At Extreme Rules this Sunday, Rusev will face AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. This will be Rusev’s first ever one-on-one WWE Championship match. Meanwhile, Styles has been in 15 one-on-one WWE Championship matches.
Many are expecting Styles to walk away victorious, and that’s not a bad result. It would be hard to complain about that. But what if Rusev won? What if the Bulgarian became the new WWE Champion? What are the pros and cons of Rusev becoming WWE Champion?
Get this: AJ Styles’ reign as WWE Champion is rapidly approaching 250 days in length. That is a very long time. In that time frame, he’s faced and defeated seven different challengers (fun fact: five of those seven moved to Raw, and one is a free agent who shows up wherever and whenever he wants). Styles’s reign hasn’t been clogged by the same few people, unlike before when pretty much the only three people in the WWE Championship picture were John Cena, Triple H, and Randy Orton. But Styles has been in control for a long time.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially when one is as consistent and talented as AJ Styles. Still, if Rusev were to beat him and become WWE Champion, he’d be new blood in a title scene. I know that after the whole Jinder debacle that it’s hard to want new blood, but Rusev’s different from Jinder.
Variety is the spice of life, and a Rusev title run would be interesting to say the least.
Don’t take this the wrong way; AJ Styles is simply in a league of his own. As talented as Rusev is, Styles is simply that much better. While the Bulgarian is undeniably great in his own right, I don’t think that he could have a good match with someone like Jinder Mahal. On the other hand, Styles did just that.
The Phenomenal One brings out the best in everyone he faces. Several people have had some of their greatest matches against him. John Cena, Dean Ambrose, Shinsuke Nakamura, Roman Reigns, Finn Balor, and others are proof that Styles makes a talented wrestler look even better.
The Bulgarian Brute can’t elevate talent the way AJ does. That’s not a knock against him; it’s just a fact. The obvious solution is to not put people who can’t wrestle in the title picture, but the risk is certainly there.
Sometimes, all a superstar needs is that one big win, and they are solidified as a top player. They become made men. We see it all the time. From Batista and Cena’s historic wins at Wrestlemania 21, and more recently, when AJ Styles beat Dean Ambrose for the WWE Championship. More often than not, winning the big one ensures that you remain one of the upper guys even after you lose the title. There are some exceptions to this rule (Jinder Mahal, Bray Wyatt), but generally speaking, former WWE Champions are treated well.
A win over Styles would cement Rusev as one of the top guys on Smackdown. He succeeded where many others, such as Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin, and Shinsuke Nakamura failed. That is how championships should work.
Again, there is a risk to this. Say Rusev doesn’t connect with the fans for whatever reason or his reign just generally falls flat. That’s still okay. At least something new was tried.
When Samoa Joe came over to Smackdown in the most recent Superstar Shakeup, this never before seen match (I’m kidding, I’m kidding) became a very real possibility. It’s amazing that this match hasn’t happened yet (given that Daniel Bryan’s first match on Smackdown since returning to action was against AJ Styles), but given how long WWE waited before having Nakamura v. Styles, it’s also pleasantly surprising.
If Rusev were to beat Styles, then we wouldn’t get the rumored and highly anticipated program between Styles and Joe at Summerslam. Joe and Styles is a money match that is probably being saved for a big occasion, and Summerslam is definitely a big occasion.
If Rusev has to sacrifice himself at the altar so that we can get Joe v. Styles, I guess I’d be alright with that.
Feel free to laugh at me if instead, we get Styles v. R-Truth for the WWE Championship at Summerslam.