of succeeding as WWE's weekly jester, making the best out of otherwise demeaning material.
But his willingness to portray a wide range of characters, and pass them off as legitimately funny, will not be lost on WWE's front office. Not this early in his main-roster career.
Heath Slater is an interesting case. In a backhanded sort of way, WWE has held on to Heath Slater like a teenager holds on to an obscure toy from his childhood.
They refuse to throw him away despite booking him in the low-card stable with Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre, both of whom were released last week.
Before 3MB's debut, Slater was losing week in and week out to WWE legends who were well past their primes. It all built to Raw 1000, where Slater lost to iconic WWE Diva Lita.
Like Sandow, Slater has demonstrated the ability to embrace an otherwise unflattering role. In doing so, he has increased his job security.
Slater's qualities as an enhancement talent have proved to be invaluable to WWE, more so than his 3MB cohorts.
And while it's not the main event, rest assured it works.
Listen Here for Alfred's full thoughts on Money in the Bank, WWE Releases and more!