What will the WWE really do with Rusev? Putting him through the paces, having him face the company’s best big men, having his hot valet and voice piece flaunt herself in and out of the ring and challenging every American and non-American face there is in the WWE. The idea is brilliant since there has not been a true anti-American villain angle in quite some time.
Rusev returned to FCW in March 2012 with Nick Rogers as his manager. In the summer of 2012, Rusev suffered a broken neck, temporarily paralyzing his arm. While rehabilitating, Rusev travelled to Thailand, where he studied the martial art Muay Thai. In August 2012, WWE rebranded FCW as WWE NXT.
After recovering from his injuries, Rusev made his NXT television debut on the May 30, 2013 episode, competing in a battle royale to determine the number one contender to the NXT Championship that was won by Bo Dallas. Rusev’s first NXT singles match came about on August 21, losing to Dolph Ziggler. Shortly thereafter, Rusev adopted Sylvester Lefort as his manager and formed a short-lived tag team with Scott Dawson named the “Fighting Legionnaires”; they feuded with the team of Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady. On the October 30 episode of NXT, Rusev ended his affiliation with Lefort by attacking him during a tag team bout.
Rusev proceeded to adopt Lana as his “social ambassador”, a pairing compared by WWE to Ivan and Ludmilla Drago from the 1985 film Rocky IV. In matches taped before his main roster debut, Rusev defeated main roster wrestlers Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and Sin Cara in singles matches, which aired on NXT in January and February.
Rusev continued to appear sporadically on NXT after joining the main roster in April 2014. He made his final appearance in July, 2014, getting disqualified against NXT Champion Adrian Neville in a non-title match.
Rusev made his main roster debut at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view in January, 2014. The sixth entrant to the titular match, Rusev was eliminated by a joint effort of four wrestlers. After months of self-promotional videos and speeches by Rusev and his manager Lana, Rusev’s return match on the main roster came about on the April 7 episode of Raw, where he squashed Zack Ryder.
Now that Rusev is firmly entrenched as one of the main heels within the company, we can take a look at the best anti-American heroes in wrestling history.
Fritz Von Erich
The leader of the famed Von Erich family. While in Edmonton, he met legendary wrestler and trainer Stu Hart, and Hart decided to train and book him in his Klondike Wrestling promotion, naming him Fritz Von Erich and teaming him with “brother” Waldo Von Erich as a pair of pseudo-Nazi brothers (Nazis still being popular villains in 50s and 60s wrestling).
Baron Von Raschke
Raschke started in professional wrestling in 1966 in the American Wrestling Association as a referee. He was soon wrestling under the name of Jim Raschke, playing off of his amateur wrestling notoriety in the area. He eventually changed his ring name to Baron von Raschke and claimed to be from Germany. He would do a goose-step and then put his finisher known as the “brain claw”, on his opponent. His most memorable quote came at the end of an interview during which – running out of time before the next match and not fully hearing the question – he simply blurted out, “Dat is all da people need to know!” Earlier in his career, the Baron had a finishing maneuver known as the ‘Prussian Sleeper’, a rather complex variation of a traditional sleeper hold. His trademark mantra at the time was; “I am ORDERED to win! I MUST win! And I WILL win!”
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s he held numerous singles and tag team titles throughout several NWA and AWA territories, as well as wrestling for the WWWF, where his claw hold was “censored” by a huge red “X” on WWWF television because of the blood it would draw when applied. In 1978, he was recognized as the first NWA Television Champion.
“The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff, a bearded villainous character billed from the Ukraine, and debuted with the International Wrestling Association in Montreal, Québec. He defeated Johnny Rougeau for the IWA International Heavyweight Title the following year. Ivan Koloff debuted in the World Wide Wrestling Federation in 1970, managed by Capt. Lou Albano. He soon started a feud with then-WWWF World Heavyweight Champion Bruno Sammartino. On January 18, 1971, “The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff defeated Sammartino in Madison Square Garden for the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship by pinfall after a knee drop from the top rope, ending Sammartino’s seven and two-third years reign on top.
Koloff lost the title only 21 days later to Pedro Morales, essentially being used as a “transitional” champion (as he was used to move the title from Sammartino to Morales without having the two faces work against each other), much like Stan Stasiak and the Iron Sheik would be in later years. After the loss, Koloff remained a contender for the title, but never reclaimed it, and left the WWWF in 1972.
During his time in the WWWF, Ivan Koloff wrestled WWWF title matches against Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, Superstar Billy Graham and Bob Backlund, holding the distinction, with fellow villain Stan Stasiak, as one of only two men to challenge all four of these popular champions.
In the December 26 title bout at Madison Square Garden, Backlund attempted to roll Sheik into a bridge pin, but this aggravated his weakened neck. Sheik capitalized by applying his Camel Clutch chin lock finisher. Backlund didn’t submit, but his concerned manager Arnold Skaaland threw in the towel and forfeited the championship.
Two days later, at Madison Square Garden, The Iron Sheik was scheduled to rematch Backlund, who was replaced by Hulk Hogan. Five minutes in, Sheik had Hogan locked in the Camel Clutch. Hogan powered to his feet with Sheik still on his back, rammed him backwards into the turnbuckles and hit his Big Leg drop for the pin and the championship. This moment is generally considered the beginning of “Hulkamania”