[RAY IS WAR] History Will Be Repeated
RAY IS WAR
Author’s Note: If you haven’t read Shinobi’s brilliant A-Z series for 2014, I highly recommend that you do. His piece on “Xenophobia” was instrumental to inspiring this column.
We are less than one week away from the inaugural version of WWE Fast Lane. This is an exciting time as a fan; WWE has built on the Royal Rumble backlash to create some excellent television over the last few weeks. The culmination of this work will be in the end result of Fast Lane’s Main Event showdown between Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan for the right to face Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. While that is the centerpiece and headliner of Fast Lane, it is not the only match of interest. The card is likely to be filled with a variety interesting showdowns. We may yet see clashes between the remnants of Mizdow and The Dust Brothers, though WWE is likely to hold off on one or both of those clashes until WrestleMania. The match that holds the most interest for me is the match between Rusev and John Cena.
In order to tackle the future of that bout, we must first consider the past. Please keep in mind with what follows that I am NOT a Cena hater. I respect what he's done, and I appreciate his in ring work more than most. That said, I’ve long held the belief that Bray Wyatt’s need for a “reboot”, his need to release his minions, have a hiatus, and come back embroiled in battle with Ambrose was due to how poorly he was portrayed in his original trilogy with Cena beginning at WrestleMania last year. This is an issue I have long held firm on. John Cena, or more accurately WWE, in 2014 FAILED to make Bray Wyatt in those bouts. Their original match at WrestleMania was a fantastic contest. Even in a loss there Wyatt came off as someone on near equal footing with WWE’s franchise player. It was a match that allowed for a full display of both the subtle nature with which Wyatt had permeated Cena’s psyche as well as Wyatt’s prodigious ability between the ropes. It was in the matches which followed that WWE not only failed to further elevate Wyatt, but served to devalue him in the eyes of discerning fans who had bought into the nuances of the feud. Lost in the latter two matches were many of the things that had made the first match so powerful. The ability of Wyatt to physically challenge Cena was all but thrown out the window when Cena had dismantled each member of the Wyatts and left them for dead in the cage before a child stopped him. Aside from said child holding Cena at bay in their second encounter it seemed that Wyatt’s mind games had suddenly fallen upon deaf ears. WWE had given Wyatt his win over the Leader of The Cenation, but it felt remarkably hollow. The final rubber match was the chance to undo what had been done at Extreme Rules, and harken back to the excellence of their WrestleMania clash. Instead the match was obviously far less about establishing Wyatt, and more clearly about John Cena once again overcoming the odds. While Lana and Rusev are akin to Beauty and the Beast, Cena overcoming the odds is truly the “tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme”.
That background is part of what makes this bout with Rusev so interesting. As much as Wyatt was quickly built up as a Main Event caliber threat, his growth never felt as painstakingly detailed and constructed by WWE. Rusev has been built as a destroyer since his official addition to the main roster. It’s been obvious since he arrived that there was something special about him. The presentation with “The Ravishing Russian” Lana, the Russian Flag dropping after every victory and the “hated foreigner” gimmick has been done perfectly. Originally I wasn’t so sure, everything felt very 80’s to me. But in time the duo won me over, not just for Lana’s beauty and outstanding curves, but rather for the Bulgarian Brute’s growth in the ring. He was protected early in a series of squashes and “hoss matches”. Over time his moveset garnered more interest from me. The savate kick that he delivers looks like a massive impact and believable maneuver. The Accolade is a fitting finisher for someone of his size as well; it also carries with it the hated foreign heel lineage of the Iron Sheik. Over the last few months I believe Rusev has arrived at a point where he can credibly stand toe to toe with many of the top stars in WWE. He faced off with WWE’s new golden boy Roman Reigns, and while he didn’t come out on the winning side of the ledger his streak was kept intact. That says a great deal to me. The negative part of me worries that they’re keeping that intact for Cena. The positive side of me believes that WWE has big plans for Rusev, and that’s the side I’m leaning towards. We saw him have a huge impact on The Royal Rumble. He and the aforementioned Wyatt destroyed a series of competitors, and he was the second to last man left in the ring, that’s nothing to sneeze at. Let’s not forget the previous year the second to last man was none other than Roman Reigns, now a staple of the Main Event scene. Sadly, beyond that there’s not much to be said for being the last eliminated of late. His presence as a member of Team Authority may have been the tipping point for me personally. I’d already started to really appreciate everything that he was doing. His athleticism for a man of his size feels special. During that bout there was never a moment where I felt like he was overshadowed by any participant in the contest. He felt like a big deal, perception is reality with him and the reality is that he is a big deal right now.
