When John Cena squares off against Rusev for the United States Championship at the inaugural edition of WWE’s Fast Lane pay-per-view, the face of the franchise must take one for the team and suffer a clean pinfall.
It’s hard to fathom, but Cena losing clean would be good for business.
Alongside his manager Lana, Rusev has been built perfectly as one of the top heels in the company since coming up from NXT. Utilizing the friction created by his Russian sympathies, Rusev is drawing a genuine reaction from the WWE Universe every week.
On the other hand, Cena still gets huge reactions wherever he goes, but there is a vocal portion of the crowd who dislikes the 15-time world champion. Even the fans who hate Cena will be cheering him as the lesser of two evils against Rusev, though.
Beating Cena clean in the middle of the ring would legitimize Rusev as one of the top heels in the business today. With Brock Lesnar possibly leaving the WWE after WrestleMania 31, the WWE's looming need for bad guys should create an opportunity for Rusev to shine.
Not only would it instantly launch Rusev into the upper echelon of stars on the WWE roster, it would also validate the work the company has done grooming the 29-year-old for a long run toward the top of the card.
If Cena were to overcome the odds again and earn the victory—or even win by a fluke ending, like being counted out—it would accomplish nothing for his character. After winning 15 world championships, Cena will not be discredited by taking a clean loss against one of the hottest wrestlers in the business.
As the WWE Universe saw in Cena’s feud with Bray Wyatt, not allowing the challenger win a match clean makes them look incredibly weak. The WWE must see the error of its ways and learn from history.
Cena winning outright or losing by shady means does nothing to build to the eventual rematch at WrestleMania 31, either. If the fans just saw Cena overcome the odds at Fast Lane, why would they think it would be any different at WrestleMania? Rusev earning the clean victory would force Cena to get serious and add intrigue to the build for the eventual rematch.
Losing clean would also ensure that Cena's fans get what they want at WrestleMania 31. Since the face of the franchise will do the job at Fast Lane, Rusev will be expected to take the clean loss at the biggest pay-per-view of the year and surrender his unblemished pin and submission record to Cena.
As evidenced by the litany of stars who lost to Cena, there is no shame in getting pinned or submitted by him at WrestleMania. The loss could actually help Rusev's character in the long run, as it takes off the burden associated with any kind of streak or undefeated record.
Another reason for Cena to lose clean would be the further legitimization of the United States Championship. Since the merger of the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship, the WWE Universe has cried out for a well-booked secondary title.
The feud between Rusev and Cena over the U.S. title has raised its profile, but Rusev standing tall over the fallen challenger with the belt in his hands would make it feel special. Add in the fact that Cena could ultimately win the belt at WrestleMania, and this feud could make the title important again.
There are many reasons Cena should take the clean loss against Rusev at Fast Lane, but the WWE Universe is skeptical because of how the franchise player has been booked in the past.
It’s time to give Rusev his shot.
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