WWE’s decision to put the WWE title on Jinder Mahal not only changed the course of Smackdown Live, but Rusev’s return to television, too, according to a new report from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
Rusev, if you recall, was last seen via satellite on Smackdown Live demanding the blue brand’s commissioner Shane McMahon give him a WWE title match. At the time, he was scheduled to return to the Tuesday night program the following week to come face-to-face with McMahon, but he wasn’t seen or mentioned after being advertised for the show a week prior.
Now we may know why with this latest excerpt from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
“According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, plans to have Rusev challenging for the WWE Championship at the WWE Money In The Bank pay-per-view appear to be off since Jinder Mahal won the title.”
Had WWE decided to have Randy Orton go over in the main event of Backlash, you could see Rusev being next in line to face The Viper at Money in the Bank in June, but with Rusev returning as a heel, challenging new WWE champion Mahal wouldn’t have made as much sense.
Still, Mahal and Rusev have history, and with Lana looking as though she’s debuting on Smackdown Live as a new character absent of her longterm partner, the creative team could always reintroduce Rusev to the WWE audience as a babyface — similar to what they did on Monday Night Raw when Seth Rollins returned from injury.
Rusev is a talented worker, and he’s definitely in a difficult position here, along with the creative team. Reintroducing him at the right time in the right way is important, but it is a bummer that Mahal’s victory reportedly nixed the Bulgarian’s return to television and, really, a potentially huge return.