Ryan Dilbert's 10-Count: WWE's Shoddy Treatment of Rusev Remains Baffling

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterNovember 8, 2017

Credit: WWE.com

1. Sleeping on The Lion of Bulgaria

The land of opportunity hasn't been kind to Rusev.

WWE SmackDown has pushed Bray Wyatt and Jinder Mahal to world champion status. It's been the place where James Ellsworth went from unknown to eccentric sideshow, where Breezango found its groove as a comedy act and The Usos have been allowed to blossom as trash-talking bullies.

Rusev has a far less fruitful experience with the blue brand. His tenure on SmackDown has been more of the same of what he was experiencing on Raw, namely being undervalued.

On Tuesday's SmackDown, The Bulgarian Brute was one win away from joining the brand's Survivor Series team. But again he fell to Randy Orton. And now he's on the outside looking in at one of the biggest pay-per-views of the year.

After Rusev's latest loss, ProWrestling.net columnist Jake Barnett lamented: "I hope they start using him better soon."

There's little reason to think that will happen. WWE hasn't made The Super Athlete a priority. The company has chosen to ignore his charisma, his engaging, hard-hitting ring style and potential. 

During the summer, WWE began an angle where Rusev demanded a title shot, saying he wouldn't wrestle for SmackDown otherwise. Nothing came of it. 

He's had very few feuds to work with. And his latest one with Randy Orton hasn't been the least bit creative.

Rather than portray him as an overwhelming force, WWE has made him a pushover too often.

Randy Orton towers over a fallen Rusev.
Randy Orton towers over a fallen Rusev.Credit: WWE.com

Rusev is 3-8 since his return in July, including three losses in three tries at PPVs, per CageMatch.net. He fell to Orton in 10 seconds at SummerSlam. And he's lost six straight tag team matches dating back to his time on Raw.

In early October, Josh Isenberg of Wrestling Inc was among those scratching their heads about Rusev's booking:

That sentiment still holds true a month later. 

Rusev is a larger-than-life figure. He can be funny or ferocious, a beast pounding on a lesser man or charismatic scoundrel. He's shown he should be a key part of the plan for the New Era. But that has yet to be how WWE treats him.

The Lion of Bulgaria is an afterthought, a midcarder WWE has no clear plan for, a race car being used for a paper route.


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2. Cesaro, Tag Team Champion

The King of Swing sure knows his way around a tag team match.

Cesaro is once again a tag team titleholder after he and Sheamus defeated Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose on Monday's Raw. Per CageMatch.net, this marked his fourth time to claim the Raw Tag Team Championship.

The Swiss Cyborg won the Raw tag titles in 2015, 2016 and now twice in 2017.

In addition, Cesaro has won tag team gold for Ring of Honor, Combat Zone Wrestling, Germany's Westside Xtreme Wrestling, Chikara and even Juggalo Championship Wrestling. In all, he has 16 total tag title reigns on his resume.

Some will bemoan the fact that Cesaro isn't in the hunt for the Universal Championship or pushed as a singles star, but perhaps he was born to be a great tag team specialist. 

     

3. Throwback Video of the Week: James Ellsworth

James Ellsworth's collision with Becky Lynch on Tuesday's SmackDown wasn't his first foray into intergender wrestling.

In 2008, Ellsworth (then Jimmy Dream) battled Rebecca Payne in a hardcore match for Undisputed Championship Wrestling. The bout told a much more violent and bloody version of the story he told with Lynch.

(Note: Contains graphic footage.)

Ellsworth sure makes getting his ass kicked a satisfying experience for the audience. And he's been honing that craft for 15 years.

    

4. Bring on the Bruiserweight

WWE needs to find more ways to showcase Pete Dunne.

The Bruiserweight made his first appearance on Raw this Monday and looked like an absolute star. He had the crowd roaring as he smashed Enzo Amore in the jaw. 

Dunne has too much potential to be limited to the United Kingdom division. He's bigger than 205 Live. He belongs on a stage bigger than NXT.

