As is common in WWE, Rusev, who signed on with the Stamford, Connecticut-based organization in 2010, experienced a variety of makeovers in the developmental system. If not for his extraordinary build, he would be nearly unrecognizable in his former characters, as he went from a sumo wrestler to a French legionnaire while trying a number of haircuts. It wasn’t until late 2013 that “The Super Athlete” was created, with actress, dancer, singer, and model Catherine Joy “C.J” Perry appearing as Lana, his International Social Ambassador.
For fanatics of 1980s pop culture, it simply takes a couple seconds to see what picture WWE is striving for with Rusev and Lana: it’s Ivan Drago and his wife Ludmilla from the 1985 film Rocky IV.
Drago, portrayed by Dolph Lundgren, was the athlete engineered by the Soviet government, and his wife, portrayed by Brigitte Nielsen, was his English-speaking mouthpiece to the media, occasionally offering pleasantries with just a hint of threat. Lana resembles Nielsen’s character far more than Rusev looks like Lundgren, but his persona is built on the same premise.
The Drago character was essentially lifted from the professional wrestling’s template of the Russian heel. And the industry’s biggest Russian heel at the time, “The Russian Nightmare” Nikita Koloff, actually auditioned for the part.