Alexander Rusev: NXT’s brewing storm
In WWE, any athlete who stands 6 feet tall and weighs more than 300 pounds can certainly hold his own. Once you add surprising agility and an explosive martial arts background to the mix, you have a Superstar poised to achieve great things. This is Alexander Rusev.
When it was announced last week that Dolph Ziggler would be making a special appearance on WWE NXT, observers and aficionados alike began to wonder who might face The Showoff. The question was answered the moment the bell rang and the mighty Rusev faced off with the former World Heavyweight Champion in an exciting match.
“I thought it was a smart move for NXT and WWE,” Rusev told WWE.com through an interpreter. “Dolph Ziggler is one of the best competitors out there and I took him to the limit.”
Since then, Rusev has formed an unlikely alliance with Sylvestor Lefort and Scott Dawson, creating a path of carnage in the process. But just who is this exciting new NXT Superstar? And why has he just now decided to make waves on NXT? A look into Rusev’s past may provide the answers the NXT Universe is looking for.
Born in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Rusev was raised with athletics as a way of life.
“I attended sports school in Bulgaria just like my parents. I attended class twice a day and trained twice a day,” Rusev recounted.
At the school, Rusev specialized in rowing, a sport he eventually competed in at a professional level. As a power lifter, Rusev was considered a prospect for the 2012 Bulgarian Olympic team. Not satisfied with his athletic feats, the Bulgarian strongman took a leap of faith by leaving home at age 20 and coming to the United States to pursue his dream of becoming a Superstar.
“I moved to Virginia and started working odd cleaning jobs. For a while I was living out of my car,” he said.
With his life seemingly at a standstill, Rusev made the decision to head west to finally make his dream a reality.
“My people in Bulgaria always knew if you wanted to become a star, you go to California, so that’s where I went,” he explained.
Rusev’s path to the Golden State brought him in contact with Gangrel and Rikishi, two former WWE Superstars he trained with at a school in Los Angeles. As the school’s first student, Rusev quickly found himself ahead of the class and it wasn’t long before he earned a coveted spot in WWE’s Developmental System. But the celebration of such an achievement was short-lived as Rusev faced an uphill battle that shaped the future of his career.
Shortly after joining WWE’s Developmental System in April 2011, Rusev suffered a severe knee injury: – a torn ACL and a torn meniscus. After more than six months, Rusev returned to action, but lady luck was nowhere to be found, as the injury bug struck again with a vengeance.
“I broke my neck,” he explained. “I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but eventually my right arm just stopped moving. I thought it was my shoulder but the MRI showed otherwise,”
Forced onto the sidelines again with a neck injury, Rusev decided he would take advantage of the recovery time and take a trip that would change his life.
“I’ve always had an interest in Muay Thai fighting,” he said “I love the discipline and toughness of it so I traveled to Thailand to study ways to incorporate it into my style.”
The trip paid off for Rusev, who returned to the ring sporting a Muay Thaiesque fighter look, a rejuvenated mindset and a brand new style.
“My fighting style allows me to use my knees and elbows. I learned to kick trees with my bare feet to strengthen my legs,” he said. “I love my training because it teaches me to separate pain from my body. That’s why I break a board before my match.”
Even today, Rusev adopts a different training philosophy than most: “I don’t train for looks but for efficiency. I train with logs, rocks and most objects you find in nature. It makes me stronger.”
There’s no question Rusev has a tumultuous past, which begs the question of his future. Is Rusev the storm that NXT never saw coming? Was his near victory over Ziggler a sign of his future dominance? And was the frustration he felt throughout the last two years the same frustration he plans to create for others? The answers may lie in his words.
“I want my name to be remembered for 1,000 years,” he said. “That way, I will never be forgotten when I’m done inside the ring.”
Follow Alexander Rusev on Twitter: @RusevBul