At WWE Extreme Rules 2018, WWE champion AJ Styles defended his title against Rusev. Did the Bulgarian Brute achieve a new accolade on Rusev Day? While once a hated heel, Rusev has spent the last year or so evolving into an unlikely, albeit very over with the crowd, face. When Rusev was first paired with former Vaudevillain member Aiden English, it's likely that WWE never imagined the pairing becoming popular, but if so, that assessment turned out to be quite wrong. From almost the moment Rusev and English hit upon the concept of the invented holiday known as Rusev Day, it was clear that WWE had something big on its hands.
In one of those ridiculous gimmicks that won't make any sense to those not already a fan of WWE's often wacky brand of sports entertainment, Rusev Day is of course the personal holiday that celebrates Rusev and his many accomplishments. Before each match, Rusev's arrival is heralded by English's melodious voice singing "It's Rusev Dayyyyy!" And the best part is that Rusev Day is every day of the year. It's unabashedly silly, but that's really what makes it so much fun. The crowd loves singing along with English, chanting for Rusev, and wearing the top-selling Happy Rusev Day t-shirt.
Despite the fact that he's been on the main WWE roster for about four years now, this current incarnation is clearly the most accepted by fans that Rusev has ever been. Thus, it's not much of a surprise that WWE finally opted to give him his first ever one-on-one WWE title shot at Extreme Rules, against champion "The Phenomenal" AJ Styles. Styles has held the title since last November, when he defeated hated heel Jinder Mahal on an episode of SmackDown. So, was it a glorious Rusev Day, or did The House That AJ Styles Built remain standing?
Unfortunately for Rusev and English, Extreme Rules 2018 would turn out to be quite the sad Rusev Day indeed. After a hard-fought back and forth match, Styles once again emerged victorious, and one wonders if he'll manage to make it an entire year without losing the WWE title, a rare feat nowadays. At this point it's unclear if Rusev will receive another shot at the big gold anytime soon, but most online reports have suggested Samoa Joe as the likely challenger to Styles at August's SummerSlam pay-per-view.
While Joe and Styles have a long history together - wrestling each other multiple times during their days in both Ring of Honor and Impact Wrestling - and a SummerSlam match between them will likely be awesome, it's still sad to think that Rusev is going to be shuttled right back down to the mid-card so fast. As a performer, the man has so much potential for high-level greatness. He's also only 33-years-old, so it's possible he hasn't even hit his peak in the ring. Unfortunately, WWE just doesn't seem to see Rusev as a permanent main eventer just yet, no matter how loud the chants for him are.