Alexander Rusev

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Alexander Rusev
Rusev WM Axxess 2015.jpg
Rusev in March 2015
Birth name Miroslav Barnyashev[1]
(Bulgarian: Мирослав Барняшев)
Born (1985-12-25) December 25, 1985 (age 29)
Plovdiv, Plovdiv, People's Republic of Bulgaria[2] (now Bulgaria)[3]
Residence Nashville, Tennessee, United States[4]
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Alexander Rusev[1]
Miroslav Makarov[2]
Billed height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)[5][3]
Billed weight 138 kg (304 lb)[5]
Billed from Bulgaria[6]
Trained by Florida Championship Wrestling[1]
Debut November 22, 2008[7]

Miroslav Barnyashev (Bulgarian: Мирослав Барняшев; born December 25, 1985), known by his former ring name Alexander Rusev and currently performing as Rusev (Bulgarian: Русев), is a Bulgarian professional wrestler and former powerlifter and rower. He works for the American professional wrestling promotion WWE, where he is a former United States Champion.[5][3] Barnyashev is the first Bulgarian to have wrestled for WWE.[2]

Early life[edit]

Rusev was born in Bulgaria.[3] He attended a sports school while growing up and competed in rowing and powerlifting as an adult.[3]

Professional wrestling career[edit]

Early career (2008–2010)[edit]

In the mid-2000s, Barnyashev emigrated from Bulgaria to the United States with the ambition of becoming a professional wrestler. He originally lived in Virginia,[3] before relocating to Torrance, California, where he began training as a wrestler under Gangrel and Rikishi at the Knokx Pro Wrestling Academy.[1][2][3] Barnyashev debuted in the San Diego, California-based independent promotion New Wave Pro Wrestling on November 22, 2008, under the ring name Miroslav Makaraov, defeating Aerial Star.[7] In 2010, Barnyashev joined the Santa Maria, California-based independent promotion Vendetta Pro Wrestling (VPW), shortening his ring name to Miroslav. While wrestling for VPW, he was managed by Markus Mac.[8]

World Wrestling Entertainment/WWE[edit]

Florida Championship Wrestling (2010–2013)[edit]

In September 2010, Barnyashev was signed to a contract by the professional wrestling promotion World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).[2] He was assigned to the WWE's Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) developmental territory in Tampa, Florida, where he adopted the ring name Alexander Rusev.[1] He wrestled his first televised match on the July 17, 2011, episode of FCW, defeating Mike Dalton while being managed by Raquel Diaz.[9][10] Shortly after debuting in FCW, Rusev tore both his anterior cruciate ligament and his meniscus and spent six months rehabilitating.[3]

Rusev returned to FCW in March 2012 with Nick Rogers as his manager.[11] In the summer of 2012, Rusev suffered a broken neck, temporarily paralyzing his arm. While rehabilitating, Barnyashev travelled to Thailand, where he studied the martial art Muay Thai.[3] In August 2012, WWE rebranded FCW as NXT.[12]

NXT (2013–2014)[edit]

After his neck healed, Rusev made his NXT television debut on the May 30, 2013, episode, competing in a battle royale to determine the number one contender to the NXT Championship that was won by Bo Dallas.[13] Rusev's first NXT singles match came about on August 21, losing to Dolph Ziggler.[14] Shortly thereafter, Rusev adopted Sylvester Lefort as his manager and formed a short-lived tag team with Scott Dawson named the "Fighting Legionnaires"; they feuded with the team of Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady.[3][15][16][17] On the October 30 episode of NXT, Rusev ended his affiliation with Lefort by attacking him during a tag team bout.[18]

Rusev proceeded to adopt Lana as his "social ambassador",[19] a pairing compared by WWE to Ivan and Ludmilla Drago from the 1985 film Rocky IV.[20] In matches taped before his main roster debut,[21][22] Rusev defeated main roster wrestlers Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, and Sin Cara in singles matches, which aired on NXT in January and February.[23][24][25] Rusev continued to appear sporadically on NXT after joining the main roster in April 2014, making his final appearance on July 24, 2014, getting disqualified against NXT Champion Adrian Neville in a non-title match.[26]

