It seems every time something happens with a nation's flag inside a WWE ring a controversy follows. For those that missed it on Tuesday evening, WWE posted a brief apology for the segment on this week's episode of Raw where Big Show tore down a Russian flag. The apology read as follows:
We at WWE would like to apologize to the Russian people for the incident on Monday Night Raw that could have been construed as disrespect for their nation’s flag.
However, before anyone gets outraged, this half-hearted apology seems more kayfabe than anything else. While an apology has been issued, the segment remains on the company's YouTube channel and can be viewed in the video below:
Big Show even picked up on the "controversy" in a segment taped for this week's episode of Smackdown.
The last flag controversy in WWE happened at a live event in Sao Paolo, Brazil on May 24, 2012 when Chris Jericho, in an ad-lib moment, crumpled a Brazilian flag and kicked it out of the ring. It resulted in law enforcement stepping in and WWE suspending Jericho indefinitely.
But I want to go beyond the "how dare they do that to the Russian flag" or "can't heels be heels anymore?" I actually feel the company was far more controversial when they scripted Lana to say “You blame Russia for recent current events,” when she seemed to incredulously refer to the MH17 airplane crash in a promo at Battleground. It was then, I called for an apology out of respect to the family members that lost loved ones in the crash.
What I want to know is why the Rusev gimmick continues in its current form at all.
We'll forget the fact Rusev isn't actually Russian but Bulgarian and even though the two countries are Slavic nations, and are bound together by a common Orthodox culture, they're still different countries. It would almost be like me trotting out to ringside with a Canadian flag, claiming superiority over the rest of the world.
But aside from the big logic gap, where's the payoff? Rusev is as protected as they come -- he's been booked unstoppable. But he's not drawing nuclear heat. Lana has done well but I question if Rusev is anymore than a midcard gimmick. Jack Swagger was booked under, despite momentum and Mark Henry couldn't get it done either. Considering WWE isn't ready to have Show put the final kibosh on him, they had him tear down a Russian flag.
I'm not condoning flag desecration, I just think the entire situation is ridiculous. How many times is the story of the American patriot versus the Russian not Russian monster going to be told? And once there is a payoff, what's next? A future comedy role with Adam Rose's bunny?
Here's an idea; rather than worry about issuing an apology for Big Show tearing down the Russian flag, why not apologize for making us endure months of a directionless gimmick bound for mediocrity?
Once again, I feel like a hypocrite for criticizing WWE for pushing Rusev because I want to see new stars created. However, it's unfathomable to me how someone like Bray Wyatt can be booked under again and again on the road to Big Show, while so much time and resources are spent on a gimmick we've seen before. What's the difference between Rusev and Vladimir Kozlov anyway?