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Rusev (wrestler)

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Rusev
Rusev 2018 HOF (cropped) 2.jpg
Rusev in April 2018
Birth name Miroslav Barnyashev[1]
Born (1984-12-25) December 25, 1984 (age 33)[2]
Plovdiv, People's Republic of Bulgaria
Residence Nashville, Tennessee, United States[3]
Spouse(s)
Lana (m. 2016)
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Alexander Rusev[1]
Miroslav[4]
Miroslav Makarov[4]
Rusev[5]
Billed height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)[5][6]
Billed weight 138 kg (304 lb)[5]
Billed from Bulgaria[7]
Moscow, Russia[8]
Trained by Florida Championship Wrestling[1]
Gangrel[1][6]
NXT[5]
Rikishi[6]
Debut November 22, 2008[9]

Miroslav Barnyashev (Bulgarian: Мирослав Барняшев; born December 25, 1984)[2] is a Bulgarian professional wrestler and former powerlifter and rower currently signed with the United States-based professional wrestling promotion WWE, where he performs under the ring name Rusev (Bulgarian: Русев) on the SmackDown brand.[5] A two-time United States Champion,[5][6] Barnyashev is the only Bulgarian to have wrestled for WWE.[4] Rusev has generally played the character of the villainous foreigner to America since his WWE debut. However, after a storyline began in late 2017 in which he declared every day is "Rusev Day", he became one of WWE's most popular wrestlers.[10][11][12]

Early life

Miroslav Barnyashev[1] (Bulgarian: Мирослав Барняшев) was born on December 25, 1984[2] in Plovdiv,[6] which was then in the People's Republic of Bulgaria. He attended a sports school while growing up and competed in rowing and powerlifting as an adult.[6]

Professional wrestling career

Early career (2008–2010)

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,[6] before relocating to Torrance, California, where he began training as a wrestler under Gangrel and Rikishi at the Knokx Pro Wrestling Academy.[1][4][6] 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.[9] 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.[13]

World Wrestling Entertainment/WWE

Developmental territories (2010–2014)

In September 2010, Barnyashev was signed to a contract by the professional wrestling promotion World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).[4] He was assigned to 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.[14][15] Shortly after debuting in FCW, Rusev tore both his anterior cruciate ligament and his meniscus and spent six months rehabilitating.[6]

Rusev returned to FCW in March 2012 with Nick Rogers as his manager.[16] 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.[6] In August 2012, WWE rebranded FCW as NXT.[17]

After his neck healed, Rusev made his NXT television debut on the May 30, 2013, episode, competing in a battle royal to determine the number one contender to the NXT Championship that was won by Bo Dallas.[18] Rusev's first singles match on NXT came about on August 21, losing to Dolph Ziggler.[19] 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.[6][20][21][22] On the October 30 episode of NXT, Rusev ended his affiliation with Lefort by attacking him during a tag team bout.[23]

Rusev proceeded to adopt Lana as his "social ambassador",[24] a pairing compared by WWE to Ivan and Ludmilla Drago from the 1985 film Rocky IV.[25] In matches taped before his main roster debut,[26][27] Rusev defeated main roster wrestlers Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, and Sin Cara in singles matches, which aired on NXT in January and February.[28][29][30] Rusev continued to appear sporadically on NXT after joining the main roster in April 2014, making his final appearance on July 24, getting disqualified against NXT Champion Adrian Neville in a non-title match.[31]

Undefeated streak (2014–2015)

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

Rusev made his main roster debut at the Royal Rumble. The sixth entrant in the titular match, Rusev was eliminated by the joint effort of four wrestlers.[32][33] After months of self-promotional videos and speeches by Rusev and his manager Lana,[34][35][36] Rusev's return match on the main roster came on the April 7 episode of Raw, where he squashed Zack Ryder.[37] In May, Rusev adopted a Russophillic, anti-American gimmick that saw him announced as having relocated to Russia,[38][39][40] and as having been named "Hero of the Russian Federation".[41] This angle brought Barnyashev much legitimate heat in his native Bulgaria. In the same month, his ring name was shortened to simply Rusev.[42] 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),[43][44][45] Jack Swagger (whom he defeated at Battleground and again at SummerSlam),[46][47] Mark Henry (whom he defeated at Night of Champions)[48] and Big Show (whom he defeated at Hell in a Cell).[49] 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.[38][50] 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.[51]

Rusev displaying the United States Championship belt 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 and proceeded to defeat him in a rematch via count-out.[52] At Survivor Series, Rusev competed in a 10-man Survivor Series match as part of Team Authority but he was eliminated from the match by countout.[53] Rusev and Jack Swagger once again feuded in December, leading to Rusev successfully defending the United States Championship against Swagger at TLC. He and Lana also appeared at the final edition of Piper's Pit on December 22, 2014 before Roddy Piper's death on June 31, 2015. At the Royal Rumble, Rusev entered the Rumble match at number 15, eliminating six other contestants and placing second overall.[54] At Fastlane, Rusev successfully defended the United States Championship in a bout with John Cena.[55][56] Rusev lost the United States Championship to Cena in a rematch at WrestleMania 31 after a miscommunication with Lana, ending his reign at 146 days and marking his first pinfall loss on WWE's main roster.[57]

