After his main roster debut on the Raw after WrestleMania 30 (although he did make a surprise appearance during the Royal Rumble that year), he went on to face – and beat – a host of WWE stars.
Battling against stars like Big Show, Mark Henry and Jack Swagger, his feuds devolved into Russia vs The USA.
Despite being Bulgarian, he represented Russia and Vladmir Putin, incorporating various Russian motifs into his promos.
After beating all America had to offer, it seemed natural that only one man could return and defeat him for the United States Championship – America’s Olympic Hero, Kurt Angle.
Sadly, the WWE quashed the idea, with a very morbid reason behind it.
Kurt Angle vs Rusev
Rusev recently revealed that he pitched a match with Kurt Angle during his undefeated streak in WWE, but that it was rejected by WWE officials.
The man now known as Miro in AEW revealed, in a recent Youtube livesteam, spoke about how he pitched to wrestle Kurt Angle at WrestleMania 31.
He asked this after the success of his feud with Jack Swagger at Summerslam, with a return by Angle being the natural progression following that.
“I wanted to wrestle him [Kurt Angle]. The first year I was with WWE, I pitched for Kurt Angle to come back. That was before the John Cena situation. I think it was before, but anyways, I wanted to bring back Kurt. The Swagger thing happened at SummerSlam and I started thinking about what I could build towards for ‘Mania. Nobody told me that I was going to work John for ‘Mania. I wanted to wrestle Kurt.
Of course, Rusev went on to wrestle John Cena at WrestleMania 31, which brought Rusev’s incredible tank entrance to life.
However, this was not why the WWE rejected Rusev vs Kurt Angle.
The Bulgarian revealed that he was told by WWE officals that “We don’t want to feel responsible if he comes back and dies.”, showing how bas they thought Kurt Angle’s health was at the time.
“I talked to two people, I’m not going to say who they are, but I talked to two people and they are really high up there. I said, ‘How about we bring back Kurt? It’s going to be great. One, he’s the greatest professional wrestler ever. Two, it’s USA coming back and I’m doing the Russian thing.’ Kurt would have been the perfect person, but they told me no. This is verbatim from the person that told me. He said, ‘We don’t want to feel responsible if he comes back and dies.’ That’s from the person that told me. There were two people there. If one says I’m lying, hopefully the other will stand up and say it’s true. In the end, he got that match with Corbin, but I always wanted to wrestle Kurt.”
This worry was slightly over the top, however.
Kurt Angle had been wrestling constantly in TNA for nearly a decade at that point, and had battled his drug addiction that forced him to leave the WWE.
He would even return to the WWE two years later, wrestling 19 matches before being retired by Baron Corbin at WrestleMania 35.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.