The old adage says that “it’s not the title that makes the man, but the man who makes the title”. Rusev represents that to the fullest. The US Title has more meaning right now than it has at any point in the last few years, and that is solely because it sits around the waist or over the shoulder of one of the most important stars in WWE right now. I don’t believe it’s hyperbole to describe Rusev as such. The rub of being the first to pin Rusev will be massive if properly capitalized on by WWE for whoever is the man to do it. If that individual is able to continue the momentum of the US Title afterwards then it could alter WWE for both the near and distant future. The fact that Cena is even vying for that title shows how far the strap has come. It has come that far on the back of the massive Bulgarian. That is precisely why John Cena cannot be the first to pin Rusev.
“The franchise, doin' big bid'ness, I live this. It's automatic I win this - oh you hear those horns, you finished” ~ John Cena
Those aren’t just lyrics from John Cena’s “My Time Is Now” theme song. Those words have been both Cena and WWE’s creed regarding the character for years. Because of the box office appeal of “The Franchise” and the business he does in those houses Cena has been carefully protected. While “It’s automatic I win this” is a bit extreme, it’s been accurate for the majority of the time with Cena. Victory was not just expected, it was often inevitable. Said victory usually came by Cena's creed of "Never Give Up" and overcoming the odds leading to his opponent looking less than stellar. Star after star has had their shine worn off after competing against Cena. There have been notable exceptions of course, Punk, Edge, and Bryan all stand out. Despite the protection of Cena over the years, we stand on the precipice of an opportunity. WWE has an opportunity to add another name alongside Punk, Edge and Bryan in the form of Rusev. Now is the time that WWE must acquiesce to the inevitable and realize that Cena’s time at the top is dwindling. Cena is nearing 38 years old. While that’s not to say that he can’t have a productive future going forward and be a major part of storylines; the clock is ticking, fast. Cena has had a serious neck procedure, came back quickly from a torn triceps, and has rebounded from a torn pectoral all in less time than were medically expected or recommended. Cena’s remarkable Wolverine-like recoveries could be a sign of his ability to perform at a high level for much longer than many of his contemporaries. They could also be a sign that Cena has outrun injuries for so long that at some point his body will stop responding the same way. Even if Cena has plenty left in the tank he's shown that when WWE chooses to do it there's no more effective star-maker than John Cena.
All of these factors are that reason that, be it a singular match, or some type of series John Cena CANNOT pin or make Rusev submit in any of them. I’m willing to accept Cena winning by DQ as others have against this monster. That outcome flies in the face of WWE logic which for over a decade now has been around building Cena, his reputation, and brand at all costs. Every star at some point has to give back to the business that has given so much to them. Look at the decision last year to have Brock Lesnar go over The Undertaker at WrestleMania. It was decided internally that it was for the greater good of the company and the business to see The Streak end at the hands of Lesnar. The impact of that has been that Brock Lesnar has become one of the most dominant forces in WWE history. WWE even fed their franchise player John Cena to The Beast Incarnate. That’s why I think that perhaps WWE sees that Cena’s time is nearing its end. Lesnar will be used to attempt to establish the next top face, likely Roman Reigns. It’s time for WWE to begin using Cena to establish the heels of the future. Let’s see if that begins with Rusev.
