Happy Rusev Day: Rusev’s First World Title Feud is Happening Thanks to Gimmick that was “Supposed to be a Joke”

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Rusev Day
Credit: WWE

By now you’ve all heard that today is Rusev Day. Every day is Rusev Day. Happy Rusev Day! In fact, we are just a few months away from celebrating the anniversary, the Rusevaversary to be more accurate, of the very first Rusev Day, which occurred on September 26, 2017. And if things go as planned for Rusev and his companion, Aiden English, the Bulgarian Brute will be celebrating that anniversary as WWE Champion. That then would be the greatest Rusev Day of all.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve almost had a full year, a full 365 Rusev Days, especially because according to Rusev himself in an interview with The Mirror, Rusev Day was meant to be a one-time thing and wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously. When asked about his partnership with English, Rusev had this to say about the Shakespeare of Song and the tag team the two formed together.

When we were put together it was supposed to be a joke, straight from the source, it was supposed to be a joke. There it is, we turned it around, they gave us lemons and we made it lemonade. Damn good lemonade, I’ll tell you that much.

On the First Day of Rusev…

Rusev Day began on September 26, 2017 when Rusev, the great hero and protector of Bulgaria, after defeating Randy Orton on Smackdown Live the week prior, was given the key to his home city of Plovdiv, by Mayor Ivan Totev. Totev also proclaimed the day to be Rusev Day, a practice typical of a city when celebrating accomplishments of an individual.

Serving as the MC for the celebration was Aiden English, who a few months earlier found himself inexplicably involved with the Rusev/Orton feud. English treated the crowd to a rendition of the Bulgarian National Anthem before singing the Rusev Day song to the tune of Orton’s entrance theme.

Out of nowhere, Rusev struck
Hitting Randy like a truck
It’s Rusev Day, it’s Rusev Day
And with Randy’s nine-second fail
Rusev became the alpha male
It’s Rusev Day, it’s Rusev Day

Rusev replayed the clip of his victory over Orton saying he “tore the fangs out of the Viper” and that he was the new predator because he “destroyed the legend of the legend killer.” Rusev also declared that Smackdown was his jungle now. Of course, talking about Orton like that behind his back never ends well and both Rusev and English ate RKOs for their troubles. The two had their rubber match at Hell in a Cell, which was won by Orton.

That could have been a wrap for Rusev especially if WWE had dropped the Rusev Day idea early on as they supposedly had planned to. But they didn’t. Despite it not being over immediately (so few acts are), much like the New Day (Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston), much like Chris Jericho‘s List, much like the Fashion Police (Tyler Breeze and Fandango) and the Fashion Files, the more the fans got of English and Rusev, the more they wanted to see. English began singing Rusev to the ring and serving as his manager at first before starting to consistently tag with him in December. That was the same month that WWE released the “Happy Rusev Day” t-shirts, which immediately went flying off the shelves.

RusevMania

Everything was coming up Rusev Day as the movement continued to take off. The fans, who were happy to chant Rusev Day during just about every match on every card and that didn’t just include WWE shows, had fully accepted the gimmick. It took WWE a little longer to get behind what English and Rusev were creating despite the odds being stacked against them. Rusev Day wasn’t meant to turn into one of the most popular acts in all of wrestling but it did and when Rusev Day shirts became the highest selling in the company, WWE finally took notice in the most WWE-way possible. They created more Rusev Day inspired merchandise.

In a stroke of genius, the company released Rusev Day calendars, which English has used on screen during his introductions, most recently as a part of his Money in the Bank promo. Each month depicts a different photo of Rusev in action. Each day, is, of course, Rusev Day.

According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, it was because of Rusev’s status as the top-selling merch guy for well over three months, that WWE removed him from the Wrestlemania Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale and instead placed him in a match of higher profile, a fatal-4-way with Randy Orton, Bobby Roode and Jinder Mahal for the United States Championship.

