WWE Quick Takes on Rusev's Future, Raw Women's Elimination Chamber and More
Between Super ShowDown on Thursday, Elimination Chamber early in March and WrestleMania 36 soon after that, it's safe to say there's a lot to look forward to right now in WWE.
The company deserves props for effectively promoting all of those events and stacking them with must-see matchups. That isn't even including NXT TakeOver: Portland on Feb. 16, which was one of the best top-to-bottom TakeOver specials ever produced.
It was there that Johnny Gargano shocked the world by betraying his friend-turned foe-turned friend Tommaso Ciampa in the night's main event. That set the stage for what should be a hotly contested clash between the two at TakeOver: Tampa.
TakeOver: Portland also left viewers wondering what the future holds for the brand's depleted tag team division in the same way Rusev's Raw loss caused fans to question what's next for him. The Raw women's Elimination Chamber match was another hot topic, with it being argued that it serves no purpose so close to WrestleMania 36.
Capping off the newsworthy week in WWE was the announcement on Friday's SmackDown that The Bella Twins will take their place among the immortals in the WWE Hall of Fame over WrestleMania weekend. While their accomplishments cannot be denied, the timing is questionable.
The latest edition of WWE Quick Takes will take a look at these events and attempt to analyze their lasting impact on the Road to WrestleMania.
Rusev's State of Flux
Few WWE Superstars have had a rockier road than Rusev in recent years.
From entering WrestleMania on a tank for a match against John Cena five years ago to not even being considered for the card this year, Rusev has fallen far because of WWE's inexplicably bad booking of him. Although he remains over with the audience, the powers that be have shown zero interest in pushing him again at a significant level.
Upon wrapping up his rivalry with Bobby Lashley in January, The Bulgarian Brute disappeared from Raw, only to resurface Monday in a tag team match against Lashley and Angel Garza. The fact that he took the pinfall loss for his team and not Humberto Carrillo spoke volumes as to how little WWE thinks of him.
His real-life wife Lana re-signed with WWE in the fall, but Rusev has not, per the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Paul Davis of WrestlingNews.co). It's not known when his contract is set to expire, but many fans would argue that it would be in his best interest to take his talents elsewhere.
All Elite Wrestling might be a logical landing spot for him, but anywhere would be better than WWE. It's clear the company couldn't care less about him as one of their more popular stars, so it's high time he showed WWE what it has been missing out on by leaving for greener pastures.
In the meantime, don't expect him to be utilized on Raw in any meaningful capacity aside from putting others over. If he competes at WrestleMania 36, it's bound to be as part of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
A Raw Women's Championship No. 1 Contender's Elimination Chamber Isn't Necessary
Once it was announced Monday that an Elimination Chamber match will determine Raw women's champion Becky Lynch's opponent for WrestleMania 36, most fans were left wondering why.
It was hinted at later in the week that two more Chamber matches will be held at the March pay-per-view involving the men and women of SmackDown, making the Raw women's Chamber even more irrelevant. Of the six ladies who have been confirmed for the contest, the only one who makes sense to win is Shayna Baszler.
After all, she debuted as an official member of the Raw roster one week earlier and immediately laid waste to Becky Lynch. Their long-rumored match for WrestleMania essentially books itself, so having Baszler go through the trouble of winning an Elimination Chamber matchup is vastly unnecessary.
The other combatants are Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan, Natalya and Asuka. The former Riott Squad stablemates cancel each other out, while Natalya and Asuka have already had their shots at Lynch over the past year and lost.
For what it's worth, Baszler came across well while explaining her ambush on The Man on Monday night, so hopefully the neck-biting shtick was a one-week deal. It would have been enough for Lynch to accept her challenge for a matchup at 'Mania, but perhaps WWE wants to establish her as dominant by having her eliminate everyone in the Chamber herself.
The bout could wind up being fantastic, but on paper, it's a complete waste.
Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa Must Settle Their Score Inside Hell in a Cell
If you're feeling a sense of deja vu after watching Johnny Gargano turn on Tommaso Ciampa at NXT TakeOver: Portland, you likely aren't alone.