I fear that WWE will not yet pull the trigger, and that Rusev will be the next victim of the Cena Express. I loathe the idea of that happening. Yet I hold out hope that this begins not the rapid demise, but the rapid ascent of the Bulgarian Brute. WWE has promoted this PPV as the Fast Lane to WrestleMania, but I hope to see it as the Fast Lane to the changing of the guard. WWE is going to show us at Fast Lane what their next step is. We're going to be privy to the direction of the company. Good or bad, WWE is about to repeat history. It will either be more of the same with John Cena, or the anointing of a new star in Rusev. We’ve heard it from Lana’s mouth time and time again, but let’s all hope that WWE writers and Vince McMahon hear it loud and clear; there’s only one sound option for Fast Lane…
Last edited by rayhagan1; 02-17-2015 at 10:02 AM.
Read my latest. That's not a request.
THAT'S AN ORDER, MAGGOT!!!!
The Underage Pessimist
A minor critic first. Your 2nd and 3rd paragraphs were HUGE chunks of texts, especially the 3rd one. The content in it was fine, but seeing that cluster is jarring and might hurt the overall enjoyment of the column.
That being said, I really liked this one. The writing was excellent, and you made your points really well. Kudos! One of the bests I've seen from you in recent times, and given your output, that says a lot.
You know I'd disagree with you on the Wyatt bit, but we won't go through that again.
I'll speak about this at the week's end, but I think what Cena did on Raw was foreshadowing what's going to happen on Sunday. I think we're going to see a DQ ending, where Cena, rather than Rusev, goes over the edge and refuses to back down. It won't be pretty, that's for sure. I think WWE also realizes what they have with this. And Cena's demeanor in the weeks after Rumble have shown how seriously everyone involved is taking this feud. There are no jibes from Cena bout Rusev, Lana, or any of the stuff. Cena acknowledges how good Rusev is, and knows that he can be in danger. Yet, he's willing to put up a fight. And that says a lot. Even with the Wyatt feud, Cena's biggest aim was on Wyatt the character rather than Wyatt the wrestler. And that's changed in this feud.
Cena respects Rusev; something he hasn't had to explicitly say unlike his other great feuds (Punk, Bryan), and sees him as an able heir to his throne. But, he's unwilling to go down just yet. That was key for me here, and I think the right decision will be made come Sunday. I simply can't see them thinking otherwise.
I disagree. I kind of feel that Rusev could absorb a loss right now, especially to Cena, if he looked valiant going down and was permitted the chance to come back firing immediately afterwards. If he loses the title at Fast Lane - so what? It means little in the grand scheme of things. Is it better for Rusev to lose at Fast Lane when maybe 100,000 people are watching and then win at Mania when 1,000,000 people are watching? Yeah, it is. It could work in the inverse way that it did for Wyatt last year, with Rusev emerging from Mania as the big heel for the rest of the year. Plus, a short run with the US title for Cena will elevate that belt to higher standards. It's a curious thing, but I think both Rusev and the title would come out stronger for a loss at Fast Lane and a win at Mania.
It's not what I want to see, I want to see Rusev truck through Cena at Fast Lane, then again at Mania, and then make it a hattrick at Extreme Rules, then just keep rumbling on. As I said to, I think, Shinobi about this on his column, Rusev beating Cena in this feud and emerging still undefeated sets him up to build on his interactions with The Rock in a strong way approaching SummerSlam for a match that will really make the guy big news. Whether that's actually part of the plan or not, I don't know, but it feels like The Rock is the only man who has really one-upped Rusev so far in his time on the main roster, and their paths seem to keep crossing. If that's unintentional or not, I don't know, but there's little seeds being sown in my head for those two to feud eventually, even for just a one off match.