A snarling pit bull with world-class technical skill, Dunne is a joy to watch in the ring. Any good list of 2017's top WWE matches have to include his two bouts against Tyler Bate. Throw in his presence and great sense of his persona at only 23 years old and it's clear The Bruiserweight's ceiling is mighty high.

The Birmingham bruiser needs to be everywhere: the Intercontinental Championship picture, SmackDown, SummerSlam. 

     

5. There's Only One Brother Love

Diddy found out how quickly the wrestling world can pounce.

The rapper and producer wanted to adopt a new alias. After all the changes to his stage name he has made, this wasn't a surprise. But his choice of Brother Love irked those who watched Bruce Prichard play a red-faced, high-pitched WWE character of the same name. 

In an interview with TMZ Sports, Prichard welcomed Diddy to come at him in a ring:

If Diddy is brainstorming other monikers, someone please tell him to stay away from Hot Stuff, The People's Champion, The Beast from the East, etc.

     

6. Josh "Nature Boy" Reddick

The Houston Astros' celebration of the franchise's first World Series win had a distinct WWE flair to it.

Outfielder Josh Reddick sauntered around the championship parade wearing a WWE Championship. And he emulated Ric Flair while addressing the crowd:

Reddick saluted the squared circle with all the world watching him. You have to wonder how many baseball fans unfamiliar with wrestling had no idea what he was doing during that Flair tribute.

     

7. The Reign of The Maharaja

Jinder Mahal is no longer in possession of the WWE Championship thanks to AJ Styles. The Phenomenal One dethroned him on Tuesday in Manchester, England.

The Maharaja, though, was champ for a good while. As seen on WWE.com, Mahal's reign ended after 170 days.

That's the longest reign since Seth Rollins in 2015. It is the fourth-longest reign this decade behind CM Punk, Brock Lesnar and Rollins. 

And Mahal held the WWE title longer than Roman Reigns did in three combined reigns, longer than Daniel Bryan's total time as champ.

The Mahal experiment was no fleeting one. As badly as it bombed, WWE showed unusual patience and gave the former 3MB member every chance to prove himself. That's something that needs to be repeated with others.

     

8. Underrated Flair Hits

Nature Boy, ESPN's 30 for 30 special on Ric Flair, highlighted a number of the 16-time champ's career highlights. It aired a good number of his finest promos. But its running time didn't allow it fully show off Flair's in-ring artistry.

For those looking to dig deeper into The Nature Boy's ring resume, the following are high-quality bouts that don't get talked about nearly as much as his masterpieces against Ricky Steamboat, Terry Funk and others:

It speaks to Flair's longevity and excellence that he was killing it in 1985, thriving in the '90s and still performing at a high level a decade later.

     

9. Big Moment for Team Raw's Final Member

In an underwhelming move, Raw general manager Kurt Angle named Jason Jordan as the final member of the red brand's Survivor Series team.

In a match that also features Randy Orton, Braun Strowman, John Cena, Shane McMahon and Finn Balor, Jordan stands out. He's surrounded by future Hall of Famers and all-stars with bigger, louder following.

But it's on this stage among all those names that Jordan can force folks to pay attention to him.

This will be a major opportunity for the rising star. If he can flourish at the PPV and be among the most compelling figures in the bout, people will take notice. If he rattles off a number of eliminations or becomes the sole survivor, the match will be one fans look back on as key to his rise.

And if he turns on his father and Raw team captain Angle, he'll be the star of the most talked about moment at the event.

     

10. Graves on Morgan

Corey Graves vs. Piers Morgan is the feud none of us saw coming.

The WWE commentator made reference to Morgan on Monday's Raw, comparing how little Enzo Amore is liked in England to how folks feel about the British TV personality.

Morgan took exception and Graves clapped back:

Count this among the strangest interactions involving the WWE world this year. Knowing WWE, Morgan will eventually appear on Raw and trade shots with Graves on the air. 

The smart money is on the voice of Raw to come out on top.

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