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Since Shinsuke Nakamura won the 2018 Royal Rumble to lock his WWE Championship match in at Wrestlemania 34, to say we’ve sparingly seen him since is an understatement. Aside from a short match in which Aiden English landed too much offense for my liking, Nakamura has been about as prevalent as compliments from fans to Road Dogg on Twitter. Nakamura’s first year on the main roster has been a strange one, as he’s been this generation’s Undertaker of Smackdown.
He showed up to a lord’s welcome on the Smackdown after Wrestlemania 33, then got some of the weirdest booking a budding mega-star has ever seen. Nakamura has often dropped off of television, sometimes appearing in a contender match or in a short promo, but overall leaving a lot to be desired as his PPV matches saw him matched with several opponents that were terrible stylistic matchups for him. Could using him more each week help? Well, of course, it would. Despite the inconsistent handling of him, Nakamura’s Royal Rumble win was well received and executed better than any Rumble in recent history, as he is over at a level plenty of top babyfaces have struggled to reach. For that exact reason, he didn’t need the wind aid of WWE trying route Rusev’s energy toward him in a PPV match the month before Wrestlemania 34.
Rusev Day has become the avatar for a man that the WWE audience has grown to love after his early 1 dimensional years on the roster. His personality and humor come through almost anything he does. From appearing on Total Divas to cutting people’s names short like Sam Zayn or Bob Roode to creating a VERY REAL daily national holiday, Rusev has ORGANICALLY connected with the audience. Strange to say that he too has been rarely used on Smackdown aside from a United States match with Bobby Roode in which he came up short. It’s been feeling like sabotage in Rusev’s case as WWE knows they have a fan favorite on their hands, but he doesn’t happen to fit inside the plans that they have for the short term going into Wrestlemania 34. This is a great time to point out that Rusev Day became a National Holiday late in 2017 when WWE could have already fit Rusev into plans going forward. If not the main event level, at least the one under it.
Wade Barrett recently came out in an interview with the following.
"I don't think they purposely sabotage, I think there are limited spots to be at the top of the card or the highlighted guys – there are probably seven or eight guys where it's like, 'Ok these are our main guys going forward for the next six to twelve months' and they need to be the guys getting the biggest reactions, being involved in the biggest storylines and stuff like that.
"So if there's a guy who is getting bigger reactions than them, then I think there is an attempt to, I'm sure, make that reaction transfer on to the guys they are going with – the guys they want to push. There are just a limited number of spots, that's the issue.”
Some people call it energy, at times it has been juice, but now within the lingo among some folks, it’s called a wave. Rusev has created his own wave that WWE is trying to redistribute on to other guys. Like Barrett alluded to, Wave Redistribution isn’t something new, this is just one of the most noticeable examples of this. It’s why Rusev was looking up at the lights against a guy he’s clearly more over than in Bobby Roode, and why he took an RKO from a stale Randy Orton. This is disingenuous of WWE, and what they claim fans role in the WWE Universe is. If they are going to push who they want, why does it matter who the crowd is cheering? Like ever? I understand that Wrestling is about leveraging expectations, but doing such a piss poor job of handling organic things more often than not this decade has led me to wonder if WWE cares about such a thing.
In theory, neither Shinsuke Nakamura nor Rusev is set to benefit from this. On the surface, it is a massive overachieving mid-card act, against an over main event act. Nakamura really wouldn’t get greater reactions than he does by beating Rusev, and WWE is only gambling with Rusev’s overness by beating him this many times, and showing that we shouldn’t ever make his merchandise the best seller again. However, Rusev is Nakamura’s best PPV opponent since the second month of Baseball Season in 2017. What will save them is what I like to argue always saves guys from the WWE Creative team …
Both guys being really good professional wrestlers.
If there is no 80/20 agenda for this match, Nakamura and Rusev will collectively showcase why fans are behind both of them. My buddy Dan said it best, “There’s nothing written that says I have to cheer one guy over another.” I’m going to guess there is a lot of overlap between fans of both Rusev and Nakamura. A match that neither guy really needs, may work out a way different than WWE intends it to, with BOTH guys soaking in the aura. This looks to be a better version of the Luke Harper vs Randy Orton match that overachieved at last year’s Elimination Chamber. Instead of finding a way to knee-cap Rusev Day, WWE needs to find a way to embrace it, before Rusevmania arrives and they run into a bigger problem, at the wrong time.
Rich Latta is a writer for LordsofPain.net & host of the One Nation Radio Podcast on www.SocialSuplex.com He appears monthly on Chad Matthews’ podcast The Doc Says after Raw PPVs. GFX by @SirMikeFergus Give him a follow on Twitter, @RichLatta32 or drop him a comment below. If you like hip-hop, check out his music here. www.Soundcloud.com/RichLatta Look Him Up On Youtube As Well.
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