WWE, AEW or Other: What's Rusev's Best Move with Expiring Contract Looming?
Lana signed a new five-year contract with WWE late last year, according to Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet, but Rusev has yet to agree to a new deal, which might be why he finds himself in a storyline involving his wife leaving him.
The Bulgarian Brute recently changed his Twitter profile to "soon to be free agent" (h/t Marc Middleton of Wrestling Inc), but he has since amended it to "add a bio to your profile."
If Rusev has informed WWE he does not plan to stay with the company while Lana does, the storyline with Bobby Lashley could be how the creative team writes him out of the promotion.
Rusev has been known to play with his followers on social media, so this could all be a joke before he signs a new deal. However, it could also be a sign he is looking to see what other opportunities exist outside of WWE.
A lot of promotions in the United States and abroad would jump at the chance to sign the 34-year-old, even if he ends up being a solo act.
Let's look at some of the best options Rusev has outside of WWE and whether staying or leaving is in his best interests.
All Elite Wrestling
All Elite Wrestling has a lot of talent on its roster but one thing missing is a dominant powerhouse like Rusev.
Wardlow and Jake Hager are both bigger than the majority of the roster, and they have been relegated to roles as enforcers for MJF and Chris Jericho, respectively.
Rusev would be a game-changer for AEW. He would instantly become a top star upon debuting, and the burgeoning promotion might allow him to explore the different sides of his character WWE is not interested in showing.
His schedule would be lighter, and he would be able to work for other promotions when it does not interfere with his AEW commitments.
There are some potential roadblocks he would have to deal with, though. AEW management may not want to sign every former WWE Superstar as soon as they quit because it would send an inaccurate message that anyone who is unhappy with their spot in WWE can go to AEW.
Rusev may also find himself fighting to be featured on television. AEW only has two hours on TNT and one hour on YouTube for its entire roster. It is already struggling to showcase certain people properly, and the Bulgarian Brute could get lost in the shuffle.
New Japan Pro-Wrestling
New Japan Pro-Wrestling is not as popular in the U.S. as it was during the first few years of The Bullet Club's reign of terror, but it is still one of the world's premier promotions.
Many WWE stars have gone to NJPW to find a second life. CJ Parker went from obscurity in NXT to being a two-time IWGP United States champion, Festus became Luke Gallows and NJPW was the first place Chris Jericho worked after deciding not to return to WWE.
Rusev already works a stiff style with a lot of throws and strikes, so he would be right at home with the practitioners of strong-style wrestling.
His star power would help him get over with the crowd quickly, and he would be able to push the limits of what he is capable of against a variety of new opponents.
If there is any downside to this arrangement, it would be how it affects his personal life. Lana would be on the road with WWE, which would limit how much time they get to spend together. If Rusev were traveling to and from Japan, they would see each other even less.
For that reason alone, The Bulgarian Brute might not even consider a promotion outside North America.
It might be hard to believe, but Impact Wrestling is still alive and kicking in 2020. The company has gone through many changes—including that weird period with Global Force Wrestling—but it is still a promotion with a weekly TV show and that's what matters.
Impact has moved away from focusing on former WWE stars and is trying to build its own brand by featuring names such as Ace Austin and Taya Valkyrie, but it still has room for guys like Rob Van Dam and Ken Shamrock.
Rusev has name recognition but is not a former world champion, so Impact could build him up into one of its biggest stars without it feeling like he was being given a world title just because he had one in WWE.
His schedule would be lighter, he would be able to take outside bookings and he could be a big fish in a small pond instead of being one of many medium-sized fish in WWE.
You can tell Rusev enjoys being funny based on his social media accounts, so he might get a chance to explore that part of his character with Impact.
When Cody Rhodes first left WWE, he did not sign with any one company. Instead, he cherry-picked the opponents he wanted to work with and made short-term deals with promotions.
Rusev could choose to do the same thing. Instead of electing to hang his hat with just one company, he could travel the world working for anyone he likes.
He could put in time in Europe, Asia, South America and anywhere else that has a market for wrestling while making appearances locally for companies like Ring of Honor or some of the smaller indies.
This would give him the ability to work when and where he pleases, but that may not lead to the kind of success he is hoping to achieve.
Most small companies will not be able to afford whatever his price tag would be, and some may not even be interested in bringing him in because they have so many other options.
Being a former WWE Superstar does not guarantee the same opportunities it used to. Being in one place with regular exposure would be better for his career in the long run.
Staying with WWE
Rusev may not even intend to leave WWE, so all of this speculation could be pointless. He has been known to play with his audience on Twitter, and he could just be messing with fans before he pens a new deal.
With AEW and other companies finding more success over the past few years, WWE has been more vigilant with its negotiations. It is offering people more money for a longer period of time just so it does not lose Superstars to the competition.
Staying with WWE gives Rusev more financial security and more time to spend with his wife. Also, signing a new deal could be what gets him out of his current storyline.
It all comes down to what is more important to him. If he wants creative freedom and a lighter schedule, leaving is his only choice; if he wants to potentially become a millionaire who sees his wife every day, he will sign on the dotted line with Vince McMahon's company.
Wealth and success are not important to everyone, but once you get used to that lifestyle, it's hard to leave it. Rusev could be a world champion in WWE someday. He is over with the crowd and gets better every year.
At this point, re-signing with WWE is his best option.
What do you think? Should Rusev see what other promotions have to offer or stay with WWE? Follow me on Twitter @BR_Doctor.