Roman Reigns defeated Rusev Sunday at Clash of Champions in a heated grudge match and became the WWE United States champion for the first time in the process.
WWE captured Reigns' reaction to receiving the belt:
.@WWERomanReigns is the NEWWW @WWE United States Champion, defeating @RusevBUL at #WWEClash of Champions!! @LanaWWE https://t.co/tunyyTgu1R2016-9-26 02:28:12
Rusev's wife Lana was forced to watch the finish of the match from the locker room as she interfered when Reigns was about to land the pinfall:
.@LanaWWE pulls the referee out of the ring to stop a pinfall, he sends her back to the locker room instead of a DQ! #WWEClash https://t.co/moHU6HBaqj2016-9-26 02:24:59
Vaughn Johnson of Philly.com thought this was the right result:
Vaughn Johnson @VaughnMJohnson
Very good match and Reigns winning was probably the only outcome between these two at this point. #WWEClash2016-9-26 02:29:41
Regardless of what you think of Reigns, it's hard to deny his skills in the ring, as both Kevin Berge of Bleacher Report and Mike Killam of WrestleZone.com noted:
Kevin Berge @TheBerge_
Really strong physical match between Rusev and Roman Reigns. Surprised they put the US Title on Reigns. #WWEClash2016-9-26 02:28:49
The Bulgarian Brute had been at odds with Reigns for several weeks dating back to the build toward SummerSlam. After Reigns beat Rusev in a match on Raw the week before SummerSlam, the Superstars engaged in a wild brawl at the pay-per-view, and their bout never happened.
Rusev was left incapacitated by the former three-time world champion, and the Super Athlete wasn't seen on WWE programming for several weeks, as he and Lana enjoyed a second wedding and went on a honeymoon.
His absence ended a couple of weeks prior to Clash of Champions, though, when he interfered in a match between Reigns and Kevin Owens. Reigns would have been inserted into the WWE Universal Championship match had he defeated KO, but Rusev ensured that wouldn't happen.
In an effort to make things right, Raw commissioner Mick Foley gave Reigns a crack at the United States Championship, but Rusev made one final statement on the go-home edition of Raw.
Following a hard-fought cage match against Owens, Reigns was attacked by both KO and Rusev. While Seth Rollins eventually made the save, the damage had already been done, as Rusev brutally locked Reigns into the Accolade.
That set the stage for a heated confrontation at Clash of Champions between two of the hardest-hitting competitors WWE has to offer.
While the U.S. title gained a ton of prestige last year when John Cena held it and took part in open challenges that produced a number of great matches, it has seemingly taken a backseat since then. Rusev and Reigns attempted to change that Sunday, though.
Although there is still plenty of work to be done before the United States Championship returns to the level Cena managed to elevate it to, the fact that a legitimate top star such as Reigns vied for it at Clash of Champions was a huge step in the right direction.
Sunday's finish suggests that the rivalry between Reigns and Rusev over the title will continue, and that is a positive development for the United States Championship. The belt has lacked long, meaningful feuds in the past, but Reigns and Rusev appear to be building some momentum together.
The former Shield powerhouse and the Bulgarian Brute have solid chemistry both in terms of their in-ring work and their on-screen interactions with each other, and that bodes well for the U.S. title being a featured part of Raw in the coming weeks and months.
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