Bit on the fence on this one, Ray - certainly enjoyed your take, but my disagreement with it probably hurts my overall feelings! The opening paragraph felt a little bit clumsily worded, especially when you got into running down what's booked for Fast Lane. The transitions there just felt a little bit jumpy for me, moving quickly from the centrepiece, to matches that might possibly be booked, right back to one that actually is booked - it just jarred a little. Subho has flagged the next two paragraphs as being big chunks of text, and they are, but it's difficult to see a good way to cut them down - I think perhaps scanter detail could have been offered on the Wyatt/Cena feud, perhaps skirting the analysis of their matches to give a sort of summary feel. Also, the Beauty and the Beast line, whilst something that worked, felt oddly shoehorned in at the end of that paragraph and could have been spun out a little more into a full concept. From that point on, I really felt this picked up steam, though, and you were starting to fire a little stronger than in your opening. Those last three paragraphs were particularly tight and on point.
One thing I will say, and I'm sure this is entirely personal, is that I hate capitalised and bolded words with a passion. They add some good emphasis, for sure, but for me it makes them read brusk and finite. There's so much to discuss over whether or not WWE/Cena failed to make Wyatt work or not, whether or not Cena can or can't pin or submit Rusev, that it feels very...blunt, I suppose, is the word I'm going for, to have these words leaping out of the page at you. It's just a minor thing in the long run, I think, but I would suggest maybe considering throwing a bit of a 'my opinion' in there rather than making blanket statements. Like I said, could be compeltely personal, and if you like stick with it. I won't mention it again!
Sub: As Oli stated in his feedback they are big blocks of text, but I couldn't find a good place to break them. I like the idea of Cena being DQed, but I don't see it as particularly likely. Wyatt tried so hard to push Cena over the edge, that I feel it would almost be a shame to have Rusev be the one to do it. I've been extremely impressed with Cena's end of this feud. You hit the nail on the head when you discussed how seriously he appears to be taking Rusev, and that makes Rusev feel more important by association.
Thanks for the feedback and compliments pal! Cult made it pretty clear that you're one of the best feedbackers around, and I think that should be acknowledged more. You're a real asset around here Subby.
Oli: You make a lot of strong points. While I hadn't considered it, you might actually be right that having Cena win the US Title does more for it than having Rusev beat him, I suppose that's akin to HHH holding the IC Title during the Two-Man Power Trip days with Austin. The thing I take issue with is that they've worked so hard to put Rusev on this pedestal with not being pinned etc, that it almost seems a shame to have Cena be the first to beat him that way. He's been brought to a level where he's like a mini-Lesnar right now. As much as people are lobbying for Lesnar to mint the next star by having him put over that man and crown a new World Champ, I think Rusev's first pinfall/submission loss should elevate someone else as well. That is why Cena doesn't fit the bill for me.
You're a pretty discerning reader Oli, and I always take your feedback to heart. Perhaps the opening paragraph could have used more detail to give it a less jumpy feel while the others could have benefited from less detail. With the Wyatt portion I wanted to go somewhat deep without overkill to set up my fears about Rusev. I was afraid that by summarizing without specifying how much I truly enjoyed the WrestleMania bout it might come off as the type of mindless Cena hate that many spew. The Beauty and the Beast line was an attempt to take a very Wyatt-centric paragraph and bring it back to Rusev using Cena as the bridge. Perhaps that one missed the mark.
The bold/caps thing I think is pretty subjective. I tend to use it because I want it to be, not jarring or blunt per se, but powerfully emphatic. When it comes to Cena/Wyatt I've been very much on an island in these parts regarding that feud, and perhaps that's why I felt the need there to really stand my ground. When it comes to Rusev not losing to Cena by anything other than DQ I'm equally passionate, and thus may have overstated it a bit perhaps? I might have been better served taking a different tact though, perhaps just one or the other rather than both caps and bold. I can't say that I won't use that in the future, but the usage is likely to be less frequent. This is not the first time that I've been told that something could benefit from more presentation as opinion rather than fact. PEN had mentioned that to me in the past, and I've made a concerted effort to delineate the two in general ever since. Perhaps my passion overcame that and caused me to blur that line in my writing here.
I always appreciate the feedback and reading my friend.
Last edited by rayhagan1; 02-18-2015 at 11:14 AM.
Read my latest. That's not a request.
THAT'S AN ORDER, MAGGOT!!!!