The last 24 hours has been an interesting one for fans of Rusev Day‘s patron saint, Rusev. First, out of the blue, he was surprisingly announced as the singles opponent for The Undertaker at The Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia at the end of the month (and even odder, in a Casket Match. Then, just as fans had come out of the fog of confusion as to why this match was even a thing, it was announced that Rusev had been dropped from the match (and at present, the card, as he wasn’t re-announced for the actual Rumble itself), with his spot replaced by Chris Jericho (who had previously been announced just for the Rumble). Confused yet? Okay, let’s back this Rusev Train up a little bit and start over…and this time we’ll watch how it played out in real time. A day in the life of Rusev Day.
RUSEV DAY: THE ANNOUNCEMENT
Yesterday, the WWE announced that The Undertaker was returning for yet another match, hot off his squash of a most likely half drunk John Cena at WrestleMania 34, and would be facing Rusev Day’s “Bulgarian Brute” in a Casket Match at The Greatest Royal Rumble event. They even sent out a press release to draw attention to it:
Following his triumphant return at WrestleMania, The Undertaker will take on Rusev in a Casket Match at the Greatest Royal Rumble event, which takes place at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Friday, April 27, at 7 p.m. AST. The object of a Casket Match is for a WWE Superstar to trap their opponent inside the casket and close the lid.
RUSEV DAY: THE INITIAL REACTION
Fans were immediately up in arms across Social Media, decrying the lack of storyline and the obvious next major loss for someone who had become of the WWE’s most organically over characters since Daniel Bryan‘s run to WrestleMania 30. Rusev himself seemed to have fun with the criticism and tweeted the following:
Bury me softly, Brother https://t.co/IWnBvL20Ez
— Rusev (@RusevBUL) April 11, 2018
RUSEV DAY: THE TMZ INTERVIEW
But this morning, Rusev and his wife Lana were in good spirits about the match, appearing on TMZ Sports to promote the match. TMZ has worked with pro wrestlers in the past to push kayfabe a bit, most recently with the Sami Callihan-Eddie Edwards incident and Impact Wrestling. Rusev and Lana (who spoke out of her accent) trash talked The Undertaker, with Rusev saying that The Undertaker was past his prime and he was going retire him. It was a fun interview that made them both seem more likeably fun who were having some fun with the match announcement.
RUSEV DAY: THE WIFE’S REACTION
Then Michelle McCool posted a Tweet in reaction to the video that many seemed to take her being upset with the video.
Had to listen to see if “crush his old a$$” was ACTUALLY said! Guess some people are smarter than others…😎🙄🖤 https://t.co/avOLWKORV8
— Michelle McCool (@McCoolMichelleL) April 12, 2018
But she later cleared up that that wasn’t what she’d meant in the first place. She was commenting on the fact that TMZ quoted Rusev as saying he would “crush his old ass”, but that people were getting worked up over nothing – Rusev never actually said that and people were getting worked up over nothing.
Precisely! Glad you get it….didn’t realize that was such a hot topic!🤦🏼♀️ https://t.co/COK3U1GyMt
— Michelle McCool (@McCoolMichelleL) April 12, 2018
RUSEV DAY: THE OTHER WIFE’S ANNOUNCEMENT
Before McCool had clarified her original statement, Lana made an announcement of her own, stating that she had approached WWE officials to consider pulling her husband from the match because she refused to let him have a Casket Match. It seemed an odd tweet until
All over the world, little boys and girls are celebrating #RusevDay, they smile for the greatest Superstar ever ! I’ve already spoke with @WWE officials to change that match because I REFUSE to let my husband @RusevBUL compete in a Casket Match at #WWEGRR! Happy #RusevDay
— Lana Day (@LanaWWE) April 12, 2018
RUSEV DAY: THE WWE’S ANNOUNCEMENT
Roughly 45 minutes after Lana’s tweet, the WWE then made the announcement that Chris Jericho, who had only just been announced as a surprise entrant in the actual Rumble itself, was now replacing Rusev in the Casket Match. Fans were suddenly confused more than they were when the original match was announced in the first place.
