It's WrestleMania season 2018, and every day is Rusev Day.
This is great news for Rusev and WWEShop.com, where Rusev Day T-shirts are a hot commodity (h/t Wrestling Inc), but it could be troublesome for WWE's best-laid plans.
Organic babyface movements like Rusev Day tend to grind against WWE's applecart as the organic nature of these mini-revolutions doesn't mesh well with long-term visions born out of production meetings.
It's why most WWE Superstars who lead these type of grassroots movements end up flaming out. Zack Ryder and Damien Mizdow are examples of white-hot WWE Superstars who suffered brutal falls from grace.
Alongside Aiden English, Rusev Day has struck gold with a feel-good gimmick that transformed Rusev from an ice-cold, xenophobic monster heel to a lovable, T-shirt-peddling teddy bear.
Rusev's rise is occurring dangerously close to the Royal Rumble, where neatly planned WrestleMania main events go to die. What's worse is the January 28 event will occur in the hostile hotbed of Philadelphia, Penn., which booed Roman Reigns unmercifully and led a hate campaign of empty threats to #CancelWWENetwork following Reigns' controversial victory.
The outrage had just as much to do with WWE's choice to forego a Daniel Bryan victory. But in 2015, Daniel Bryan was the people's champion, not WWE's.
Reigns figures to return to the city of brotherly love as he vies for a shot at the elusive WWE Universal Championship. Just about everybody who will pack the Wells Fargo Center that night is well aware of the tabloid conjecture and rumors that the current plan is for Reigns to face Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 34 per Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Wrestling Inc).
Winning the Royal Rumble in Philadelphia will not present the smoothest path to WrestleMania for Reigns, and the closer he gets to prevailing, the sharper the proverbial pitchforks in Philly will become.
Rusev, who recently declared his entry, is a long shot to win the Royal Rumble, but WWE could have another Daniel Bryan situation on its hands should he be unceremoniously eliminated. A Rusev elimination will result in loud boos at the at the very least, with vulgar chants and anti-WWE hashtag movements sure to follow.
WWE has created a monster in Rusev Day, and it seems to already be taking preemptive measures to cool this thing down ahead of the Royal Rumble. This past Tuesday on SmackDown Live, Rusev and English recently fell to comedy tag team Breezango—which spent several weeks losing quickly to the Bludgeon Brothers—with Rusev taking the pinfall.
The problem is, the more Rusev loses, the bigger an underdog he will become and the more fans will rally behind Rusev Day.
Because in 2018, Rusev is the people's champion, not WWE's.