Despite having one of the best selling t-shirts in WWE, Rusev can't seem to get over the hump when it comes to his booking on SmackDown Live.
Heading into WrestleMania 34, many expected him to walk out the new WWE U.S. Champion due to his increasing popularity. Instead, WWE put the title on Jinder Mahal. This week on SmackDown, Rusev had a chance to become the number one contender during a triple threat match with Randy Orton and Bobby Roode. Instead, WWE went back to their old standby, Randy Orton, to be Mahal's first challenger.
Even more odd than the lack of push Rusev is receiving these days is the lengths to which the company has apparently gone to drown out his massive crowd reactions. In a video clip this week on their official YouTube page, WWE edited the crowd chants during a segment to "AJ Styles" rather than the "Rusev" chants that the crowd actually was chanting on Tuesday night.
The edit took place in a video clip highlighting Paige's debut as SmackDown GM. She spoke in the segment about booking Daniel Bryan in a match for that night. The crowd chanted for Rusev to be the opponent, but she announced AJ Styles as the opponent instead.
You can see the edit below, courtesy of Twitter user @DunKology.
Now that is truly bizarre. Both men are incredibly popular with the crowd, but why the effort to edit in artificial AJ Styles chants when the crowd was actually chanting for Rusev? Yes, Styles vs. Bryan was the (fantastic) match we ended up getting, but does it really hurt to have the truth portrayed on their YouTube page? This is apparently a case of WWE wanting continuity in their storylines, even when it comes to what the crowd was anticipating.
As reported earlier in the day Thursday, Rusev has also been pulled from a previously advertised casket match with The Undertaker at Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia in two weeks. Instead, a returning Chris Jericho will take his place. The abrupt change was explained in storyline fashion as Lana not wanting to see her husband in a casket match.