Before Lana joined up with the WWE, she was a woman of many talents, dipping her toes into a litany of other careers including promotional work, singing, acting, modeling, and even being backup dancer. While some worked out better than others, Lana’s path eventually led her to the WWE, when she was hired in mid-2013 to begin training for a career in pro wrestling.
Although her in-ring training was cut short, WWE saw a lot of promise in her as an actress and began grooming her for a career as a manager, eventually teaming her up with the man born in Bulgaria, who relocated to Russia for a few months, and is now back in Bulgaria, the all-powerful Rusev. A popular duo among fans, these two are not only close on-screen, but off as Lana became recently engaged to “The Bulgarian Brute.”
So far, much of what’s been said sounds similar to other WWE Divas, but Lana prides herself as being an independent women, standing up for herself often via her social media accounts. Her outspokenness is fairly common, which can be seen right in her profile: “Women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition.” Thanks to her strong self-awareness, honesty, and overall personality, Lana has gathered quite a following over the past two years.
So, let’s check out some of her most must-see photos, and continue to learn about WWE’s “Ravishing Russian.”
10. Florida State Cowgirls
In her younger years, Lana was highly dedicated to dancing, particularly in ballet where she attended multiple dance schools in New York City, until it was time to go to college. There, she enrolled at Florida State in dance and acting, but also went to many of the college’s football games.
Pictured on the left, Lana was in a group aptly named the “Florida State Cowgirls” which, as you can imagine, received plenty of airtime during the televised games. So much so that football commentator, Brent Musburger, actually commented that “1,500 red-blooded Americans just decided to apply to Florida State.” In the middle is Jenn Sterger; she parlayed this attention into a bunch of promotional work, an appearance in Playboy, sideline reporting with the New York Jets, and allegedly, receiving some naughty texts and pictures from Brett Favre.
9. Music, Modeling, and Acting
Thanks to her exposure from FSU, Lana was able to get into some modeling gigs including a spokesperson for Red Bull and Matrix. If you Google her name, there is quite a bit of model work from her early days, some of which would definitely need to be censored, if shown on this site!
She then relocated to Los Angeles, where she was able to obtain small parts in movies (usually as a dancer) and on TV. During this time she also was in a short lived girl-group “No Means Yes,” which sounds like an awful name for a group, so no surprise it barely lasted a year. Lana also was a backup dancer for different artists including Usher, Pink, Nelly, Akon, and Keri Hilson.
8. Joining The WWE
In 2013, Lana signed up with the WWE and joined NXT to begin her wrestling career; WWE initially wanted to put her in the ring, but some kind of injury or issue (it remains vague to this day) occurred that kept her from continuing with her wrestling training.
Luckily, Lana’s acting skills were on a higher level and thanks to her time living in Latvia as a child, she and WWE were able to develop her gimmick alongside Rusev. She became his “social ambassador,” and mouthpiece to the fans, since initially, Rusev didn’t speak much English – that’s where Lana stepped in.
7. Promotion To The Main Roster
After being in development for only 7 months, Lana officially debuted in January of 2014, where she and Rusev began doing vignettes for literally months, until Rusev started having matches on a regular basis. This was an interesting time for the duo as WWE was trying to figure out what did and didn’t work for the couple. Unsurprisingly, the fans took to Lana much quicker than Rusev, so WWE started strutting Lana out to the stage for longer periods of time, when she initially would just come out and start talking.
Initially, the group was from Bulgaria, but the fans didn’t quite take to that country as an “evil” enough location, so predictably, WWE had them relocate to Russia, because wrestling fans always hate anyone from Russia! What decade is this again? At any rate, during this time, Lana basically “controlled” her wrestler, letting him know when it was time to “crush!” his opponent.
6. Popularity On The Rise
Thanks to their change to Russia, Lana started professing how much Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, was a hero to her, and everything that she and Rusev did was a tribute to him. Lana became a true heat magnet, getting crowds to boo them all across the country with her cold personality and sharp one-liners.