United States Champion (2014–2015)[edit]

Rusev (right) celebrating a win with Lana in April 2014

Rusev made his main roster debut at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view on January 26, 2014. The sixth entrant in the titular match, Rusev was eliminated by the joint effort of four wrestlers.[27][28] After months of self-promotional videos and speeches by Rusev and his manager Lana,[29][30][31] Rusev's return match on the main roster came on the April 7 episode of Raw, where he squashed Zack Ryder.[32] In May, Rusev adopted a Russophillic, anti-American gimmick that saw him announced as having relocated to Russia,[33][34][35] and as having been named "Hero of the Russian Federation".[36] In the same month, his ring name was shortened to simply Rusev.[37] Over the next several months, Rusev feuded with Xavier Woods and R-Truth (whom Rusev defeated at Extreme Rules in a two-on-one handicap match) and Big E (whom he defeated at Payback and at Money in the Bank),[38][39][40] Jack Swagger (whom he defeated at Battleground and again at SummerSlam),[41][42] Mark Henry (whom he defeated at Night of Champions)[43] and Big Show (whom he defeated at Hell in a Cell).[44] Lana dedicated Rusev's string of victories to President of Russia Vladimir Putin, drawing attention from the mainstream press – including The Washington Post and The Daily Beast – and criticism after she was interpreted as having referred to the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 before Rusev's match at Battleground in an attempt to generate heat.[33][45] On the October 6 episode of Raw, Rusev and Lana were confronted by The Rock in a surprise appearance, with The Rock driving Rusev from the ring after a verbal exchange.[46]

Rusev displaying the United States Championship and Russian flag in February 2015.

On November 3, Rusev gained his first professional wrestling championship and became the first Bulgarian-born champion in WWE history when he won the United States Championship from Sheamus in a post-Raw match that aired on the WWE Network.[47] On November 23 at Survivor Series, Rusev competed in a 10-man Survivor Series match as part of Team Authority. Rusev was eliminated from the match by countout after crashing through the Spanish announce table.[48] Rusev and Jack Swagger once again feuded in December, leading to Rusev successfully defending the United States Championship against Swagger at TLC. On January 25, 2015, at the Royal Rumble, Rusev entered the Rumble match at number 15, eliminating six other contestants and placing second overall.[49] At Fastlane on February 22, Rusev successfully defended the United States Championship in a bout with John Cena.[50][51] He lost the United States Championship to Cena in a rematch at WrestleMania 31 on March 29 after a miscommunication with Lana, ending his reign at 146 days and marking his first pinfall loss on WWE's main roster.[52] He failed to regain the championship the following month at Extreme Rules in a Russian Chain match; during the match, Lana garnered a positive reaction from the crowd, leading to Rusev banishing her from ringside and causing dissension between the two.[53] Rusev lost to Cena once more at Payback on May 17, 2015 in an "I Quit" match after Lana conceded the match on his behalf.[54]

Various storylines and feuds (2015–present)[edit]

"WWE is losing out on a ton of money with Rusev... [at WrestleMania and Payback against Cena] is where the Rusev momentum should have skyrocketed but instead it had come to a halt... He's gone from putting fear into the babyfaces who faced him, and beating all who was put in front of him, to longing after a [woman] he's lost, dressing up someone to look like her, and battling with a guy who looks like an '80s reject".

Pro Wrestling Dot Net analyst Haydn Gleed in 2015[55]

"It was six minutes of Rusev being punished on live national television for getting engaged to his longtime girlfriend... [After] the cleanest job Rusev has ever done... [Summer Rae] cut Vince McMahon's promo for him... totally castrated [Rusev]... How they get Rusev back on track as a killer after this segment is beyond me, which may have been the intent".

