Following his suspension and subsequent loss to Finn Bálor on Raw last week, it was inevitable that Roman Reigns’ career would take a dive for the foreseeable future.
A month away for his first violation of WWE’s wellness policy was naturally going to result in a demotion for the three-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion. To continue with his monster push into the debut of the brand extension would have just been asking for trouble, and could even have brought into question the severity of his punishment.
That being said, when a big name like Reigns’ is forced down the roster, the possibility of one of the upper mid-card’s mainstays suffering as a result can turn into a serious risk. That risk became reality for the United States Champion Rusev on this week’s episode of the flagship show, as Reigns turned his attention to the “Bulgarian Brute” with merely three weeks to go before SummerSlam.
With such little time to go before the second biggest event on the WWE calendar, one can only assume that Reigns and Rusev will be battling it out when the company hits the Barclays Center.
Although this feud may seem like filler before Roman Reigns eventually climbs his way back up the ladder, for somebody like Rusev, who is only just beginning to pick up steam again as the U.S. Champion after a lengthy period of obscurity, a rivalry against one of the WWE’s biggest names could either send him to the moon, or stop him dead in the dirt.
The man is extremely gifted when it comes to dismantling his opponents in the ring, but the disadvantage to his style is that when a guy like Rusev is defeated, no matter how many victories he has under his belt, it can be very difficult to rebound from that loss without a loss of credibility.
He’s tried the comedy act, and although he does carry a subtle sense of humor into his segments, what he needs to be propelled towards bigger and better opportunities is sheer and utter dominance.
There’s no question that Rusev is still only getting started when it comes to recapturing the status he carried during his initial run with the gold, so it would be far too early to have him take a clean loss to Roman Reigns this month, regardless of whether or not the championship is on the line.
It hurt him enough to take the pinfall loss to Bálor last week, but defeat in one-on-one competition would really drive the nail home that Rusev may not have hope for a thrilling run ahead of him.
On the flip side, for Rusev to emerge victorious over Reigns in any manner would be huge news.
Being realistic, he’s not going to tap the man out anytime soon, but if he caught him unexpectedly with one of those huge superkicks, he could justifiably overcome the former champion.
In his current reign as U.S. champ thus far, Rusev has left lower-tier stars such as Zack Ryder and Titus O’Neil in ruins on his journey to supremacy. There would be arguably no bigger name for Rusev to overcome than Roman Reigns’, and to do so would result in not only the “Bulgarian Brute’s” stock skyrocketing, but would make all future rivalries for his title far more interesting.
To see anybody like Sami Zayn, Cesaro or even Neville go head-to-head with Rusev would be far more intriguing knowing that the reigning champion had been on the tear prior to the fight, dispatching former world champions in the process.
Roman Reigns wouldn’t suffer too much from the loss either. You could consider it another slap on the wrist for compromising whatever plans WWE had for him prior to his wellness policy violation, and knowing WWE, it could easily use this loss somewhere down the line as the birthplace for Reigns’ own personal rejuvenation as he vows to get back into the main championship picture.
Vince McMahon has always been a sucker for stories involving an established star falling down the ranks and having to work hard to reclaim their throne, so history would suggest that even after a loss to Rusev at SummerSlam, Roman Reigns could still find himself – most likely to the chagrin of the fans – in the main event at WrestleMania 33.
The idea of Reigns beating Rusev and potentially even capturing some mid-card gold isn’t out of the question, however. It most certainly wouldn’t be the result that either of the two men are hoping for, but at the end of the day, it’s not about what they want individually.
It’s about what WWE thinks should be done, and if they believe a U.S. Championship run might keep Reigns relevant while newer faces emerge in the top spot, then don’t put it past them to make it happen.
It’s really all going to be down to whether or not the title is on the line when the match is made official. Either way, the only scenario in which Rusev comes out with a morsel of dignity as a performer is if he keeps the championship and puts up a hell of a fight, no matter what the decision.