Most fans assumed that the “Russian Chain Match” at Extreme Rules would be the finale of the Rusev vs. John Cena storyline. However, it was revealed after Cena secured the victory against Rusev that the last match in this feud will take place at WWE’s next pay-per-view event, Payback. Now, WWE needs to tread carefully from a booking standpoint if they want Rusev to remain successful. Losing yet another match to John Cena could potentially hurt Rusev’s credibility, and could possibly damage the character as a whole.
Instead of ending the storyline at Extreme Rules and allowing Rusev to start acquiring wins elsewhere, the company has decided that one more match is required before this feud concludes. If Rusev loses the next match, he’ll suddenly have a 1-3 record against John Cena. Possessing that record, especially against Cena, will unfortunately place Rusev into a spot that so many other performers have found themselves in over the years; Ryback, Bray Wyatt, and even Seth Rollins are just a few examples of performers who had a tough time regaining their momentum after losing big matches against John Cena.
As we all know, wins and losses don’t tell the entire story of a character in professional wrestling. The quality of an opponent, the timing of a victory or loss, and the accompanying storyline all play important roles in the characters’ overall journey.
All of these elements are now working against Rusev as he heads into his final match against John Cena.
Rather than presenting Rusev to the audience as an intimidating force moving forward, the company now risks the possibility of all of the momentum he has gained thus far being diminished as a result of another loss to John Cena. This potentially devastating loss awaits him in an “I Quit” match at Payback.
In stark contrast to the “Russian Chain Match’, an “I Quit Match” is, for all intents and purposes, John Cena’s specialty match. Cena’s character revolves around never giving up, so it’s obvious as to how this stipulation works in his favor. Of the four “I Quit” matches he has been involved in over the course of his WWE career, John Cena has yet to lose one. The Miz, Randy Orton, Batista, and JBL have all fallen victim to Cena when this stipulation is in play.
While WWE is usually very careful with how they book a performer in a big loss, there is no way to protect the loser of an “I Quit” match. This type of match results in an extremely meaningful win for one character, and an extremely damaging loss for the other. The story that is told throughout the course of an “I Quit” match is simple; one man overpowers their opponent and proves that they are the better man. A Rusev loss will clearly mean that Cena broke his will, something that should never happen to a successful, monstrous heel such as Rusev.
Just a few months ago, he was the most unstoppable force within WWE. At May’s pay-per-view event, Rusev stands to become just another one of Cena’s many victims. Similar to the way Bray Wyatt needed a rebirth after falling to Cena countless times, WWE will need to do some major character rebuilding for Rusev should he lose at Payback.