Rusev is now entering his third consecutive pay-per-view match against John Cena, which puts him in a fragile position within WWE.
The company has spent the past year building Rusev up to be one of the biggest heel characters on the roster, the culmination being a feud with WWE’s biggest star. Rusev is playing his role to perfection, and having main event level experience so early on in his career will help him to remain successful for years to come.
Rusev has now reached the pinnacle of his career thus far. For the first time, Rusev now risks being placed in a meaningless storyline; depending on the opponent WWE pairs him with moving forward. He is currently on the verge of becoming a top heel, but all of his momentum could potentially be lost if he isn’t paired with someone on the same level as Cena following their match at Extreme Rules.
John Cena is still in the early phase of his United States Championship open challenge, which continues to be prominently featured on Raw on a weekly basis. As of now, all signs are pointing to Rusev losing to Cena once again at Extreme Rules. If this is the case, WWE needs to use caution in where they place Rusev following his second consecutive loss at the hands of John Cena.
If the creative team places Rusev into a mid-card level feud with someone below John Cena’s caliber, the audience will begin to view him as just another character that was ruined by losing to Cena. After this feud concludes, Rusev needs to be inserted into a valuable storyline with another main event-level star in an effort to prove that he belongs within the upper echelon of WWE talent.
Ideally, Rusev would begin pursuing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship after Extreme Rules. Unfortunately, current champion Seth Rollins is a heel, which would make it an unsuitable feud by WWE’s standards. While the company’s top title may be out of the question, the door is still open for Rusev to make a run for the Intercontinental Championship in the near future.
Daniel Bryan’s health may be questionable at the moment, but he would be the perfect character to help elevate Rusev even further. His role as WWE’s resident underdog would fit well with Rusev’s anti-American gimmick, similar to the way Cena’s superhero role fits with it.
Rusev and Bryan could potentially have a great series of matches, and would easily be able to play up a classic “David vs. Goliath” type of storyline. Even if Daniel Bryan’s current health issues take him out of action, Rusev could find himself at the top of a wide-open Intercontinental Championship division that lacks a definitive number one contender, making his storyline possibilities endless.
Bad News Barrett has lost all of his momentum since returning from injury in December. His Intercontinental Championship reign was lackluster, and he has now been reduced to a one-dimensional character that lacks a true direction. Although he is the number one contender, his spot is based on WWE’s rematch clause rather than actual merit. Rusev could easily surpass Barrett in the division and demand a title shot, something that no one would dare to disagree with.
If John Cena continues to be the baby face, fighting champion with the United States title, Rusev would fit perfectly as the unstoppable heel champion with the Intercontinental Championship. This would easily help the mid-card level within WWE to become completely balanced, something that all divisions currently need at the moment.
In order for Rusev to further evolve as a character, as well as a performer, he must succeed going forward in meaningful storylines against quality, top-level talent. Hopefully after Extreme Rules, Rusev begins to soar to the top once again.