Vladimir Putin makes his WWE debut at ‘Extreme Rules’


(Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Reuters)

WWE’s “Extreme Rules” pay-per-view proved to be, well, extreme. Kane, aka “the devil’s favorite demon,” fell through a table lit on fire, and Bray Wyatt introduced “Little Johnny,” a creepster of a kid with the electronically altered voice of man. But the most extreme bit that happened during Sunday’s three-hour broadcast may have been when Russia President Vladimir Putin’s face splashed across the Titantron.

Was this CNN or the WWE Network? Who cares. It was awesome. This next-level geopolitical trolling came from Lana, “the Ravishing Russian,” who dedicated the match of her client, the giant Bulgarian Rusev, to the much-maligned Russian president. She used the kind of melodramatic language that makes pro wrestling more than a display of athleticism, but a full theatrical production.

The above clip is hard to hear, but here’s what Lana, embodied by American model and actress C.J. Perry, said:

“Tonight we dedicate this match to the man that makes fools out of all you Americans; tonight we dedicate this match to the man that I respect more than any other man; He is my role model; he is my idol — the president of Russia!”

That’s when Putin’s expressionless, larger-than-life visage appeared and Big-Brothered the arena, which echoed with an impressive chorus of boos. That heat would continue as Rusev, now a resident of Russia, according to the story line, went on to crush his opponents, R-Truth and Xavier Woods.

The match, however, won’t be what this night will be remembered for. It’s Putin, the WWE’s best new heel.

But while most agree the bit worked fabulously, some are saying the WWE went too far using Putin for boo-bait. These detractors point to the ongoing situation in Ukraine, which has world leaders worrying about Russian military aggression, as well as Putin’s deplorable record when it comes to Russia’s gay community, as evidence that Putin is not to be played with.

What do you think of Putin’s cameo?

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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Matt Bonesteel · May 5, 2014