Just over two years ago, he was an undefeated United States Champion, entering his WrestleMania match against John Cena in an actual tank. The Russian national anthem played on the 'Show Of Shows' for the first time since Nikolai Volkoff had belted it out three decades earlier, with Lana resplendant in glory as she sashayed to the ring flanked by soldiers carrying his adopted flag.
It was camp, it was bombastic, and it was big.
And why not? 'The Bulgarian Brute' was, unequivocally, a big deal. A big deal, a big man, and most importantly, a big star. It was his night to lose, as 'The Champ' took his sideways step with the US Title, but the loss wasn't likely to derail the phenomenal momentum he'd built up with a character that shouldn't have even worked in the modern age.
That farcical festival may prove to be Rusev's lone WrestleMania moment.
Depressingly trackable, his decline since that point has been steep and unrelenting. A rotten love square storyline with Lana, Dolph Ziggler and Summer Rae destroyed the remainder of his 2015, before his involvement in the incomparably dreadful League Of Nations stable did the same to his trajectory the following year.
He began 2017 shambling about on Raw with Jinder Mahal as his sidekick. How times quickly and inexplicably change. An April move to SmackDown Live! was yet another false dawn. With no more budget for tanks, what weapons do WWE still have in order to rehabilitate this once-prodigious talent?
We Need To Talk About Kevin (Nash).
Michael can be found in articles or on podcasts extolling the virtues of New Generation WWF, New Japan Pro Wrestling or the new WWE angle they definitely definitely won’t ruin this time.