Like many of you, I was surprised to hear that the planned WrestleMania match of John Cena taking on Rusev was being bumped-up to next month’s PPV, FastLane. After a quick “pull-apart” backstage at the Royal Rumble, the match was made and announced on this past Monday’s RAW.
The immediate reaction to the match announcement was basically: Why give it away already?
I think there is a method to the madness. We all know that John Cena is going to beat Rusev at some point, handing the Russian (Bulgarian?) the first pinfall loss of his WWE career and defending the honour of the United States.
Having said that, I think it’s actually a pretty smart idea to have them face at FastLane first. I mean, with no real build-up at this point it makes sense to have the Russian either win via DQ or count-out, thus setting up some kind of stipulation match at WrestleMania with people thinking that Rusev actually stands a chance of pulling off a victory (he doesn’t).
I’ve been a fan of Rusev for quite some time now. His in-ring performances have been really good given his size and gimmick. He’s obviously no Bret Hart inside the squared circle, but he’s more than competent and ready to move up to the main event slot. His character is great as he plays the part extremely well. People just want to boo him for his pro-Russia stance. But here’s the thing…he rarely cheats to win, so there is a growing contingency of fans who want to cheer the man simply because he’s so good.
Lana, his manager, has been absolutely spectacular in her role as the “Ravishing Russian”. Sure, she’s drawing upon the old-school tactics to get “cheap heat”, but it’s working. She could easily be laughed out of the building for being too cheesy, but instead normally has the crowd eating out of the palm of her hand.
These are performers that John Cena can easily play off of. Will the matches suck? More than likely, yes…but there should be a lot of things they can do to build-up the eventual WrestleMania rematch.
So while, on the surface, it looks like WWE is trying to pop a rating for the PPV by throwing this match at their fans a bit early, they’re really trying to do some long-term build-up to the big show. They don’t always seem to know what they’re doing, but then there are other times where you need to give them a tip of the cap.
Is Rusev a flash in the pan? Will the peak of his career be a match with Cena at WrestleMania? Far from it. There is a very long future ahead for him in WWE. I truly believe he’ll be a main event player for the next several years.