Rusev also became much more consistent in the ring, rarely talking on the mic, although when he did, it was usually pretty entertaining. The “evil foreigner” is such a tired gimmick in WWE, but with Lana by his side, she brought a wrinkle to the gimmick that was getting over nicely with the fans.
5. Managing A Champion
After becoming one of the most dominant heels in the company, Rusev eventually got a chance to take on, and defeat, Sheamus for the U.S. championship. At this point, the U.S. title was basically in the basement in terms of prestige, but thanks to Lana and Rusev, they collectively made the title feel that much more important.
Not only did it look great on Lana, but Rusev held the title for months, defeating anyone silly enough to take him on. His matches against Big E are some of the best of his career, incredibly stiff bouts between two strong guys. Putting the U.S. title on Rusev made sense, because Lana couldn’t help but talk so much crap about the U.S., fans absolutely hated that they held the title, and could only hope a hero could take away the title – that hero was John Cena. At Fastlane, Rusev took on and defeated Cena; even though it was via distraction by Lana, a win over Cena was always a surprise.
The picture above is Lana coming out with the title at WrestleMania 31, when Cena was able to secure a rematch for the U.S. title. Seriously, this entrance was pretty insane, and is worth seeing, not only for Lana, but because Rusev rode out on a tank! Unfortunately for the duo, this time around Cena was able to pick up the win when Lana jumped on the apron to distract Cena, Rusev rushed Cena (who moved out the way), and Rusev bounced Lana from the apron to the floor.
4. A Crumbling Relationship
From then on it was a lot of frustration from Rusev as Lana started to soak in the crowd’s admiration (despite being a heel), and after being yelled at and sent to the back, Lana had enough. Turning face, Lana moved to Dolph Ziggler as her new man, but unfortunately the two had about as much chemistry as cats and dogs. Not only did WWE try to force this terrible couple down the fans’ throats, but these two pushed it via social media, which wasn’t much better.
Eventually, the feud came down to Lana and Dolph vs. Summer and Rusev, which creative wanted to make into a match, but Lana had yet to wrestle a televised match for the company. She began training for a future match, which had some mild interest mainly due to Lana and Summer Rae continuously brawling (think basic cat fights) every week. Unfortunately, during her in-ring training, Lana fractured her wrist, which required surgery, and would keep her out of action for about four months, ending the whole angle.
3. Rocking The WWE Photo Shoots
Thanks to her days in modeling, doing shoots probably comes along pretty easily, as she always looks stunning in her pictures. This was from a recent Halloween shoot where each woman was dressed in ghostly outfits in a haunted house.
Her outfits were probably chosen in this particular shoot, but Lana has excellent taste in fashion, and is one of the better dressed WWE Superstars, both on camera and in her personal life. The only person that could rival her style is WWE Announcer Eden, who will be highlighted down the road.
2. Social Media
It’s not all glitz and glamour for “The Ravishing Russian” as she typically takes “normal everyday” looking pictures, with no makeup. Amazingly, some fans thought she was “ugly” without her makeup, to which she simply blew them off with a simple statement:
“There are people that think I’m ugly without make up. I’m crying. Obviously #JK. Insecure people #SMH and shut up. I’m creating greatest legacy with or without make up.”
Haters are always out there, especially when you are a public figure, but Lana took it in stride and kept on pushing her usual positive vibes to her fans.
1. The Present and Future
Right now, life is pretty good for Lana: she’s engaged, and gets to travel around the world with her man, Rusev. Seemingly over her wrist injury, WWE has plugged her back with Rusev and they are now members of Sheamus’ League of Nations, a heel stable that also includes Alberto Del Rio and Wade Barrett.
Still doing movies (most recently Interrogation, which is yet to be released), Lana might find herself in Hollywood more often in the future. Within the WWE, it’s tough to see her separate away from Rusev, so hopefully she will continue to elevate their status for a potential main event run in 2016.