Sometimes simple storytelling is better. When it comes to John Cena vs. Rusev, a simple storyline has produced arguably the most exciting WWE feud of the year heading into WrestleMania 31.
[adinserter block=”1″]If you would have told me a 11 months ago that Rusev was going to be this over with the WWE audience I’d call you a fool. I never expected a gimmick older than me to draw money in 2015. A heel Russian in this day and age seemed so basic yet this basic heel has been the first guy in a long time to be booed against WWE’s most polarizing wrestler.
Everything about this feud would have appeared doomed to fail if previewed on a piece of a paper. John Cena fighting a heel Russian in defense of America just seemed flat out stupid. Skeptics pondered whether giving away Cena vs. Rusev prior to WrestleMania was a good idea while critics argued that it killed any interest in their Mania match. I was with the skeptics and at the end of the day all of us are wrong.
Rusev, like the Shield are easy lessons that should be learned by the WWE creative team. When the company invests in a heel, keeps them strong, separates them from Hunter and Stephanie, and books them as outsiders, those heels will not only get over, they’ll get their opponents over. Rusev has been protected all year, sans working with the Authority at the Survivor Series and by no coincidence at all, he is the most over true heel the company has had in a long time.
Heading into WrestleMania, this feud is hotter than anything else on the card. I’d even argue that the feud was much hotter than Cena vs. Wyatt going into Mania last year. Promos and hype for the WWE world title match have fallen on deaf ears. Sure the fans love Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman, but they are incredibly apathetic towards Lesnar’s challenger. Face it Cena haters, John Cena is the most over babyface going into WrestleMania.
I am not sure where the feud goes from here. The match is signed and Lana is in limbo as she is expected to miss time filming a movie. I can argue either guy winning at Mania and that is a good thing. As strong as Rusev has been, it was refreshing to see him finally have some vulnerability. It had much more impact coming after he has been kept strong for 10 months. Imagine if they did that RAW angle after Rusev was booked even-Steven for the last several months. It would have been D.O.A. Instead you have a fresh feud that has actually garnered Cena some sympathy.
[adinserter block=”2″]It is incredibly ironic if you compare the ways Roman Reigns and Rusev have been booked over the last ten months. Both guys were picked for big spots on this year’s WrestleMania show. Rusev hasn’t lost and rarely shows vulnerability. He has stayed true to his character and is more over now than ever before. Reigns has been vulnerable, lost matches, failed to identify a real character, and is far less over than he was ten months ago. Even more amazing is that you have the same writers booking both guys.
I hope that the creative geniuses in the WWE take notice of the parallels and use the Rusev game plan to elevate their next big star in 2015. The playbook may be simple but it is effective which is more than you can say about most creative playbooks in recent years.