WWE superstar Rusev captured the United States Championship last night from Sheamus in a bout broadcast exclusively on the WWE Network following the conclusion of RAW. The bout, a solid back and forth brawl between two of WWE’s top big men, was a great experiment in integrating action from WWE’s cable televised programs with their own subscription-based service.
By promising a free month of the WWE Network to new subscribers in November and immediately giving them incentive to try out the WWE Network by promising a title bout following RAW, WWE found an excellent way to draw their fanbase into trying out their struggling service.
In terms of pure booking, having Rusev gain the United States title is a boon to both he and the belt. Rusev has been booked as a remarkably strong heel, taking out some of WWE’s most prominent big men and even being featured in a segment with The Rock. In wrestling, the individual makes the title, and not vice versa, and this is one instance in which Rusev, now a firmly established monster heel, can make the United States title mean something again.
Losing the United States title to Rusev now frees Sheamus up for bigger and better things. Sheamus has been lost in the shuffle for far too long in WWE, being pushed as a top face and brand ambassador but floundering on the card due to lukewarm crowd reception and a lack of viable feuds. Sheamus, who defeated John Cena for the WWE Championship as a heel in 2009, has a unique brawling style best suited for an underhanded style, and a change of alignment could be exactly what the Irish-born superstar needs to freshen up his act.
Although WWE has a knack for not following up on solid booking decisions, there is little reason to believe that both Rusev and Sheamus will not benefit from what transpired last night on the WWE Network. With the United States title firmly in the hands of the classic “foreign villain,” there is now an opportunity to build any number of individuals on the roster. Looking back on Rusev’s previous feuds, his work with Jack Swagger immediately springs to mind, and although Swagger has since cooled off, his feud with Rusev catapulted him from obscurity to overness based solely on his “American Hero” routine. There is no question that WWE could do that with any number of individuals on the roster, and that the entire company could be better for it.
While it’s not safe to expect big things for Rusev and the United States title in the future, the potential for something big is there.