Back in early 2018, before the world went seriously crazy, WWE announced they would be running a huge stadium show in Saudi Arabia titled The Greatest Royal Rumble on April 27th.
The first match announced for the event was of course the titular 50-man Rumble match. Soon after this, another match was added: The Undertaker would face Rusev in a casket match.
Within a matter of days, that match was cancelled and in its place was a match between ‘Taker & Chris Jericho, who had sensationally made his NJPW debut in January of that year against Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12.
Rumours swirled, as they tend to do in these situations, as to why the match had been changed. One whisper that did the rounds was that Rusev had been removed due to a Tweet he made simply saying ‘Bury me softly, brother’ which many fans online was in the typical wrestling parlance to refer to being squashed.
Before long though, Jericho was out and Rusev was back in, again without any on screen explanation.
Rusev took to his YouTube channel this week to set out exactly what happened in the run up to the show to prompt the changes:
“It was great. Working with Taker was great. It was another dream come true. I thought it was a rib. I got called into the office by Vince and I don’t remember what we talked about, but Vince said, ‘Miro, I got you working with The Undertaker in Saudi Arabia.’ I went, ‘And I’m winning right (laughs).’ That’s exactly what I said because I thought he was joking. Like, why would I be working with ‘Taker. I know I had the Rusev Day thing going on and they were thinking of turning me into a good guy, whatever, but I never thought I would work ‘Taker. I never thought in Saudi Arabia, so I thought it was a joke. When I said, ‘I’m going over right,’ Vince looked at me weird and I said, ‘Okay sir, see you next time.’ Then I went out and Road Dogg came to me and said, ‘Why did you act like this?’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean? He’s joking with me. I’m joking with him.’ He said, ‘No, you’re actually working ‘Taker.’ I thought no freaking way. I felt like such an asshole,”
Clearly WWE had enough faith in Rusev to be part of a marquee match with Undertaker on such a key new show from a revenue standpoint.
Until they weren’t. Rusev picked up the story:
“Then he took me out and everyone was like, ‘Why did they take him out?’ They said they took me out because I commented on Twitter, ‘Bury me softly brother.’ That has nothing to do with anybody being taken in and out or whatever. I just said that because it was a casket match and I thought in order to win, you need to be buried. That’s why I said bury me softly and everyone took it soooo somewhere, nowhere near this universe what it was supposed to be. The original idea was that Vince was going to turn me babyface and they did not want me to lose to Undertaker if I was turning into a good guy, which was great. It’s shitty, but it is what it is. Then they put Jericho in, but what happened was, the prince called and said, ‘I want Rusev back in this match.’ Guess what happened? Rusev went back in the match and Rusev went to dinner with the Saudi prince. Rusev was over in Saudi Arabia, brother. Then we had the match with Taker and I loved it. Loved every second of it. I have so much respect for him. I mean, everyone respects ‘Taker and it was fun being there,”
Jericho himself told a similar story in late 2018 to Inside The Ropes. He too says WWE told him the Saudi price requested Rusev be re-inserted into the match. He did however speculate that the real reason was because Jericho would be appearing again in NJPW the following week to do an angle with Naito and the company did not want to give Jericho such a big spotlight right before he appeared with another company.
Whilst that explanation certainly checks out, the true story remains in doubt. ‘Taker & Rusev went on to have an enjoyable match in Saudi Arabia before the Bulgarian turned face on the Rusev Day tide soon after.
He was released from his WWE contract on April 15th and rumours abound he will appear in July for AEW or Impact Wrestling.
Thank you to Fightful for the transcription.