Chair Shots Presents: Filthy American Scum! (or Is Rusev the Real Deal?)
By Rob Simmons
Jul 9, 2014 - 10:02:30 AM
Welcome back everybody to the column that just watched Germany score a touchdown (with extra point) over Brazil yesterday- Chair Shots! First off, I’d like to thank everybody for giving the return of the Running Diary a look. It was fun to do, but it is quite an undertaking to write that up as you’re trying to actually enjoy Raw at the same time. I don’t know if it will be a weekly occurrence, but odds are it will return at some point.
One of the hot-button topics as of late is the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the anti-American gimmick currently behind presented by the WWE in the form of Rusev and Lana. Now this gimmick certainly isn’t new. It’s probably been around as long as professional wrestling itself. Take a look at just a few examples of the nationalities that have used this to get heat over the years.
Ivan and Nikita Koloff
Alberto Del Rio
And that’s just to name a few. There have been random wrestlers here and there who represented other countries, such as Ludvig Borga, Brakkus, etc. But the question has arisen with Rusev’s appearance in the WWE as to whether or not an anti-American gimmick can work in today’s professional wrestling landscape. The world has gotten very PC over the past few years. People are offended by the smallest of things. Hell, a Yankees fan is suing MLB, ESPN, the Yankees and probably me because he was shown asleep at a Yankees game and now feels that he has been permanently disparaged and shamed to the point he needs compensation. People can’t seem to take a joke, nor do they want to be confronted by anything that might be construed as insensitive, or in the case of the anti-American gimmicks, racist.
From my standpoint though, the anti-American, or in this case Russian villain is the perfect foil in the over-the-top world of professional wrestling. When you break it all down into dots and dashes, wrestling is about good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, white hats vs. black hats. Sure there are times when the anti-hero comes along, like Stone Cold Steve Austin or most recently Dean Ambrose, but 95% of the time, wrestling is about fighting the bad guy, whoever they may be. Personally, I think Rusev showed up at just the right time.
As of late, the world of professional wrestling has been hindered by too many wrestlers with zero heat because they have no “gimmick” per say. One of the top heels in the business, Randy Orton, is saddled with the impression of being a robotic wrestler with not an ounce of personality. A large majority of the heels in the business are heels just for the sheer fact that they’ve got a chip on their shoulders, or they yell at the audience. What happened to the “heel” gimmick? It sort of faded into obscurity, thus the reason we don’t have a lot of true heels that garner incredible amounts of fan hatred.
Enter Alexander Rusev, the Bulgarian monster fighting for Mother Russia. He’s led to the ring by the leggy, vivacious Lana, who is a cross between Bridgitte Nielsen from Rocky IV and Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle. They hate America. They sing the praises of Vladimir Putin. They drop a giant Russian flag in the middle of the ring. They’re the epitome of what a professional wrestling “heel” should be. Yes, Lana is lusted after by many a professional wrestling fan worldwide, but that’s part of the appeal of her character. She’s gorgeous and she knows it. She flaunts it at you, with her insanely long legs, while spitting in your face. It’s no surprise she’s been made to look like Nielsen from Rocky IV, because that character did the exact same thing.
But this wouldn’t work at all if it the wrestler behind the gimmick wasn’t drawing heat too. I wasn’t sold on Rusev from the beginning. I had heard from my colleague Oliver that he was slightly green and was possibly called up from NXT before some more other worthy talent. And when he started, you could definitely see that. His matches were kept short, and he lumbered quite a bit around the ring. But over time, Rusev has gotten exponentially better. His match at MITB with Big E. was quite entertaining and he’s starting to show he can go longer stretches of time while maintaining a good story along the way. Now I’m not saying he’s in Daniel Bryan territory in terms of wrestling, just that he’s showing major improvement in a very short time.
The beauty of this gimmick though is that it also immediately elevates anybody that he feuds with. At what point would you have thought that Jack Swagger would be getting face pops? I’m a fan of Swagger, but he’s been floundering around for quite some time with little to no direction. The Real American tag-team was getting over, but more as an avenue to elevate Cesaro than anything. Putting Zeb Colter, Swagger, and the “We the People” movement in Rusev’s face was a feud that basically wrote itself.
I had some conversations on Twitter recently with our old friend Hustle, who stated that the one thing that is needed to take this feud to the next level would be a confrontation with the first “Real American”, Hulk Hogan. Rusev could assault Hogan, or if that’s too scary a thought for people who think Hogan may crumble to dust if he took a bump, possibly just spit in Hogan’s face. Swagger could come to stand by Hogan’s side, get the backing of The Hulkster, and immediately this feud becomes more exciting than it already was. Quite frankly, I’m confused as to why we haven’t seen Hulk used more. This feud, and Rusev’s gimmick, are a perfect opportunity to take advantage of Hogan’s popularity, and to give a rub to two guys that could definitely benefit from it.
I don’t know if any of that is going to happen, but both Swagger and Rusev should definitely be entertaining when it occurs at the Battleground PPV. Hopefully this is not just a one-off match, and the feud continues. As I mentioned, it can only benefit both men in the long run. Swagger should be booked to look strong, possibly handing Rusev his first loss in the process. If rumours of Rusev’s push to the top are any indication, even in a loss he’ll come out of the feud looking fierce.
You may not like Rusev. You may not like Lana (but I’d have to wonder why). You may not think the anti-American gimmick has a place in the wrestling world today. But all you have to do is watch the heat that Rusev is currently getting to know that something is working. The WWE is just on the tip of the iceberg with how far they can go with this. They might back off, they might not, but until that time I think they’ve got a hit on their hands.
What do you think dear readers? Does the Rusev gimmick work? Leave me your thoughts, comments, suggestions, death threats, and most importantly, pictures of Lana at all the available outlets. And as usual, thanks so much for reading.
Until next time,
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