While the future destination of the former Revival (now apparently using the moniker The Revolt) may be one of the hottest stories in the wrestling world right now, perhaps the industry’s hottest singles free agent is the recently-released Rusev.
Of all the talents let go by their former employers last week, AEW commentator Jim Ross is most excited to see Rusev make the jump to All Elite in the coming months.
As a legitimately heavyweight with size, speed, and deceptive agility, Rusev is also a talent capable holding his own in both believable heel and goofy babyface roles.
When considering the laundry list of talents that the former “Bulgarian Brute” could encounter during his AEW tenure, five names would almost assuredly result in high-profile contests.
Top AEW Feuds for Rusev as a Heel
If you jump back to 2015, suggesting that Rusev vs. Cody Rhodes could be an eventual main-event level feud for a national company with global pay-per-view distribution, many would have chuckled. Sure, the talent of both men was recognizable, but Cody had not been given the opportunity to transform into one of the most complete pro wrestlers of the modern era. Likewise, Rusev was still establishing himself in the ring and on the microphone.
Today, however, you could argue that Cody could feud with a broom and produce compelling television.
Fortunately, Rusev is certainly not a broom. Instead, he is a talent who has been held to the mid-card for half a decade and will most likely have a great deal to prove post-WWE.
Aside from his Wrestlemania 31 contest with John Cena — which can ultimately been seen as the end of Rusev’s potential assent into the main event scene — the Bulgarian has never really had any classic, high-level feuds.
And no, his love triangle with Bobby Lashley and Lana does not count.
Working a three month program would Cody would certainly establish Rusev’s character and give him an opportunity to show what he is capable of in a serious feud.
“Hangman” Adam Page
The evolution of Hangman Page over the years has been a slow of beautiful transformation from a talented, athletic, good-looking country boy from Virginia to one of the hottest acts in pro wrestling.
As one half of the AEW World Tag Team champions alongside Kenny Omega, Page is likely to be locked into an eventual feud with “The Best Bout Machine” sooner or later. It’s hard to tell at this point where Page will emerge as the hero or the villain in that saga.
As a rebellious, lone-wolf, Page has the potential to be a strong-and-silent alpha male as he distances himself from his peers in The Elite. A perfect foil would be a monstrous Rusev, who could rise through the ranks after demolitions of Page’s stablemates.
In a feud between two absolute bulls, AEW could witness some of its hardest-hitting contests if these two were even to square off.
Whether Moxley was still AEW World champion or not, this is a feud that could be infinitely more intense and memorable than any conflicts the pair could have had during their WWE run.
The two stars clashed on numerous occasions during the mid 2010s, but were never able to explore a proper program.
One could expect that their encounters would draw similarities to the intense bouts Moxley has had during his extended run in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Sure, it might not reach the levels of brutality and intensity we saw during Moxley’s 5-star war with Tomohiro Ishii, but we’ve never really seen what Rusev is capable of in a more open environment. With that says, it might be just as good, or even better.
If Moxley goes on a lengthy run with the AEW World title, though, Rusev might hit the promotion with enough energy and momentum that he could be a legitimate challenger.
Top AEW Feuds for Rusev as a Babyface
Maxwell Jacob Friedman
In the modern wrestling landscape, MJF may have established himself as the premier heel in the entire business. Cocky, smarmy, and consistent with his character when most of his contemporaries will let go of any semblance of kayfabe whenever the opportunity arises, the upside on the young prodigy is seemingly endless.
Right now, AEW’s babyface roster is a bit stacked with The Elite, Jon Moxley, and now Matt Hardy holding down the fort toward the top of the card. With rising acts like Jurassic Express, SCU, and Darby Allen offering a strong mid-card, placing Rusev into the mix as a babyface may be a bit overkill.
But, consider this. With the recent introduction of Brodie Lee and Lance Archer to the roster, as well as menacing big-man Wardlow slowly working his way into in-ring action more regularly, simply throwing another massive heel on the roster may fall flat.
As a babyface, MJF would absolutely force Rusev into uncharted waters on the microphone, giving a glimpse of what the Bulgarian is truly capable of in regards to the promo game. If MJF’s Revolution showdown with Cody Rhodes is any indication, he is also capable of holding his own in a heated, physical contest.
Many people felt that crowning either Kenny Omega or Hangman Page as the inaugural AEW World champion would have been the best option, but the 49-year-old Jericho quickly changed everyone’s mind during his run with the title.
Le Champion regularly became the best part of Dynamite each week, putting on quality matches and doing some of his best promo work in the process — a feat that covers a lot of ground.
While it’s likely Jericho will remain a seminal figure in the company for some time, the pressure to keep Jericho firmly in the win column has been significantly reduced since he is no longer holding the promotion’s top championship.
Much like MJF and Cody would put some pressure on Rusev to step outside of his comfort zone (or, perhaps more accurately, his boundaries) on the microphone, Jericho could help transition the talented Bulgarian into the main event scene with a memorable feud.
A victory over the former champion at one of AEW’s four pay-per-views would also catapult Rusev to the top of the rankings, so this may be an avenue they might explore.
Who would you most like to see Rusev feud with in AEW? Let us know in the comments below.