Miroslav Barnyashev (December 25, 1985), known by his former ring name Alexander Rusev and currently performing as Rusev, is a Bulgarian professional wrestler and former powerlifter and rower. He works for the American professional wrestling promotion WWE, performing on the Smackdown brand and is a two-time WWE United States Champion. Barnyashev is the first Bulgarian to have wrestled for WWE.
Early life and athletics career
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, before relocating to Torrance, California, where he began training as a wrestler under Gangrel and Rikishi at the Knokx Pro Wrestling Academy. Barnyashev debuted on the independent circuit on November 22, 2008 under the ring name "Miroslav Makaraov", defeating Aerial Star.
In 2010, Barnyashev wrestled for Vendetta Pro Wrestling as "Miroslav". While wrestling for VPW, he was managed by Markus Mac. He and several 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).
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). He was assigned to the WWE's Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) developmental territory, where he adopted the ring name "Alexander Rusev". He wrestled his first televised match on the July 17, 2011 episode of FCW, defeating Mike Dalton while being managed by Raquel Diaz. Shortly after debuting in FCW, Rusev tore both his anterior cruciate ligament and his meniscus and spent six months rehabilitating.
Rusev returned to FCW in March 2012 with Nick Rogers as his manager. 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. In August 2012, WWE rebranded FCW as WWE NXT.
After recovering from his injuries, 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. Rusev's first NXT singles match came about on August 21, losing to Dolph Ziggler. 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. On the October 30 episode of NXT, Rusev ended his affiliation with Lefort by attacking him during a tag team bout.
Rusev proceeded to adopt Lana as his "social ambassador", a pairing compared by WWE to Ivan and Ludmilla Drago from the 1985 film Rocky IV. In matches taped before his main roster debut, Rusev defeated main roster wrestlers Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and Sin Cara in singles matches, which aired on NXT in January and February.
Rusev continued to appear sporadically on NXT after joining the main roster in April 2014. He made his final appearance on July 24, 2014, getting disqualified against NXT Champion Adrian Neville in a non-title match.
Hero of the Russian Federation (2014–2015)
Rusev made his main roster debut at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view on January 26, 2014. The sixth entrant to the titular match, Rusev was eliminated by a joint effort of four wrestlers. After months of self-promotional videos and speeches by Rusev and his manager Lana, Rusev's return match on the main roster came about on the April 7 episode of Raw, where he squashed Zack Ryder.
In May 2014, Rusev adopted a Russophillic, anti-American gimmick that saw him announced as having relocated to Russia, and as having been named "Hero of the Russian Federation". In the same month, his ring name was shortened to simply "Rusev". Over the next several months, Rusev feuded with Big E (whom he defeated at Payback and at Money in the Bank), Jack Swagger (whom he defeated at Battleground and again at SummerSlam), Mark Henry (who he defeated at Night of Champions) and Big Show (who he defeated at Hell in a Cell). 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. On the October 6, 2014 episode of Raw, Rusev and Lana were confronted by The Rock in a surprise appearance; with The Rock driving Rusev from the ring.
On November 3, Rusev gained his first professional wrestling championship and became the first Bulgarian-born champion in WWE history when he won United States Championship by defeating then-champion Sheamus in a post-Raw match that aired on the WWE Network.
At TLC: Tables, Ladders, & Chairs 2014, Rusev successfully defended his United States Championship, forcing Jack Swagger to tap out to his Accolade submission maneuver.
Rusev was the runner-up in the 2015 Royal Rumble Match before being hurled over the top rope by the victorious Roman Reigns. On Royal Rumble Fallout, The Super Athlete interrupted an interview with John Cena, sparking a heated confrontation that has evolved into a very personal rivalry.
With the help of Lana and a low-blow, Rusev was victorious with The Accolade over an unconscious Cena at WWE Fastlane. Despite initially rejecting the Cenation leader’s overtures for a rematch, The Super Athlete found himself in a precarious position on the March 9 Raw as Cena locked him in a suffocating version of the STF. As a result, Lana agreed to give Cena another chance to win the United States Championship at WrestleMania 31, in exchange for Rusev’s release from the hold.
Lana's decision to grant Cena a rematch caused a dispute between her and Rusev. The Bulgarian Brute refused to answer questions regarding their relationship, showing up on Raw the next week for the United States Championship Match contract signing with a Russian lawyer by his side in place of The Ravishing Russian. After a miscommunication with Lana, Rusev was defeated by Cena and lost the United States Championship at WrestleMania 31.
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. 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. On the following episode of Raw, Rusev ended his affiliation with Lana. During the episode, Rusev confronted Lana after she publicly kissed Dolph Ziggler in the ring. After receiving a slap by Lana and a ZigZag from Ziggler, Rusev was left knocked out in the ring while his former manager and his rival Ziggler exited the ring together.
Split from Lana (Early 2015)
On the May 25, 2015 episode of Raw, Rusev reverted to being billed from Bulgaria and began carrying the flag of Bulgaria to ringside. Later on in the show, Rusev unsuccessfully attempted to reconcile with Lana.
Rusev was scheduled to meet Ziggler at the 2015 Elimination Chamber, against R-Truth, King Barrett, Ryback and Sheamus in an Elimination Chamber match for the vacant Intercontinental Championship. On May 28 on Smackdown leading to the event, Rusev lost to Ryback by disqualification. As a further result from the match, Rusev suffered a legit foot fracture. He was unable to compete at Elimination Chamber and was replaced by Mark Henry in the chamber match for the IC title eventually won by Ryback. While recovering from his foot injury, Rusev would continue to unsuccessfully attempt to sway Lana away from Ziggler.
