So the big story at the end of this week is whether or not Rusev may be leaving the WWE. In just a matter of days he went from being advertised for a casket match in Saudi Arabia against the Undertaker to being removed from that match and replaced with Chris Jericho. In between those two announcements there’s a TMZ video where Rusev and his wife Lana are boasting about how he was going to bury the Undertaker’s ‘old ass’, which did not go over well with Taker’s wife former WWE wrestler Michelle McCool. A whole lot of drama here, around a guy who is the latest patron suit of those who like to claim that wrestler X is being misused or buried by the company and should leave for the indies where they can make all the money. And out of that springs the never dying but always stupid take about how the WWE doesn’t like it when people ‘get over on their own’, that Vince only wants you to get over if you’re somebody he chooses to put in a top spot (and with that is likely to come some gratuitous swipe at Roman Reigns). There is never a time when that take does not make me want to get someone’s internet cut off, or at least their Twitter account shut down.
First up, getting yourself over is a largely puffed up and fabricated thing. Vince still signs off on everything so no matter what someone supposedly came up with on their own it still has to run through him before it goes on TV. So to blame him for holding someone back whose segments elicited a good reaction from the crowd in attendance is pretty shaky given that he approved the segment in the first place. If he really wanted to hold them back he’d keep them off TV altogether. Getting yourself over with no help from Vince or the writers is impossible for this reason alone. No one gets to just run from backstage and grab the mic and say whatever they want or have an truly unscheduled match. If they tried it they would get fired. Some people have space to ad lib but even they have to stick to the predetermined topic at hand. But even then there is a group of people that went into making that segment happen, and it was all approved by the boss.
The Rock had a script that by his own admission he didn’t write himself, John Cena has bullet points to stick to even though he largely does his own thing on the mic. CM Punk’s ‘pipe bomb’ was not made up on the fly, it was approved beforehand by Vince. So were Stone Cold’s beer drinking, middle finger salutes, and the whole nine. Vince himself went in the ring, because they were short on credible challengers at the time, and sold a lot of Austin’s stuff to make that feud as legendary as it was. No one does it alone. Vince approves everything from the truly cringeworthy stuff like Katie Vick to all the stuff you love about Braun Strowman and Daniel Bryan. Wrestlers don’t succeed on their own and fail because of Vince and Creative; you can record all the three hour podcasts and YouTube videos you want, or tweet about in all caps to your heart’s content but that doesn’t make it true.
If someone gets over they’re responsible for a part of it, but not the whole thing. Take Braun Strowman. At the end of 2016 he was still another ‘Vince big guy’, looking like nothing but eventual fodder for one of the top guys. Don’t try lying about that either; y’all didn’t love him like that back then and you know it. But decisions were made by the creative team to have him do all those crazy things backstage, and to put him in a long program with Roman Reigns while sprinkling some matches with other big guys to make him look dominant. Without those two things we’re still wondering how long until he gets fed to Cena or The Undertaker, and how much longer he would even be with the company after that. Yes he stepped up the plate and performed; he took his opportunity and knocked it out of the park. But the opportunities he got, the ones that made the difference, were chosen by someone other than him. I can guarantee you if he spent half of last year feuding with anyone else the results would not have been the same.
Point is, you can’t do it by yourself. No one does. You can have all the talent in the world but there are a million decisions that are made about how to utilize your talent to entertain the audience before you step from behind the curtain. Decisions that you may have some input into but are nowhere near close to entirely yours. So no, getting yourself over is not a thing. And if anyone there thinks it is then maybe they need to get over themselves (see what I did there?) . Now can you do your own thing outside of the show through social media and what not to gin up some support? Sure. But that’s not without a downside risk. And here’s where we get to the fun part. What people really mean by getting yourself over really means going outside the system to get people to advocate for you to get a bigger push and cheer for you. Which may sound all good, but not if your in the business of writing a show and planning out the next six months to a year of booking. You see, someone ‘getting over outside of Creative’, if there weren’t already plans for them, can throw a huge monkey wrench in the process.
Why? Largely because once the train starts rolling there may be no satisfying the passengers. ‘Put Rusev on TV more’ becomes ‘put Rusev in title matches’ which becomes ‘Rusev needs to win a title’ which becomes ‘why isn’t Rusev World Champion instead of US champion or tag team champion?’ And if you have a whole year planned around AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, and eventually Daniel Bryan holding that title you can’t junk all that to fit Rusev in there. And for all we know they could have put the US belt on Jinder Mahal to set up a proper face turn for Rusev to match the cheers he’s been getting, one where he actually wins the US title as a face. Short cutting that for a cheap pop by having Rusev win the title at WrestleMania puts you immediately into ‘what now?’ territory that any writer wants to avoid. And the end of the day this is a weekly TV show that culminates in larger scale televised shows. Inserting a new character into a planned out plotline, be it just earlier than expected or at all, can disrupt the entire flow of everything and ultimately make you madder than if they’d just left them out altogether.
It’s also a risk to the wrestler themselves. A reputation for always trying to force your way out front and circumventing the normal process can be pretty damning, to the point where it may just be easier to not deal with you at all. There’s a reason certain people on the roster (namely Randy Orton, Dolph Ziggler, Kane, Big Show, Natalya, and Alicia Fox) keep finding their way into matches and angles that a lot of people think they shouldn’t be getting anymore. They’re reliable workers who can get plugged in to whatever role is needed be it on TV or a pay per view. Yeah, you don’t hear many chants for them but in the grand scheme of things they’re more valuable than the people who gin up paper thin support on social media that doesn’t amount to any real money for the company. I guarantee you that Kane and Big Show putting Braun over on RAW last year did more for the WWE than making and selling Rusev Day T-shirts. At the end of the day the WWE is a workplace like any other job, and those who make life more difficult had better be exceptional if they plan on sticking around long.
I could be wrong but I don’t think Rusev is going to end up leaving. Do I think he should be a bigger player than he is right now? Absolutely. But as big as you see some on the internet say? I don’t know. But I think he and Lana are shooting themselves in the foot here, and that the people egging on them aren’t to be listened to. Those people don’t have to bear the brunt of the consequences should Rusev and Lana go to the indie circuit or another company but instead of the next Cody he becomes the next Damien Sandow. There are no guarantees out there for real, but I sure as hell wouldn’t advise anyone in the business to make a career decision based on what I say on twitter or in this space here. Because like all of you reading this I really have no idea what all goes into making someone on the roster into a performer that benefits the company as a whole so for me to be loud and wrong (or loud and right for that matter) about it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Do what’s best for you Rusev, just make sure you know exactly what it is.