Five years ago, Rusev cruised into a stadium on a tank to defend his US title against one of the top guys in WWE, and arguably, still the last money-drawing star the company made, John Cena. While Rusev is a much more seasoned and polished all around performer now because of the experience of several years in the big leagues, there’s no doubt that he made an impression, even in his formative years on WWE television. By his side was his real-life wife, Lana, dubbed the “Ravishing Russian” and a key part of the act. Channeling Brigitte Nielsen in Rocky IV, Lana was a no nonsense force that had a presence on the mic.
Since those five years, the sports entertainment business has certainly changed. All Elite Wrestling was formed, completely shifting the dynamic of free agency in the industry, Roman Reigns is doing his best work as a heel with Paul Heyman, and Rusev was released from his contract during the pandemic cuts earlier this year. Granted, the reason dozens of wrestlers were released was to make things look good for the conference call for stockholders, but the point being, it did provide a fresh start for some of that talent. In truth, Rusev was probably better off outside of the WWE structure because it was clear when he got the “Rusev day” gimmick over and the office didn’t truly run with it, that for whatever reason, he was typecast at a certain level within the organization. Obviously, his AEW run so far has yielded mixed results. In my opinion, he could have a much bigger role there than feuds based on video games. Still, you can see the potential for something bigger in the future for him under the All Elite banner.
Since his exit for WWE, Rusev has been outspoken about the company, criticizing some of the direction and structure of the promotion.
Lana is still under contract, and as ridiculous as it this might sound to some, it appears that she might be booked to look foolish on TV because of the Rusev’s comments. Sadly, if this is the case, it wouldn’t be the first time WWE booking had a vindictive spin. The completely ridiculous part of all of this is that they are hindering the star power of one of their on TV commodities. First Lana was put through a table by Nia Jax nearly a dozen times over the course of the past few months, which is a form of punishment in itself given Nia’s track record. Following that, Lana was booked to stand in the corner at Survivor Series without doing anything and then wins the match on a technicality. Sure, she’s given TV time, but how is this a push?
Management booked her to win without doing anything at Survivor Series. The entire point was she won by standing in the corner and weeping so Lana was basically the winner of the participation trophy, how does that spotlight the baby face? Pro wrestling 101 is the baby face has admirable traits so that the audience can rally around them. What reason was the audience given to cheer for Lana? If anything, the participation trophy angle is more of a heel type of booking. The fact that she was still framed as a baby face during the narrative gives the entire scenario a mediocre result.
The only logical conclusion here that would see Lana in a better spot than when she started or show any progress for the storyline would be that Lana puts Nia through the table to claim one half of the Women’s tag titles. Instead, Lana pinned Nia in a very short match on Raw this past week and was then injured so that she isn’t involved in the title match at the TLC pay-per-view. Given the booking of this angle so far, I’d guess that the brief win on Raw is supposed to be the comeback for Lana, but it’s already secondary because the story is now about who might be Asuka’s partner at the pay-per-view.
Lana was made to look like an incapable and weeping participation trophy winner in this storyline. How is any of that something that the fans can cheer for a baby face? CJ Perry, the real-life performer behind the TV character, is more talented than that and deserves better for a role on television. Aside from this horrendous angle, the WWE made a major mistake with her long before this. As much as WWE wants to minimize the effectiveness of managers and valets because they sell angles, not t-shirts, there’s still an important role for them in the sport. More importantly, not everyone on the roster has to be a wrestler.
Miss Elizabeth was one of the key pieces of the puzzle for some of the most memorable feuds in sports entertainment history. The Mega Powers explode and Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Randy Savage are still talked about today. Jim Cornette couldn’t hit Cowboy Lange in the knees with a drop kick, but cut promos that drew money for decades. Francine played a major role in many of the main event storylines in ECW because she knew had to work ringside and had a presence on television. The bottom line is, regardless of the motive, WWE brass completely botched this entire angle with Lana, and she’s left in a spot with no direction for her character. I’m not sure what’s more disappointing, the fact that the writing team might not realize how completely counterproductive any of the Nia/Lana narrative to pushing a baby face or that the office could be intentionally sabotaging one of its own performers. There was a lot of talk recently about sluggish ratings and how the company presents its television programs. Lana has a proven track record of being an effective character, but if the office can’t find a better role for her on Raw, especially considering her roles on reality TV, it says a lot about their decision-making process, not just with this storyline, but the overall direction of the company.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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