Last week on WWE Raw, Rusev attacked WWE Hall of Famer, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan to further the storyline that Rusev is a representative of Russia, which uses the Ukraine conflict to generate heat. More specifically, The storyline is using the tension between United States and Russia to get heat, which uses Russian President, Putin during promos. Foreign heat is a classic wrestling angle and usually, when wrestling is current, it translates to an angle that gets over with the audience, but could the use of a current conflict actually limit the progress of Rusev?
As mentioned, pro wrestling has represented society in some ways, which usually translates to a better product. For example, the “Rock and Wrestling” era of the 80s was current to MTV at that point and then the “Attitude Era” capitalized on the popularity of entertainment and sports figures of the time such as Howard Stern and Mike Tyson. Basically, throughout the history of the sport, the business has boomed when it represented the pop culture of the era. If there could be another wrestling boom with the current state of the business, especially with WWE as the only major company, is a different matter for another time, but the point is, wrestling being current with society usually translates to a better draw. In this case, the Rusev-Russian angle is actually something that was used many decades ago when WWE Hall of Famer, Bruno Sammartino battled foreign villains in the 1960s as the main event and it draw major crowds. Obviously, the reason it was a draw was the tension of the cold war at the time and when Bruno defeated the foreign villains, the crowd viewed it as a victory for America.
As society evolved and the cold war became less common to main stream news, the foreign heel shift from the main event to more of a mid card role. The transition is one of the most memorable moments in wrestling history as Hulk Hogan defeated the legendary, Iron Sheik to win the WWF title and it would be the start of the “Rock and Wrestling” era. The society evolved to understand that just because someone is Russian, that doesn’t mean that they are against America and it was the way the character is presented that made them either a heel or good guy. For example, Nikolai Volkoff was a heel in the 80s and would eventually become a good guy.
As far as Rusev, it seems like he has potential and the presentation of Lana as his manager works well. A side note, Lana and more specifically Paul Heyman as Cesaro’s manager have proved that managers can be as effective today as they have been throughout history. In my view, the main reasons that managers aren’t used as much today as previously is that they are used to sell angles, not t shirts. As mentioned, Rusev has potential, but I think the Putin storyline might actually limit his progress to establish himself as a star. Hopefully, the Russian conflict gets solved and everyone is safe in Ukraine. Both news reporting and the wrestling business move faster than in years previously so when Putin fades from the headlines, will it decline Rusev’s push? It seems like they will have to add something to the character and it should be interesting to see how the character is booked in a few months.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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