Rusev would align with Summer Rae, to continue their feud with Lana and Ziggler. Rusev would fight Ziggler to a double count out at Summerslam, but would lose at Night of Champions due to interference from Summer Rae. Rae would announce her engagement with Rusev on an October edition of Raw, but Rusev dumped her, since it was reported on TMZ that Rusev and Lana were engaged.
League of Nations, United States Champion (2016-2017)
Rusev would be aligned with WWE World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus, King Barrett, and Alberto Del Rio to form the new stable The League of Nations, where Sheamus used his stable to keep the title from Roman Reigns. Rusev would reignite his feud with Ryback, whom he defeated at TLC, where Lana interfered.
Rusev would enter the 2016 Royal Rumble for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at #2, but would be eliminated by the new and defending champion Roman Reigns, the man who eliminated Rusev the year before to win.
Rusev then won a battle royal on the May 16 episode of Raw to become #1 Contender to Kalisto's United States Championship, last eliminating Zack Ryder. Rusev defeated Kalisto via submission at Extreme Rules to obtain his second title. Retaining his title against Titus O'Neil at Money in the Bank and Ryder at Battleground, Rusev entered a feud with Roman Reigns, resulting in their Summerslam clash never happening due to Rusev's ribs cracking. They had a proper title match at Clash of Champions, which Rusev lost. Rusev and Lana requested a rematch, which Reigns accepted, that took place inside Hell in a Cell, where Rusev was defeated.
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. On the December 5 episode of Raw, Rusev and Lana would have an argument backstage, with Amore standing up to Rusev. Lana would invite Amore back to her hotel room after telling him that she believes Rusev is only taking her for granted. This would later be revealed to be a setup, as Rusev would attack Amore at the hotel. At Roadblock: End of the Line, Rusev would face Amore's tag partner, Big Cass, defeating him by count-out. 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 Jinder Mahal. On the January 2, 2017 episode of Raw, Rusev teamed with Mahal in a 2-on-1 handicap match, defeating Big Cass. Rusev continued to team with Mahal, where on the January 23 episode of Raw, Rusev and Mahal, alongside Braun Strowman and Titus O'Neil, defeated Enzo and Cass and The New Day.
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. 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. Both Rusev and Lana disappeared from television following Rusev requiring surgery for an injury.
On April 11, Rusev was moved to SmackDown as part of the Superstar Shake-up. On the April 25 episode of SmackDown, 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, in which he lost at the event. Rusev would then enter in a feud with Randy Orton where they wrestled against each other at SummerSlam where Orton defeated Rusev in 10 seconds. He got his revenge in the following Tuesday, and was given the key to his legitimate hometown of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, as the mayor, Ivan Totev granted him the key to the city, as witnessed by Aiden English. However, both English and Rusev were attacked by Orton. On October 23 edition of Raw, Rusev was a part of the SmackDown rosters that invaded Raw. During the November 7 edition of SmackDown, Rusev faced Randy Orton for a spot on the Kurt Angle-led SmackDown team for Survivor Series, which Rusev was unsuccessful in winning a place on the team.
During WWE Talking Smack, both SmackDown GM Daniel Bryan and Aiden English informed Rusev that his tag team partner in the WWE Mixed Match Challenge is none other than his wife Lana, much to his excitement. Prior to WWE Mixed Match Challenge, Rusev heavily trained his wife Lana at their home and together with English at the arena where they taught her the basics of wrestling as well as fighting in the ring and pumping up before the match. Rusev's signature Accolade later adapted to his wife Lana when she faces fellow SmackDown Divas. In their first match, they defeated both Elias and Bayley making Lana's first official WWE win and they also defeat both Bobby Roode and Charlotte. Rusev was excited to face off AJ Styles as a No. 1 Contender for the WWE Championship at Extreme Rules during the exclusive marking his first time to face the WWE Champion as a contrast when he faces the United States Champion.
In Extreme Rules, Rusev lost to AJ Styles to retain his title due to Aiden English's distraction. He was mentioned by Lana when English apologizes for cost him his championship match on SmackDown Live's July 17.
On July 24, Rusev and Andrade "Cien" Almas are breaking both Lana and Zelina Vega during their backstage altercation which Rusev tells them to speak English and challenges Almas into a one-on-one match which he accepts. During the one-on-one match as both Lana and Zelina are outside the ring. Both men were in equally momentum even they were knocked down on the ring, both Lana and Zelina continued their altercation which she slaps her causing Lana to have a brawl with her until the arrival of English to stop their brawl. Due to English's appearance, Rusev became distracted allowing Almas to defeat him. After the match, both English and Lana are arguing for what happened during Rusev's match with Almas and he angrily lashed them out, unsure if either of them was on his side while walking away in disappointment.
Barnyashev is in a relationship with Catherine Perry, who also performs for WWE under the ring name Lana. The couple bought a house together in Nashville, Tennessee. Barnyashev and Perry married on July 29, 2016.
Prior to WWE Mixed Match Challenge in their battle against Elias and Bayley on February 13, 2018, Barnyashev heavily trained his wife Perry at their home and later being assisted by Matthew "Matt" Rehwoldt who also performs for WWE under the ring name Aiden English to teach Perry the basic wrestling techniques during the practice matches.
- Finishing moves
- Signature moves
- Tag teams and stables
- "The Bashing Bulgarian"
- "The Bulgarian Brute"
- "The Hero of the Russian Federation"
- "The Russian Tank"
- "The Super-Athlete"
- "Ru Ru"
- Entrance music
Championships and accomplishments
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #65 of the 500 best singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2014
- World Wrestling Entertainment / WWE
- Rusev at the Internet Movie Database