The League of Nations (2015–2016)

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[58]

Rusev 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.[59] 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.[60] On the post-Payback episode of Raw on May 18, 2015, Rusev ended his affiliation with Lana, who slapped him in response.[61] 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.[62] 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.[63] 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.[64] 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.[65][66]

Rusev made his in-ring return on the following SmackDown, wrestling in shoes to avoid further foot injury, defeating Fandango.[67] 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.[68] 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.[69] On the August 17 episode of Raw, Ziggler returned and attacked Rusev.[70] This altercation prompted a match between Rusev and Ziggler at SummerSlam, which ended in a double countout due to interference from Lana and Rae, and after the match, Rusev and Rae brawled with Ziggler and Lana.[71] 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.[72] On October 11, TMZ reported that Rusev had become engaged to Lana in real life.[3] Lana then confirmed the engagement[73] 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.[74] The entire storyline circulating around the break-up of Rusev and Lana received extremely negative reviews, with many claiming the storyline damaged Rusev's gimmick.[75] On the October 31 episode of Main Event, Rusev injured his bicep in a match with Neville, resulting in Neville winning the match via referee stoppage and Rusev being out of action.[76]

Rusev (second from right) as a member of The League of Nations in April 2016

Rusev returned on the November 23 episode of Raw, when he attacked Roman Reigns, and lost to him by disqualification after Sheamus and King Barrett attacked Reigns.[77] A week later, on November 30 episode of Raw, Lana returned to the WWE, once again as a villainess, and reconciled with Rusev, during a Miz TV segment, and later in the same night, the two joined Sheamus' new stable The League of Nations.[78] Throughout December, Rusev started a feud with Ryback, with Lana faking injuries to distract Ryback and help Rusev gain advantage. At TLC, Rusev defeated Ryback by technical submission to end the feud.[79][80] Also in November, Rusev joined forces with Sheamus, King Barrett and Alberto Del Rio forming The League of Nations.[78] The faction aligned themselves with Mr. McMahon and would continue to target WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns. Rusev would enter the Royal Rumble match at the No. 2 spot, but he would be eliminated by Roman Reigns in one and a half minutes.[81] On the March 14 episode of Raw, Rusev and Del Rio failed to win the WWE Tag Team Championship from The New Day.[82] At WrestleMania 32, The League of Nations defeated The New Day, but after the match, The League of Nations was attacked by Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin.[83]

Following WrestleMania 32, on the April 4, episode of Raw, League of Nations members Sheamus and King Barrett were part of a losing effort against The New Day for the WWE Tag Team Championship after Barrett was pinned by Kofi Kingston, and following the match, Barrett was exiled from the group being called the "weak link", but moments after, The Wyatt Family went on to attack the remaining members of The League of Nations.[84][85] On the April 28 episode of SmackDown, Rusev walked out on Sheamus after Del Rio walked out the both of them, thus disbanding The League of Nations.[86]

United States Champion and teaming with Jinder Mahal (2016–2017)

On the May 2 episode of Raw, Rusev won a battle royal by last eliminating Zack Ryder to become the No. 1 contender for the United States Championship,[87] which he won for the second time by defeating Kalisto at Extreme Rules via submission.[88] Rusev defeated him in a rematch on the following week's SmackDown,[89] after which he was confronted by Titus O'Neil, whom Rusev defeated at Money in the Bank to successfully retain the title.[90] Rusev followed this with a successful third title defense against Cesaro[91] and defeated O'Neil on the July 4 episode of Raw to retain the title.[92] Rusev was then challenged by Zack Ryder,[93][94] whom he defeated at Battleground for another successful title defense.[95] In the 2016 WWE draft, Rusev, along with Lana, was drafted to Raw, taking the United States Championship with him.[96] On the August 1 episode of Raw, after Rusev defeated Mark Henry to retain the title, Roman Reigns came out to confront Rusev.[97] The following week on Raw, Reigns interrupted Rusev and Lana's wedding re-enactment, and issued a challenge to Rusev for the title. Rusev declined, and the two brawled, causing Lana to fall into a wedding cake. Backstage, Mick Foley told an angered Lana and Rusev that Rusev would defend the United States title against Reigns at SummerSlam. Later that night, Rusev successfully defended the title in an impromptu match against Cesaro, who felt that he should also have a shot at the title.[98] At SummerSlam, the match did not start after Rusev attacked Reigns before the bell rung and the two brawled outside of the ring, with Rusev suffering kayfabe injured ribs.[99] After costing Reigns the opportunity of becoming a No. 1 contender for the Universal Championship,[100] Rusev defended the United States Championship against Reigns in a match at Clash of Champions, which he lost, ending his reign at 126 days.[101] Rusev would then get his rematch at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view in a Hell in a Cell match, which he would be unsuccessful.[102]