Wrestling Observer analyst Jeff Hamlin describes the storyline breakup of Rusev and Summer Rae in 2015[56]

On the post-Payback episode of Raw on May 18, 2015, Rusev ended his affiliation with Lana, who slapped him in response.[57] On the May 25 episode of Raw, Rusev reverted to being billed from Bulgaria and began carrying the flag of Bulgaria to ringside. Later that same evening, Rusev unsuccessfully attempted to reconcile with Lana.[58] Three days later on SmackDown, Rusev suffered a fractured foot in a bout with Ryback, rendering him unable to compete in the Elimination Chamber match for the vacant Intercontinental Championship at Elimination Chamber.[59] Despite his injury, Rusev still appeared on television and made further attempts to reconcile with Lana. Lana then began a storyline relationship with Dolph Ziggler, while Summer Rae began an alliance with Rusev. On the June 29 episode of Raw, Rusev and Rae confronted Lana and Ziggler, leading to a fight between Rae and Lana.[60] On the July 6 episode of Raw, Rusev and Rae once again confronted the couple, which turned out to be a ruse, as Rusev viciously attacked Ziggler after hitting him with his crutch and removed his ankle brace, revealing that his foot injury had healed. The attack resulted in Ziggler sustaining a bruised trachea in storyline and out of action indefinitely.[61][62] Rusev made his in-ring return on the following SmackDown, wrestling in shoes to avoid further foot injury, defeating Fandango.[63] On the July 13 episode of Raw, Rusev answered John Cena's United States Championship open challenge. Rusev was then interrupted by both Kevin Owens and Cesaro, who also demanded a shot at the title. This resulted in a triple threat match, where the winner would face Cena, which Rusev won after pinning Cesaro, as Owens had left the match early on. Afterwards, Rusev defeated Cena by disqualification, when Owens assaulted Rusev.[64] On the July 16 episode of SmackDown, Rusev suffered his second loss by pinfall during his tenure on the WWE main roster when he was defeated by Cesaro in a singles match.[65] On the August 17 edition of Raw, Ziggler returned and attacked Rusev.[66] This altercation prompted a match between Rusev and Ziggler at SummerSlam, which ended in a double count–out due to interference from Lana and Rae. After the match, Rusev and Rae brawled with Ziggler and Lana.[67]

On the October 5 episode of Raw, Rae proposed to Rusev in the storyline, but said he would not marry her until he had won another championship.[68] However, on October 11, TMZ reported that Rusev had gotten engaged to Lana in real life.[69] Lana then confirmed the engagement[70] and it began being used in the storyline on television, which resulted in Rae breaking up with him on the October 12 episode of Raw.[71] On the 31 October episode of Main Event, Rusev injured his shoulder in a match with Neville, resulting in Neville winning the match via referee stoppage and Rusev being out of action.[72]

On the November 23 episode of Raw, Rusev returned, delivering a surprise jumping sidekick to Roman Reigns while Reigns was staring down Triple H and WWE World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus of The Authority joining them in the process. Later that night, he faced Roman Reigns in the main event, which ended in a disqualification, due to aid from King Barrett and the WWE World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus.

Other media[edit]

Barnyashev, along with other VPW wrestlers, appeared in the music video for the song The Whole F'n Show by Kushinator (the entrance music of wrestler Rob Van Dam).[73]

As Rusev, he made his video game debut as a playable character in WWE 2K15, and has his own path in the "Who Got NXT" mode. He appears in the next game in the 2K series as well, WWE 2K16. [74]

Personal life[edit]

Barnyashev is engaged to Catherine Perry, who performed for WWE under the ring name Lana.[75] They reside in Nashville, Tennessee.[76] He is a supporter of the Spanish La Liga football club Real Madrid.[77]

In wrestling[edit]

Rusev (right) applying The Accolade on Zack Ryder (bottom) in April 2014 while being watched by his then-manager, Lana.

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Rusev held the United States Championship from November 3, 2014 to March 29, 2015


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