This South African grappler was born Raymond John Leppan in Johannesburg on July 20, 1979. His early life was filled with chaos, living in abandoned buildings as a teen and engaging in violence and excessive alcohol consumption.
The only thing that could turn his life around was the prospect of becoming a professional wrestler, something he had adored in his childhood. Leppan began his career on the South African independent circuit in 1995 as “The Karate Kid”.
While earning his chops, Leppan made his way to the United States and became the WWP (World Wrestling Professionals) World Heavyweight Champion in 2007.
After years in the independents, Leppan debuted on Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), the WWE’s developmental territory. Shortly after his debut (which was a loss to Curt Hawkins), Leppan changed his name to “Leo Kruger”, but did not gain much success as a solo act.
He then formed tag teams with Derrick Bateman and Tyler Reks. After limited success, he then returned to singles completion which certainly was a good move as he engaged in a winning streak against the likes of Big E Langston, Bateman and Huskey Harris (later Bray Wyatt).
He lost a match against Bo Rotunda (Bo Dallas) and had no feeling in his arm following the bout. It was later learned he had fractured a vertebrae in his neck and so Kruger became a commentator while contemplating his future in the sport.
Once he was rehabilitated, Kruger returned to active competition and won the FCW Florida Heavyweight Championship in a tournament after Rotunda vacated the belt due to injuries.
As champion, he had a string of successful defenses, but ultimately dropped the strap to Mike Dalton (Tyler Breeze). Kruger regained it from Dalton 3 weeks later, but as soon as he regained the strap, Kruger dropped it to Seth Rollins the same fateful evening.
FCW turned into NXT and Kruger was re-branded into a mercenary type of character. He formed a tag team combination with Kassius Ohno, however they were unsuccessful at acquiring the NXT Tag team Championship belts.
Kruger started to feud with Sami Zayn as the two were hungry for the NXT Championship belt worn by Bo Dallas at that point. Kruger would win a three way against Zayn and Antonio Cesaro to become the number one contender, but ultimately lost against Dallas.
His feud with Zayn continued and eventually ended with Zayn winning a 2 out of 3 falls bout on NXT.
Kruger’s character was re-branded yet again into Adam Rose, a fun-loving partier with a string of followers called the “Rosebuds”. Collectively, the became known as the “Exotic Express”. Rose with team with former rival Zayn, but the two lost a tournament to determine the NXT Tag Team Championships.
In May of 2015, Rose made his main roster debut on Raw, interfering in matches that would cause Jack Swagger to lose. Rose would win over Swagger twice and then embarked on a series of victories against Titus O’Neil, Fandango and Damian Sandow.
A silly angle was then concocted whereby Rose would team up with one of his party followers: a person in a giant bunny suit known simply as “The Bunny”. Rose and The Bunny would form a team and would actually defeat Titus O’Neil and Darren Young (The Prime Time Players) in an upset.
Dissention developed between man and animal when the Bunny inadvertently cost Rose a match, causing Rose to assault and abandon the Bunny. Undeterred, the Bunny continued to follow Rose and continued to cost him victories by interference.
Rose and the Bunny would eventually make amends and team up again to face Slater-Gator (Heath Slater and O’Neil again) at the Survivor Series Pay-Per-View event with the Bunny scoring the pinfall victory.
Rose started to feud with Kane with the Bunny by his side. After Rose lost, the Bunny received a tombstone piledriver for his attempted interference. Rose would also lose to R-Truth and would let out his frustrations on the Bunny through a vicious beating. This marked a heel turn for Rose and marked (thankfully) the last appearance of the Bunny.
As a heel, Rose started to bully around his faithful Rosebuds and started to feud with Zach Ryder to mixed success.
In April, Rosa Mendes spilt from Fandango and hooked up with Rose as his valet. Once the two became an item, the heel Rose abandoned his Rosebuds and the party animal gimmick was dropped.
Beginning in 2015, Rose’s involvement in wrestling was very uneven. He was seemingly changing gimmicks all the time from being a masterful artist to a sullen party-pooper to a gossip columnist revealing dirt about the WWE in a segment that was dubbed “The Rose Bush”.
2016 rolled around and Rose was now part of a new faction of underappreciated talent known as “The Social Outcasts” including Heath Slater, Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel. As a group, they had some success in 8 man tag competitions and even Rose had a singles victory over Titus O’Neil (again).
Rose was then suspended for 60 days due to a violation of the WWE’s Wellness Policy. To make matters even worse, he was arrested in Florida on domestic abuse charges which ultimately led to his release from the company. He was released on a bond of $1000 and all charges were eventually dropped.
Later in 2016, Rose changed his name to “Aldo Rose” and started to compete on the independent circuit. He would later take time off to spend with his family and then retuned to the independents, wrestling as either Adam Rose or his old alter ego, Kruger.
Rose has announced on Twitter that 2017 will be his last in the sport. This remains to be seen as Rose still does make appearances on the independent scene. Hopefully he has cleaned up his act and will consider re-inventing himself to continue a career in his beloved sport of kings.
Special thanks to Dr. Stephen Balsky for contributing the above wrestler profile.
Dr. Stephen Balsky is a chiropractor currently in practice in his native Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has been a wrestling fan since age 13 and is very passionate about the product, especially the “old-school” 80’s – 90’s era. He completed his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree in 2015 and currently is also working part-time as a professor in both business and healthcare.