John Cena vs. Rusev for the U.S. Championship
There is nobody else on the roster who is a better choice to beat Rusev than John Cena.
Over the past year, Rusev has become more than just a decent in-ring competitor, he has become an entire story brought to life.
After defeating the likes of R-Truth, Xavier Woods and Big E, Rusev’s first big money feud was against The Real American, Jack Swagger.
Such was Rusev and Lana’s immense heel heat, it turned two xenophobic characters- Jack Swagger and his manager Zeb Colter- into two of the hottest face characters on the roster.
After defeating a man who was supposed to be the embodiment of America, Rusev and Lana’s heat seemed to rise by the week.
Suddenly, it wasn’t a case of WWE asking the audience to care about their latest undefeated superstar, it was all about the crowd seeing the undefeated streak as a humiliating crime against America.
It wasn’t only the fans who started to care. Mark Henry went from being The World’s Strongest Man to the World’s Proudest Former Olympian, as he adopted an Old Glory mini-tron and singlet.
Even Big Show found himself not only supporting his friend Mark Henry, he became involved in a war of flags as well as a supporter of an enraged troop on an episode of RAW.
If that wasn’t bad enough for the American fans and performers, the WWE built up Rusev for his big Wrestlemania role by having him win a title that represents the U.S. from Sheamus, as well as having him defeat WWE’s Uncle Sam, Jack Swagger, one more time for good measure.
Going into Wrestlemania, Rusev has defeated a handful of former World Champions, so surely the Russian can only rise further up the Totem Pole, right?
Instead, I’ve seen arguments that Rusev should be facing an upcoming face as his atomic heel heat should be used to propel someone up the card in the same way that the Undertaker’s streak was a missed opportunity.
The problem we have with some of the rising faces is that their characters can’t really be twisted to accommodate the story.
Dean Ambrose has become popular as a man who barely cares about anything, not even his own wellbeing. The only thing he cares about is revenge, and nothing Rusev could have done on the road to Wrestlemania would have compared to what Seth Rollins achieved back in May.
If the WWE wanted to push Barrett as a face to have given us a title vs. title match, I’m not sure if the audience would have accepted cheering for a British wrestler in a feud over America. After all, America came to exist as a result of independence! If the WWE decided against the America route though, they would be denying themselves a pay-off to an amazing story that they have built over the past year.
The WWE actually shot themselves in the foot by having Ryback announce that his previous feud vs. Rusev was simply a case of a “big guy kicking another big guy’s ass”. It would have been tough for them to have picked things up with the USA mantle now included.
Choosing Dolph Ziggler would have seemed bizarre. Having had Dolph be the face of the IC division as well as being one of the main heroes against The Authority, the WWE would have been taking a bizarre left turn by having Ziggler take on Rusev. Something about that match just doesn’t feel right, considering Wrestlemania is the culmination of many stories.
The WWE have instead done the right thing by having Rusev take on a top star, in order to further the idea that Rusev is now a big deal.
Honestly though, the only other face stars that the WWE could have put against Rusev who are bigger than Swagger, Henry and Show are Cena and Orton.
Randy Orton would have been an insulting choice considering he once went AWOL from the marines. Remember the backlash against his potential casting in the Marine franchise? Imagine what it would have been like if the WWE had him walking into the press-heavy PPV as the saviour of America.
Though John Cena has been associated with killing pushes over the years, he is also a man who has been heavily associated with America.
At every Tribute To The Troops event, Cena is always one of the featured men celebrating with the country’s armed forces. Of course, on the subject of Marines, Cena was the proud lead actor of the first film of the Marine franchise.
Ever since that moment, Cena has borrowed many of the same attributes of his character from the film. Not only did he incorporate his Marine attire into his own in-ring get-up, he even went as far as adopting a salute as part of his entrance.
Even away from The Marine, John Cena is not only the face of the WWE but one of the faces of America. Since first winning the WWE Championship, Cena has been a constant on many of America’s radio and television shows. He has also granted hundreds of wishes for one of America’s top charities, the Make A Wish Foundation.
Though Cena may not walk out to Real American like the great Hulk Hogan, his patriotism does not need to be so heavily stated.
Hate him or love him, John Cena is the WWE’s Rocky Balboa. Not only is he the top dog who loves America with every beat of his heart, he’s even part-Italian, it comes from his father’s side of the family.
At Wrestlemania, we’re not just getting any star looking to defend the United States of America, we’re getting Rocky vs.Drago re-realised.