On Rusev’s Return to Representing Bulgaria and Lana’s Sad Descent Into Diva Territory

Based on my What Rusev is Saying post from months ago, Google sends me boatloads of traffic on the topic of Rusev, Lana, what they’re saying and what they’re up to. Recently I’ve had several search terms to the effect of why is rusev bulgarian again. It’s a real puzzler, isn’t it? Suddenly, after their break up, Rusev is waving the Bulgarian flag. So representing Russia was all because Lana is such a pretty girl? All that Russian flag worship and Hero of the Russian Federation Award business was all to make Lana happy? I didn’t actually know thing one about the politics of Russia and Bulgaria, but some quick internet reading in the EU Observer suggests frosty relations as of late:

Bulgaria, once a loyal Soviet ally, has strained ties with Moscow by allowing three small US military bases on its territory and by cancelling three Russian energy projects: an oil pipeline linking its Black Sea coast with Greece’s Aegian coast; a 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant; and the submarine South Stream gas pipeline intended to supply 63 billion cubic metres of Russian gas to the Balkans and central Europe.

The European Commission has asked Bulgaria to adapt its South Stream agreement with Russia to fall in line with EU energy and single market rules or face legal action.

Russia, in response, announced last December it would re-route the project to Turkey, putting the blame on Sofia.

Meanwhile, Bulgarian prime minister Boiko Borisov has cried foul, saying his country is not against South Stream so long as it complies with EU rules.

Kalfin, a former foreign minister, said that, in contrast to other EU members, such as Italy and Hungary, Bulgaria has neglected its bilateral ties with Russia, once a big market for its farm exports.

More than 400,000 Russians own vacation homes in Bulgaria and make up the largest portion of foreign tourists.

Basically, Bulgaria was loyal to the Soviet Union back in the day, but now they’re so friendly with the US and the EU that Russia feels totally slighted. Especially because Bulgaria cancelled those Russian energy projects. So in fact, if we’re reading Rusev and Lana as political allegory, it’s actually a touch odd that he would have been so on board with Lana’s Putin worship. His country seems to lean west these days, away from the idea that Russia is a kindly elder brother of an ally for all Slavic countries. One would think Rusev would want to represent his own country, rather than let Lana run amok in his name with her Putin propaganda.

But this article also sheds a bit of light on the question of how Lana met Rusev — it would seem a realistic part of the narrative that she was a tourist in his country. So maybe it really was all about the girl, not political at all. Except that it was, wasn’t it? Lana really hammed up the big pictures of Putin, referenced the plane shot down over Ukraine, talked about Snowden, and spoke all sorts of painful truths about the decline of America. It was very political last year, but it would appear that WWE is shying away from the political hot spot in which they’ve inserted themselves.

I can think of two reasons Rusev made a Bulgarian re-heel turn:

1) Sloppy Old School Storytelling. This lack of attention to realistic detail used to be par for the course in professional wrestling, my young friends. Back in the day, they would just change up a character because they felt like it, and we would all just accept it, because wrestling was goofy like that.

2) Lana Hit Too Close To Home. Lana’s foreign policy lectures were really interesting. When she she used to talk about the decline of America it was all a weird satire, because then she’d offer Putin as the man who could be our salvation, if only we would submit to his tyranny. The whole thing was complex, and the result was uncomfortable truths about our once great nation being spoken on a PG show, and couched in deference to a problematic foreign leader with whom we have a new cold war. So who did these opinions belong to? WWE? One of its writers? The cold war heel character? It’s a conspiracy theory, but I wonder if Lana was on the verge of causing an international incident. She did read that email from kayfabe Putin himself, congratulating Rusev for beating John Cena, “the American Beast”. What if shoot Putin didn’t like having words put into his mouth? What if Vince got a call from one of his congressional cronies firmly suggesting they tone it down? It’s just a theory. Remember the hoopla about Muhammad Hassan. Whatever even happened to that guy? Too bad his career hit a brick wall on account of him being such a political hot potato.

But this brings me to an even bigger problem — the diva-fication of Lana. Here was this proud, dignified Russian woman, a formidable manager who made her wrestler far larger than he was on his own. She was brilliant, a personality we eagerly awaited seeing every night. Then she somehow devolved into a victim of Rusev’s abuse, which wasn’t the vibe between the two of them at all when they first arrived on the scene. After that she decided to liberate herself, and instead of standing on her own two feet and building her business as a manager, she went and kissed Dolph Ziggler. Dolph Ziggler! No talk, no flirting, no building of a relationship, she just up and kissed him. That’s not really an empowered, liberated thing to do, Lana. That’s demonstrating that you DO need a man to feel safe and meaningful. Lana may as well take a role on Total Divas at this point.

So now I wonder, does Lana not think Ziggler is a stupid American? Does she not care about crushing our nation now that her new boyfriend is from Ohio? Was all that grandstanding nothing but mean girl bluster? Babyface Lana has no edge, and no appeal beyond being a hottie. Perhaps cold war heel Lana, like other cold war heels, was simply unsustainable, but I’m sad that WWE’s solution to the problem was to declaw her like this. I will forever remember the glorious Russian mean girl who yelled “Shut Tup!”

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