Rusev's character had made a complete 180 since his WWE debut in 2014. He's still a Bulgarian Brute, but his popularity has soared over the last year-and-a-half thanks to hs Rusev Day gimmick and catchphrase.
"It was supposed to be a one off, just a celebration after I beat Randy Orton and that was it," said Rusev. "A few weeks after I was going "Rusev Day, Rusev Day" and people really started digging it, even in the backstage with the New Day and with Aiden signing "Rusev Day" helped. People just got it and loved the whole concept and it became really big."
Rusev is in his third reign as United States champion, although this run is a bit different than the previous ones. He was a heel and hated by the fans during his first two reigns while he is cheered as the current champ. Rusev talked about being both hated and loved by the WWE Universe.
"I went from being the most hated or one of the most hated to now being praised. I loved being both," stated Rusev.
"Being the United States champion, it makes me elevate the title even more because at the end of the day that is what I wanna do. I wanna elevate the title whether it be the world championship, the universal championship, any of these titles. That is what it means to me and that is why every time I step foot in that ring I wanna have a great match to prove that this title belongs right there with all the rest."
Rusev will defend the US title against the man who he won it from, Shunsuke Nakamura, at Royal Rumble. Rusev was asked about his mindset approaching the match knowing that it won't be easy to retain against a revengeful Nakamura.
"No, it is not gonna be easy but I got to figure out how to escape those things and count on my own," said Rusev. "All the previous matches that we had were all great matches and I have no doubt we are gonna do just as good if not even better than that."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Planeta Wrestling with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.