John Cena and Rusev’s Flag Match required too much Suspension of Disbelief

For the first time, one match actively reminded you of the truth of Pro Wrestling. John Cena and Rusev’s flag match at WWE Battleground was a fun concept gone wrong.

Look, everyone these days knows that pro wrestling is fixed. Yet, we fans enjoy it just the same. We don’t care and suspend our disbelief and embrace it. Like a reflex, you don’t even think about it anymore. It’s just like kicking back on the recliner with a good movie to blow off some steam after a hard day at work. The spectacle, the excitement, the hook of a great promo, the mesmerizing moves from some of the world’s greatest modern athletes.

But… There’s a limit.

A threshold that was pushed Sunday in the Rusev/John Cena flag match. Everyone has a cap to suspending their disbelief. It’s like watching a film where the plot goes off the deep end and you go from Oscar worthy to telling people to catch it on cable. What started off as a fun gimmick match quickly magnified pro wrestling’s nature when Rusev grabbed his National flag of Bulgaria… Then proceeded to gingerly climb off the ropes as slow as possible and walk briskly (read: sluggishly, 0.1 mile per hour) past John Cena.

“It’s a race!” – John Bradshaw Layfield

Rusev Gains Upper Hand on John Cena, then reminds us of booking

Rusev’s legs might as well have been in cement or had a 200 ton anchor attached to the heels. Instead of immediately sprinting or at least breaking into a jog towards the podium and placing his flag on the mantle… Rusev was forced by booking to wait for John Cena to get back up. Again, we all know this sports competition is sports entertainment as well but the match actively threw this fact to your conscious.

Instead of enjoying the show you actively were reminded of that dirty word casuals who despise pro wrestling use to denigrate it. It didn’t go much better on Cena’s side either after putting Rusev in an STF submission, having him pass out. It wasn’t that long ago such a moment elevated careers like the famous Bret Hart/Steve Austin where Hart put Austin in a Sharpshooter.

Now picture in this match John Cena leisurely heading toward the ramp way after making Rusev pass out. Then Rusev gets back up, (unselling the STF’s effectiveness to continue the match) and a brawl breaks out on the ramp. At no point does either show the obvious idea ‘Hey, I should place the opponent’s flag somewhere away from his grasp’ because they’re boxed in by booking. A time later Rusev plants two tables next to Cena and it’s obvious Rusev will eventually go through them.

The Reality Era?

Despite Rusev submitting Cena in the Accolade, he is still unable to quickly place his Bulgarian flag on the mantle… Or even remove Cena’s American flag from anywhere close to his grasp. Naturally, John Cena won as expected. The whole thing came across as contrived. A nice story for a fairy tale. However, when have wrestling fans, young or old, ever asked for nice? Nice creates apathy.

When Brock/Cena at Summerslam or Brock/Undertaker at Wrestlemania showed us truth behind Triple H calling this the reality era, this served the opposite. Would the match have been shorter if Rusev had sprinted and put his flag up? Of course. No question. Yet, in the interest of realism it would have made for a better product. Sometimes, less is more.