There’s nothing like the notorious mood swings between love and hate of fans towards the WWE. They often come at the point where a storyline or feud finally seems to be working and picking up momentum, only to crash and burn the moment a poor creative decision is made.
With that being said, let’s talk about the United States Championship.
Just recently, the title has come off its twice-annual period of irrelevance (which is another way of saying “someone we don’t like has it”) by finding itself back around the waist of Rusev.
For a short while, Rusev began to rebuild his stock as a wrestler (after being steamrolled by Cena) by tearing through every low-carder who tried to take his title away from him. Then, a returning Titus O’Neil made good on it by getting a well-deserved push and chasing the belt. Rusev has thus far retained on each occasion, and has not had an easy job of disposing of the former Florida Gator, who has given as good as he’s got. The lack of closure from their first PPV bout and subsequent TV matches left us under the welcome assumption that O’Neil would continue to hound Rusev.
Until this week’s Raw.
Having Titus O’Neil go over Heath Slater wasn’t much of a problem; Slater might not be destined for the Hall of Fame, but he is undoubtedly one of the finest enhancement talents in WWE history, and there is no better way to solidify O’Neil’s chops than to have him effortlessly throwing people around the ring like a rag doll. Far more concerning, however, was the exchange between Rusev and Zack Ryder, in which the Bulgarian brute not only tore Long Island Iced Z to pieces after his swift loss to Sheamus, but also accepted his challenge to a match for the U.S. Title.
Now, this might be welcome news for fans of Zack Ryder; to them, this is the underutilized talent’s very last chance at regaining any kind of credibility, let alone a big spot. The trouble is, fans of Zack Ryder have declared about five ‘last chances’ a year since 2012. Since the WWE has screwed Zack Ryder pretty much every week since WrestleMania, there is absolutely no chance that anybody can say with a straight face that he might get one over on Rusev.
What we are seemingly now lumbered with is a wasted feud featuring a wasted talent in a predictable match, which bizarrely has been pushed ahead in favor of a further program with Titus O’Neil. It is sheer stupidity on creative’s part to suddenly put the brakes on O’Neil’s chase.
Here, you have a guy who is a clean-cut, Dad of the Year, all-American churchgoing former pro-footballer who can be a real powerhouse in the ring. Crucially, however, he has accrued a lot of goodwill from the wrestling fans after the way he was heavy-handedly and bafflingly suspended for something that nobody cared about, or even would have known about had Vince McMahon not flipped his lid and made a mountain out of a molehill.
Not only that, he is also one of the few remaining PG era low-carders who hasn’t spent years being humiliatingly flattened by anybody he comes into contact with (unlike Zack Ryder) , and as such, he doesn’t elicit a collective yawn from the WWE Universe every time he crops up in a feud (unlike, erm… Zack Ryder). The sudden switch to a Rusev / Ryder feud has also rendered totally irrelevant an interview O’Neil gave just recently, in which he vowed to go after singles gold before his career came to an end.
Sadly, Zack Ryder is poison to anything he touches, and putting a lame duck, who can’t even pick up meaningful wins on the lower card, into a feud with Rusev is only going to sap the life and prestige out of the U.S. Title.