— WWE (@WWE) April 12, 2018
RUSEV DAY: THE EDITED VIDEO
Around the time of the replacement announcement, a YouTube video showing the edit of the WWE’s YouTube video of Paige revealing AJ Styles as Daniel Bryan’s first opponent on Smackdown Live, pointed out that the edited out the Rusev Day chants and replaced the audio with an AJ Styles chant. While in all likelihood, it was just to condense the necessary narrative (the Rusev Day chant was nice for the live viewing, but it was a necessity for catching people up on the Daniel Bryan story) and was actually the merging of the first part of the segment with the last part of the segment (the clapping scenes are definitely from the actual AJ chant that followed in the second segment). But it was all enough to fuel the fire that the WWE was trying to quickly erase Rusev from WWE programming. The actual WWE video is below and while there’s a second bleed where that highlighted Rusev Chanter is shown, the rest of the video is clearly the part of the video where it was actually the AJ Styles chant from the show. If anything, the WWE is guilty of a clumsy edit cut, but not actually putting in AJ Styles chants (it’s at the 2:10 part)
RUSEV DAY: THE SOCIAL MEDIA PURGE
Life is life….. it will be #RusevDay somewhere
— Rusev (@RusevBUL) April 12, 2018
Then Rusev finally spoke on Social Media for the first time and pondered that perhaps it was time for Rusev Day to be somewhere other than where he was. While it could be a simple tease that he’s going Raw next Monday for the Superstar Shake Up (Rusev is a notorious Twitter troll to the fans), many took it as a possible sign he was leaving the WWE or had been released. After all, rumours of him asking for his release resurfaced again last week and that he had been given the US title match at WrestleMania as way to coax him to stay (which oddly enough replaced the report that his WrestleMania match was a reward and start of a major push for all of his hard work and merch sales). Rusev himself did little to quell those fires when he suddenly purged his Social Media accounts.
His Twitter went blank except for his handle. All reference to the WWE removed, with a banner that advertised nothing but his wife’s movie, Other Versions of You – which some people probably took as another “Paul is Dead” clue. His Instagram also changed, with his Don’t Be A Robot appearing in his profile, his real name on the account, and what appeared to be an email for a booking agency.
Despite the fact there is no Saga Consulting Agency booking wrestlers (the only Saga Consulting is a consulting firm in the oil & gas industry or an HR solutions firm that works with Corporations), many fans took this as a clear sign that he was now taking appearances for potential other indie promotions. The confusion and rage turned to cries of joy as fans began to compile dream lists of Rusev showing up in Lucha Underground, or PWG Battle of Los Angeles, or NJPW, facing off against Jeff Cobb or Matt Riddle or Tomohiro Ishii.
RUSEV DAY: A REFLECTION
In an age where the internet fans are convinced that kayfabe is dead, wrestlers and wrestling promotions have been looking for new ways to bring back some of that disbelief and cloud of doubt. In the age of the internet, that has been hard to pull off. Spoilers, photo leaks (of them simply being normal, not even the adult ones), it’s hard to be shocked anymore. But using Social Media to flame stories, from embers to forest fires, has been an increasing tool in wrestling storytelling. Kenny Omega vs Chris Jericho at Wrestle Kingdom 12 was entirely based around a Twitter feud that seemed real for the longest time, the impending Ricochet vs Velveteen Dream feud was sparked by a “routine exchange” between the two on Twitter months ago, when Dream bashed indie wrestling. It’s quite possible that the WWE could be working on an angle built out of Social Media – it’s perception of events and their own conclusions. Walk outs of the WWE have become somewhat a norm now in the WWE, with the real life departures of CM Punk, Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Ryback and most recently, Neville, that fans are going to believe everything is real for those types of situations. Working one into an angle is surely something that would work well (at least the first time) and is the next step in portraying the old “company holding you back” storyline – doing a Daniel Bryan tale won’t cut it anymore. It’s not like they haven’t teased recent releases with kayfabe of going off the WWE Universal grid – Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn have returned to Twitter as Kevin Steen and El Generico. But this could go one step further. They could have Rusev work some indies, like perhaps EVOLVE or PROGRESS, for a month or two to sell the gimmick. Hell, send Steen and Generico with him (they’d be a lovely surprise trio at this year’s CHIKARA King of Trios). And then have Rusev come back in a few months and attack from the crowd. The reverse Scott Hall-WCW return – this time it’s a former employee who went to the indies returning to attack the WWE. The fans would explode seeing Rusev coming back – he could return as a savage brute, but one that the fans now stood firmly behind.
Or who knows. Maybe it actually is all legit.
In that case, blame Michelle McCool.