The two have been joined at the hip since making their NXT debuts together in the 2015 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. They feuded for almost two years before rekindling their friendship at TakeOver: New York, only for Gargano to turn the tables by betraying Ciampa in Portland.
For what it's worth, Gargano vs. Ciampa has never been done with this dynamic before, but fans should not be blamed for being sick of seeing them against each other. As exceptional as their matches are, it's time for them to put this rivalry to rest once and for all.
The only way that can happen is if they settle their score at TakeOver: Tampa inside Hell in a Cell.
The Devil's Playground has never made its way to NXT before, but it would be perfect for a feud of this caliber, especially over WrestleMania weekend.
In 2018, Gargano and Ciampa clashed in unsanctioned, Street Fight, and Last Man Standing matches. Gargano had his fair share of two-out-of-three matchups with Adam Cole as well, but Hell in a Cell would feel both fitting and fresh.
The match would benefit from a stipulation that states the loser must leave NXT to ensure the rivalry isn't repeated anytime soon. Gargano and Ciampa have been main roster-ready for years, but whether either of them is willing to make that move remains to be seen.
Fixing NXT's Depleted Tag Team Division
There's a lot to like about NXT, but the tag team division remains a glaring issue.
NXT's tag scene has had its ups and downs over the years, but it has been especially weak since The Street Profits were called up to Raw in October. Undisputed Era have held down the fort nicely since 2017, but they have lacked credible competition as of late.
To NXT's credit, putting Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne together as The BroserWeights and giving them the NXT Tag Team Championship was a brilliant idea. Neither guy was doing anything of note, and they instantly jelled as a tandem, so a run with the tag titles only made sense.
Unfortunately, there aren't a whole lot of interesting teams for them to defend the gold against.
Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish are owed a rematch eventually, but beyond that, the well runs dry. The Forgotten Sons are a bore, Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch already failed to beat The BroserWeights on Wednesday and Grizzled Young Veterans lost to The BroserWeights in the final of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
If NXT won't bring in any more underutilized teams from the main roster a la Breezango, then putting together a few new makeshift teams might be the way to go. They can also look to outside of the company for exciting duos who aren't under contract anywhere or bring back Alex Shelley to reunite with Kushida.
Borrowing a team or two from AEW would be ideal, but since that isn't realistic, NXT has to start working toward fixing their tag team division and rebuilding it from the ground up.
Too Soon for a Bella Twins WWE Hall of Fame Induction?
The Bella Twins have always been two of the most divisive women's wrestlers in WWE history, so it should come as no surprise that the fanbase is torn on their upcoming induction into the WWE Hall of Fame over WrestleMania weekend.
The news was made official on Friday Night SmackDown when Nikki and Brie appeared on Alexa Bliss' Moment of Bliss. The announcement went over well with the crowd in Phoenix, but the online reaction from fans has been polarizing, to say the least.
Since there is no set criteria, what makes anyone WWE Hall of Fame-worthy is subjective. For The Bella Twins, it was only inevitable that they would be inducted based off their various accomplishments inside and outside the ring; the question is whether WWE is honoring them too soon.
Nikki and Brie both wrestled their final matches in October 2018 during the buildup to Evolution. It was reported the subsequent summer that plans called for them to feud with The IIconics over the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship following WrestleMania 35, but Nikki's neck issues forced her to retire from active competition for good.
At 36, The Bella Twins will be among the youngest people to ever be inducted. Although that isn't much of an issue, there is a lengthy list of women who deserve to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame who have been out of the ring a lot longer.
Sable, Miss Elizabeth, Michelle McCool, Mickie James and even AJ Lee come to mind as women who should have gotten the nod before the Bellas. Then again, perhaps WWE wanted to capitalize on all of the attention they have been getting lately between Nikki's engagement, both of their pregnancies and Total Bellas returning for a fifth season in April.
Either way, The Bella Twins are a perfectly fine fit for this year's Hall of Fame class.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.