On the November 21 episode of Raw, after being locked out of his locker room, Enzo Amore would run into Lana in the hallway before being angrily confronted by Rusev. Rusev would challenge Amore to a match later that night, quickly defeating him. The following week on Raw, Amore would defeat Rusev by disqualification. At Roadblock: End of the Line, Rusev would face Amore's tag partner, Big Cass, defeating him by countout. The following night on Raw, Rusev would face Cass again, this time defeating him by disqualification. That same night, Amore would have to attend sensitivity training from the incident on the November 21 episode of Raw. At the training, Amore would be attacked by Rusev and his new ally, Jinder Mahal. On the January 2, 2017 episode of Raw, Rusev teamed with Mahal in a 2-on-1 handicap match, defeating Big Cass. At Royal Rumble, Rusev would enter the Rumble match at number eighteen, lasting over 20 minutes before being eliminated by Goldberg. On the February 27 episode of Raw, Rusev and Mahal began to show tension after Rusev inadvertently distracted Mahal, causing the two to lose to The New Day.[103] At Fastlane, general manager Mick Foley placed Rusev and Mahal in singles matches that night after Mahal revealed his desire to return to singles competition. Rusev and Mahal both lost their respective matches against Big Show and Cesaro.[104] Both Rusev and Lana disappeared from television following Rusev requiring surgery for an injury.[105]

Rusev Day (2017–present)

Rusev (left) with Aiden English at WrestleMania 34

On April 11, Rusev was moved to SmackDown as part of the Superstar Shake-up.[106] On the April 25 episode of SmackDown Live, Rusev made his first appearance on WWE programming since Fastlane, appearing via satellite, and declared that he would not make his debut on SmackDown unless he was given a WWE Championship match at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view on June 18. He was not granted his request, but on the July 4 episode of SmackDown, he made his first appearance for the brand and confronted the returning John Cena, setting up a flag match for Battleground, which he lost.

In August, Rusev entered into a feud with Randy Orton. They wrestled against each other at SummerSlam where Orton defeated Rusev in 10 seconds. He got his revenge the following episode of SmackDown Live, and was given the key to his legitimate hometown of Plovdiv. The mayor granted him the key to the city, as witnessed by Aiden English. However, both English and Rusev were attacked by Orton. That day was stated as "Rusev Day" and in later SmackDown Live episodes Rusev would state that "every day is Rusev Day", with the crowd chanting its name whenever Rusev and English are present. At Hell in a Cell, Rusev was defeated by Orton, thus ending their feud. On the December 5 episode of SmackDown Live, Rusev and English defeated The New Day and the two earned a spot in the fatal four-way tag team match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship at Clash of Champions, but failed to win the titles at the event. Rusev then participated in the annual Royal Rumble match, as the #1 entrant at the namesake pay-per-view, lasting over 30 minutes, but was eliminated by Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt. On the March 27, 2018 episode of SmackDown Live, Rusev teamed with Jinder Mahal to defeat Bobby Roode and Randy Orton, subsequently adding him to the United States Championship match at WrestleMania 34.[107][108] At the event, Rusev was pinned by Mahal, losing the match. At the Greatest Royal Rumble event, he faced The Undertaker in a Casket Match, but he lost.[109] On the May 8 episode of SmackDown Live, Rusev defeated Daniel Bryan to qualify for the Men's Money in the Bank ladder match, which was won by Braun Strowman. On the following episode of SmackDown, he won a gauntlet match to become the number one contender for AJ Styles' WWE Championship at Extreme Rules. At the event, he was defeated by Styles.[110]

In July, Rusev Day started a feud with Andrade "Cien" Almas and Zelina Vega, thus turning them face in the process. Rusev and Lana lost a mixed tag team match to Almas and Vega at SummerSlam but defeated them in a rematch on the August 21 episode of SmackDown Live.[111][112] On the September 4 episode of SmackDown Live, Rusev Day defeated The Usos and Eric Young and Killian Dain in a triple threat match to face Cesaro and Sheamus, whom they defeated on the following week's SmackDown Live to earn a SmackDown Tag Team Championship match against The New Day at Hell in a Cell, which they lost.[113][114][115] On the September 18 episode of SmackDown Live, Rusev lost to Shinsuke Nakamura for the United States Championship after a distraction by Aiden English, after which English turned on Rusev by attacking him, thus ending Rusev Day.

Other media

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).[116]

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.[117] He has appeared in subsequent games in the 2K series, WWE 2K16, WWE 2K17, WWE 2K18, and WWE 2K19.

In 2016, Barnyashev appears as himself in Season 6 of the reality series, Total Divas, as well as the WWE film Countdown and in the animated film Scooby-Doo! and WWE: Curse of the Speed Demon.

Personal life

Rusev and Lana at the 2018 WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony

Barnyashev married Catherine Perry, a fellow professional wrestler and manager who performs for WWE under the ring name Lana, in July 2016.[118][119] They reside in Nashville, Tennessee.[120]

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
2016 Countdown Himself
2016 Scooby-Doo! and WWE: Curse of the Speed Demon Himself Voice

Television

Year Title Role Notes
2016–present Total Divas Himself Recurring (season 6–present)

Web

Year Title Role Notes
2015–present UpUpDownDown Himself/Tong Po Regular appearances
2016 Sisters the Series Boyfriend 1 episode

Championships and accomplishments

Rusev is a two-time former United States Champion

References

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