Someone very smart with an otherworldly ability to think outside of the box needs to explain to me how Rusev and Lana are the heels in their feud with Enzo and Big Cass. I’m scratching my head, as all the tenants of logic that one would apply to Pro Wrestling 101 would point to the guy defending his wife’s honor from the spiky haired guy who looks like he skulks outside of methadone clinics on a regular basis and is trying to schutp his wife would be the babyface. This is pretty basic stuff.
If the poll numbers are any indication, I’m of the minority opinion with regards to Raw of two week’s ago segment which saw the Bulgarian brute Rusev delivering one hell of a beat down to Enzo in a hotel room. It’s a more risque storyline than we’ve seen from the WWE in these PG, family-friendly times, and it further muddies the water as to what constitutes a babyface and a heel nowadays.
Despite the WWE championing their current Women’s Revolution, the creative team continues to saddle Lana with the reductive, misogynistic tropes that were all too commonplace during the Attitude era. This happens despite the fact that Lana carries herself with a perfect blend of poise, confidence, and arrogance, rather than a bubblehead who can’t wait to spill out of her painted on bikini top.
During Rusev’s feud with John Cena, the struggle for the coveted U.S. Title seemed to take a backseat to Cena taking every opportunity to cut a promo meant to slut shame Lana, with insults that implored “Ho-sie O’Donnell goes back to Tinder.” That’s right folks, the “Face That Runs The Place” tore into the ravishing Russian for the heinous act of being in a committed, monogamous relationship. Even better, he was the babyface we were supposed to cheer.
This treatment of the couple has extended behind the scenes as well. WWE touts this as “the reality era” where kayfabe is dead and the stars of Raw and Smackdown are playing television characters no different from the ones on “Modern Family” or “Game of Thrones.” Yet when Rusev and Lana committed the kayfabe crime of making their engagement public, they found themselves in the crosshairs of a gasket-blowing Vince McMahon.
Rusev went from a near two year build as an unstoppable monster to being a card carrying member of the League of Nations, one of the most useless factions in professional wrestling history. Truth be told, the WWE lost out on a golden opportunity to create characters and storylines based on the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Meanwhile, Lana found herself separated from her man and stuck in some bizarro storyline that asked her to fawn and throw herself all over Dolph Ziggler and snipe at Summer Rae. That sound you hear is dollars being flushed right down the toilet.
After being fed to Vince’s “Make Roman Look Strong” machine, Rusev finds himself embroiled in a feud with Enzo and Cass over the former’s penchant for making sexually suggestive remarks towards a married woman. Big Cass is the good guy in this feud because he’s the guy defending his best buddy’s right to hit on a married woman in a monogamous relationship. Apparently, just as you can’t teach being seven feet tall, you also can’t teach consent in the WWE. Meanwhile, the woman whose only crime is not enjoying being slut shamed and sexually harassed at her workplace and her husband defending her honor are supposed to be the ones fans boo.
If Vince insists on modern day Raw mirroring the family-friendly style of the ’80s and early-’90s, then there needs to be that clear-cut delineation between heels and faces. In this era of social media and reality television shows where character’s personalities and real life personas blend into an indiscernible hodge-podge, it becomes more incumbent on the writing team to make those lines more clear-cut. Granted, in the modern day, the live crowd will cheer who they want to cheer, boo who they want to boo, and chant what they want to chant, but that’s no reason for the creative team to throw up their arms up in bewilderment and deliver the scalding hot mess that is the current Rusev-Big Cass beef.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS GUEST EDITORIAL: You know what I’m sick of? Great wrestling these days with breathtaking athleticism and “This is awesome!” chants