This 6’, 304 pound behemoth was born Miroslav Barnyashev in the former People’s Republic of Bulgaria on December 25, 1984. He immigrated to the United States in 2000 and underwent his professional training from former WWE Superstars Gangrel and Rikishi.
He started his professional career in 2008 on the independent circuit, eventually receiving a contract with the WWE training ground of Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) in September of 2010.
His debut was less than stellar as he had sustained some serious injuries early on including a broken neck and torn meniscus/ligaments in his knee requiring him to be away from the cameras for a long rehabilitative period.
Upon his return in 2013, FCW had become NXT and Rusev formed a short-lived tag team with Scott Dawson called the “Fighting Legionnaires” which did not amount to anything.
Shortly thereafter, he acquired the services of the beautiful Lana as his “social ambassador” and made his way to the main roster of Raw in 2014.
Here, his name was shortened to simply “Rusev” and he adopted a heel, anti-American gimmick pledging his allegiance to Russia over his homeland of Bulgaria.
He plowed through the roster of Raw, defeating Jack Swagger, Big E Langston, Xavier Woods, Big Show and Mark Henry. Lana would generate added heat for her man by comparing his string of victories to the success of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Rusev would gain the WWE United States Championship by defeating Sheamus and would successfully defend against old nemesis Jack Swagger. He lost at the Royal Rumble, and also gave up the belt in his first pinfall loss on the main roster to John Cena at WrestleMania XXXI.
Rusev failed to capture the belt again from Cena even in Russian Chain matches and “I Quit” matches. Tension started to brew between himself and Lana with whom he eventually ended his association.
Rusev’s character changed when he started to denounce Russia and embrace his native Bulgaria. He sustained a foot fracture during a match with Ryback, yet he still appeared on WWE programming attempting to reconcile with Lana.
Lana would refuse his proposal to reunite which led Rusev to form an alliance with Summer Rae while Lana hooked up with Dolph Ziggler. Rusev made a vicious attack on Ziggler (kayfabe) damaging his trachea in the process.
Rusev would win a triple threat match to become the number one contender for the US title still held by Cena. He would win the match with Cena by disqualification, but never snag the belt.
A returning Dolph Ziggler attacked Rusev and this led to a fight between the two at the “Summer Slam: Pay-Per-View event which ended in a double countout.
Summer Rae would propose to Rusev who declined saying that he needed to win another championship belt first. In reality, he became engaged to Lana and this parlayed into the storyline, ending his relationship with Rae.
Once again united with Lana, the two would become members of the “League of Nations” faction along with Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus, and Wade Barrett. The League strated feuding with WWE Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns and in tag matches against The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Big E Langston and Xavier Woods).
In an episode of SmackDown! the League disbanded when Del Rio left only to be followed by Rusev.
In May of 2016, Rusev captured the US title for a second time from the high flyer Kalisto. He successfully defended against any and all comers including Zach Ryder, Kalisto and Titus O’Neil. Rusev would then become drafted to Raw where he would stage a re-enactment of his wedding to Lana.
During the wedding ceremony, things went awry when he was challenged for his belt by Roman Reigns which ended up in a brawl. The two would face each other for the strap at Summer Slam, which ended in a no contest. He would later drop the belt to Reigns at the “Night of Champions” Pay-Per-View event after a 4-month reign.
Later in the same year, a storyline was developed whereby Lana and Rusev would have some friction in their relationship and Lana strated to show an interest in Enzo Amore. This led Rusev into a feud against Amore and his partner Big Cass, and in the process, acquire a tag team partner in the form of Jinder Mahal.
After a loss to The New Day on an episode of Raw, Rusev and Mahal started to develop friction in their relationship. The two would split with Mahal expressing a desire to return to singles competition, while Rusev left television to tend to injuries.
In April of 2017, Rusev showed up on SmackDown! stating his intentions on capturing the WWE Heavyweight Championship. His return was far from triumphant as he started a feud with Randy Orton who defeated the big man in 10 seconds at Summer Slam.
While Rusev is certainly an intimidating force in the squared circle, his career seemed to be sidelined by injuries and inconsistencies in storylines. Perhaps his character will become re-invented and the Bulgarian will eventually carry the WWE Heavyweight Championship around his large waist.
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.