It’s Rusev day!
That’s been the slogan for one of WWE’s longtime talents as of late, who has enjoyed a career resurgence of sorts on the promotion’s SmackDown brand.
Rusev has been with the promotion for years, though he’s failed to capture a world championship or truly break into the main event scene. Originally portrayed as a brutish foreign villain, an image helped by his hulking physique, he’s now integrated a great deal of charisma into his character to become more relatable.
It’s worked – fans have chanted the wrestler’s slogan at various events, including during moments where he wasn’t even in the ring.
But after taking the pin during his WrestleMania fatal-four-way match for the U.S. championship, many wondered whether Rusev was as beloved by his employer as he is by the fans. A recent change to an upcoming booking and to the wrestler’s social media may yield clues about his future.
Rusev was originally booked in a casket match against The Undertaker for the upcoming “Greatest Royal Rumble” super card. Rusev originally posted a link advertising the match with the accompanying text of “bury me softly, brother.” This is a reference to the match type but could also be a tongue-in-cheek jab at his standing with the company.
In the pro wrestling industry, to “bury” someone equates to destroying their worth through bad storylines, consistent losses, or a combination of the two. It means killing a talent’s momentum to cool fan support or to boost other talents. Former WWE superstar Wade Barrett who left the promotion for Defiant Wrestling stated in an interview how WWE has chosen talents and tries to transfer reactions to said talents.
Undertaker is a legend, and clearly doesn’t need the boost. But many believe Rusev may have gotten a legitimate negative reaction for his promotion of the match. A follow-up interview with TMZ where he remarked about the Undertaker’s age may have got Rusev the bad kind of attention, especially from Undertaker’s real-life wife Michelle McCool.
Rusev has since been removed from the match and replaced by Chris Jericho. Along with this, all mentions of WWE have been removed from his social media and he no longer follows any of the company’s accounts.
This could be a worked storyline, attempting to steer fans in one direction only to swerve them with a big change. But given that WWE usually releases several talents after their WrestleMania season has concluded, it adds to the speculation Rusev could actually be let go.
Some have suggested Rusev and wife Lana both got on the company’s bad side after they revealed their real-life engagement on Instagram while in the midst of a storyline about their on-screen separation. They were quickly paired back together on screen, and neither has seen any high level of success since then.
Rusev and WWE may be working an angle together, but there’s also a chance the superstar’s history with the company coupled with his recent actions could mean he’s on the chopping block during release season.