Let's pretend for a moment that you, dear reader, are running your own wrestling promotion. You have complete control over everything that happens, from who wins what title to the order of matches, and so on.
In this scenario, who are you going to push? Chances are, you're going to open up your eyes and ears, and you're going to let the fans tell you what direction to go in. It makes sense, doesn't it? These are the paying customers, and you should want to make them happy. If they seem to really like someone, you should want to push that person. If they aren't really taking to someone, perhaps it would be wise to move on to something else.
All of that seems easy enough.
With Vince McMahon and WWE, none of that really matters. Time and time again, WWE has proven that they don't give a damn about who the fans want and don't want, unless those opinions match up with who Vince wants and doesn't want.
A few years back, Zack Ryder got himself over with his "Z! True Long Island Story" videos on YouTube. At one point, it could be argued that he was one of the most over acts on the WWE roster. Fans went nuts for him. So, what did WWE do with that momentum? Surely, they pushed Ryder to the main event scene, ready to capitalize on his popularity? Nope. They jobbed him out, and soon enough, he wasn't even getting any television time.
Fast forward a little bit, and you have none other than Daniel Bryan. I will argue to the day I die that WWE accidentally stumbled into greatness with the "Yes Movement" story. They didn't want to push Daniel Bryan. They didn't want him to become a huge worldwide phenomenon. The fans took it upon themselves to make sure that they couldn't be denied, though. They hijacked shows, for better or worse, and made things awkward all around until they got what they wanted. WWE gave them little bits and morsels of Bryan, but would always try to shift the focus back to guys like John Cena and Randy Orton. That only made the fans more rabid in what they wanted, until the company finally relented. Some will say that the company was able to play fans like a fiddle and provide them with what they wanted, but on WWE's schedule. Again, I will go to my grave saying it was a complete accident and that they tripped and fell over the finish line. Vince and his cronies haven't shown the ability to be that patient and full of foresight in a very, very, very long time, and it hasn't really happened since. That just screams that it was nothing but serendipitous luck.
Fast forward a little once more, and that brings us to the here and now. If you attend any WWE event, from random house show to WrestleMania, there's a pretty good chance you're going to hear several "Rusev Day" chants break out. There are even multiple independent shows that have had the chant happen in recent months, and if you know anything about independent wrestling fans, let's just say it isn't often that you're going to hear any sort of pro-WWE chant from them. We've seen reports that Rusev merchandise is selling very well. That would imply that the man is a part of the main event scene, or at the very least, a midcard title holder, right?
Nope. He still loses far more often than he wins. He still enters feuds with "made" men who don't need wins, but who still get those wins.
I know what some of you are thinking, though... yes, Rusev was just placed in the United States Title match at WrestleMania. Yes, it's the biggest stage in the wrestling world, and he was involved in a title match on said stage. However, what part of his inclusion in the match appeared to be a plan? It looked like the company had no idea how or when to use Rusev at Mania, so they shoehorned him into the match at the last minute. It was a match that been rumored as a Triple Threat for months, and no matter how many people complained, it went ahead as planned until a week before the show, when Rusev magically appeared. Rumors said that Rusev requested his release, and was given the title match as a bit of a "reward" to make him happy. Sure, that's better than nothing, but where did it lead? It led to the least over act in the match winning, followed by the least interesting potential challenger winning the next title shot.
Rusev is an incredibly talented worker. He has a great combination of size, strength, athletic ability and grappling skill. He's a believable "monster", but he has also shown great comedic chops. You can create a star out of someone like that. I'm not saying he should be the Universal or WWE Champion right now, going on winning streaks that last for several months at a time, and decimating all competition placed in front of him. However, what would it hurt to give him something to work with? What would it hurt to give him the United States Title and let him add prestige to it? If you want him to be a heel, what would it hurt to let him have a feud with AJ Styles for the WWE Title, even if you don't ultimately let him have the title? I'll never understand it. You know WWE bosses hear the "Rusev Day" chants. You know they see the numbers that his t-shirt and his calendar did. It's another case of a wrestler that got himself over, with no help from the company whatsoever, and that makes them furious. WWE gave Zack Ryder bupkis, and he busted his behind to get himself noticed by the internet fans before that became him getting noticed by all fans. WWE basically saw that as him speaking out of turn, and he was damn near punished for it. We've all heard the stories about Vince McMahon's opinions of those who got themselves over in WCW, ECW, the independent scene, etc, and not under the WWE umbrella. This is pretty similar. Guys like Ryder and Rusev did things on their own, and you can't do that under Vince's watch. Oh, no, no, no.
Remember what I said earlier about WWE not caring about what the fans want to see? Imagine almost any other company or brand trying something like that. Imagine if, say, McDonald's decided they didn't want to serve Chicken McNuggets anymore, even though it's one of their most popular menu items, because they feel that their customers should be eating Filet-O-Fish sandwiches instead. Hey, if you like Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, that's great and all, but the customers have spoken, and they prefer McNuggets almost universally. You push and push for McNuggets, but McDonald's takes them from the menu and spends a lot of money on marketing for the Filet-O-Fish. You don't want a fish sandwich right now, though. You want nuggets. What would you do? You'd take yourself to someplace like Wendy's, Burger King, Chick-Fil-A, or whatever else is close to you. Why? Because they have nuggets. It's a simple practice.
Is that happening with WWE? Are fans so sick of them trying to give us a "Filet-O-Fish" when all they want is "Chicken McNuggets" that they're going elsewhere, where their opinions are more respected? Despite what random people will tell you on social media, the answer to that question is "no". WWE is making money like you wouldn't believe right now. They're doing big business. They're about to bring in some major money in a new television deal.
That's the type of thing that causes a lot of fans to feel hopeless that their voices will ever be heard. That's the type of thing that causes those fans to fall in line and accept whatever is given to them. If you look up the definition of Stockholm Syndrome, it's listed as "strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses or intimidates the other". Tell me that doesn't sound like the relationship that a lot of fans have with WWE.
Should we stop chanting "Rusev Day" at events? Of course not. Should we stop buying Rusev merchandise? Of course not. We have to hope against hope that there's something at the end of the rainbow. Even if that something is a WWE release so that he can make some money elsewhere. You're kidding yourself if you think that just about every other promotion in the world wouldn't trip all over themselves to bring him in, even if it's for a one-time appearance. He'd be a contender for the Ring Of Honor World Title or the Impact World Title from the moment he signed with either company. He'd be a big sell for a company like New Japan, who have a great history of using "hoss" style wrestlers that aren't Japanese. Not that they need the help, but Pro Wrestling Guerrilla would see their tickets to an event like Battle Of Los Angeles sell at an insane speed if they announced a newly-released Rusev as an entrant in the tournament.
Am I wrong? If you're reading these words and feel WWE has something planned for Rusev, let me know, because I just don't see it, no matter how much I want it to happen.