Rusev didn’t win the title. In fact, he was the one who took the pinfall. The following Tuesday, WWE even edited out Rusev Day chants and replaced them with ones for AJ Styles when the clip surfaced on Youtube. Whatever WWE’s motivation for that was, Rusev Day continued to grow in popularity each and every week and Rusev and English continued to get some of the loudest crowd reactions among anyone on either Smackdown or Raw.

Despite all of this, it seemed like WWE didn’t want to push Rusev Day as anything more than a midcard tag team act. They even seemed to drop hints when Lana returned to TV, that Rusev and English’s pairing could come to an end. In that segment, however, when The Ravishing Russian alluded to Rusev needing to drop English to reach greater heights, you could hear the live audience audibly sigh. Perhaps WWE took that to heart because the following week, English was ringside with Lana helping her win her way into the Women’s Money in the Bank match. Most recently, English even teamed up with Lana in a losing effort on an episode of Smackdown Live a few weeks ago.

Then came Rusev in the Bank, where it was clear how over this act and all of its elements had become. Much like at Royal Rumble, “Rusev Day” was the chant of the night. And even though it didn’t work out for the man who has every day of the week named after him, Smackdown Live on Tuesday was indeed the grandest Rusev Day of them all. Rusev entered last in a gauntlet and tapped Miz out to the Accolade to secure his first ever WWE championship match.

Before There was Rusev Day…

Rusev first made his debut with Florida Championship Wrestling in 2011 as Alexander Rusev, after spending three years on the independents. In 2013, when FCW rebranded as NXT, Rusev alongside English, debuted in a winning effort against the team of Axl Keegan and Mojo Rawley. In May, Rusev received his first chance at the NXT Championship, held by Bo Dallas, and with partner Scott Dawson, had several shots at the NXT Tag Team Championships that summer. However, it wasn’t until he reached the main roster that Rusev would win his first title within the WWE system.

Making his televised WWE debut at the 2014 Royal Rumble, Rusev was positioned as a force right out of the gate.

Using the Accolade, Rusev picked up submission victories over Mark Henry, Jack Swagger, Big E and the Big Show (as well as Great Khali by pinfall) in the ensuing months. Rusev parlayed his undefeated streak into a match with Sheamus for the United States Championship in November, which he won, again by submission. This marked the first time WWE had put any title on a superstar of Bulgarian descent. Rusev held the title for 146 days until losing it to John Cena at Wrestlemania 31. That match also served as Rusev’s first pinfall loss since joining the main roster over a year prior.

From there, Rusev’s direction seemed to flounder. He entered into a storyline love square with Lana, Dolph Ziggler and Summer Rae which ended when Rusev and Lana announced their real-life engagement in October. The response to the breakup angle was not well-received as it seemed to have damaged Rusev’s gimmick. Lana returned to his side but the two entered into another almost universally hated gimmick shortly after when they joined the League of Nations with Sheamus, Alberto del Rio and King Barrett.

When the league disbanded just a few months later, Rusev was placed back in the United States title picture, defeating Kalisto for the belt at Extreme Rules in 2016. Rusev held the title for 126 days, dropping it to Roman Reigns at Clash of Champions. Rusev worked a series of midcard feuds after that and was kept off television following surgery he had in 2017. When he returned, as a fulltime member of the Smackdown Live roster, Rusev feuded with Cena and then Orton, leading to the first of many, many Rusev Days.

Extreme Rules Could be the Greatest Rusev Day Ever

There is perhaps no one on the main roster who has seen their booking as hot and cold as Rusev, even since the creation of Rusev Day. And while AJ Styles has been a fine example of what a champion should be, this could be Rusev’s time to shine.

The Yes! Movement earned Daniel Bryan a championship reign. Maybe Rusev Day could do the same for the Bulgarian Brute. At the very least, it seems to be responsible for getting him the world title match. That’s a pretty impressive feat to come from a gimmick that was never meant to be viewed as anything more than a joke.

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