Recently, I got the chance to chat with WWE Superstar CJ “Lana” Perry. The Ravishing Russian took time to talk about what inspired her to join the WWE, the transition from being a manager to an in-ring competitor, being part of WWE Evolution, and what to expect in the finale of Total Divas. Along the way one thing became obvious, the Ravishing Russian never lets anything stop her from following her dreams and maybe just maybe we can start a movement to get Lana and Rusev their own show.
Rogues Portal: What made you want to get involved in the WWE?
CJ “Lana” Perry: Since I was three years old, I wanted to be a sports entertainer, and I wanted to tell stories. I remember being a little girl and wanting to entertain people and wanting to be a storyteller. I remember Jake the Snake so vividly, I was so young maybe three or four years old and all my friends in the neighborhood their older brothers were big wrestling fans. They would have posters of Hulk Hogan or Jake the Snake. I just remember I was so scared of the snake. I was so scared of the snake, but it had an impact. Sometimes the things that we are scared of or we don’t like are the things that impact us the most. I remember thinking that the snake was so scary.
Watching wrestling with all of my girlfriends’ brothers and I always found it so fascinating. Why do they have wet hair? Why is their body all wet? And here they are doing these crazy things off the cage and breaking tables. It was always so fascinating to me and these larger than life characters that I was really drawn to it. I just never thought that realistically I would be able to do that. I grew up in the former Soviet Union and become a professional ballet dancer at the age of ten years old. I was a skinny little ballerina, and I never thought being a professional wrestler is actually attainable. I just kept chasing my dream to tell stories and to entertain and put smiles on peoples faces. It was that crazy journey that lead me to where I am right now.
RP: Fans of the WWE know that you started out in the WWE as the manager for Rusev. Over the last couple of years, we have seen you switch from being exclusively a manager to also being an in-ring performer. What has been the biggest difference in how you train and how you prepare yourself to go on camera as a manager compared to as a wrestler?
CP: The biggest difference between being a manager versus being a wrestler is the physicality of it. I have to make sure that I am working out, drinking enough protein shakes and putting on natural weight. Like I said I was a ballerina before, so I had to work hard to put on muscle because it does keep to safer in the ring. So I have had to really focus of lifting weights, working out, eating healthy, and eating the things that I need. It puts a much higher demand on your body. We are a contact sport at the end of the day so that part is much different when you are competing in the ring.
Managing I am out there managing my client and telling the story, acting, and talking on the mic. For me, that comes personally that comes a little more naturally versus the physicality. A lot of preparation goes into both but for me and maybe it is because of my background as a ballerina and actor. I do not feel as stressed managing as I do competing in the ring.
RP: What has been the biggest challenge for you going from managing to being a wrestler?
CP: I definitely think that criticism has come a lot. For a long time, Rusev and I were very patriotic toward dedicating our matches to Russia and Vladimir Putin. People didn’t like us or booed or chanted “USA.” But it was a choice that we were going out there and dedicating our matches to Vladimir Putin to get peoples attention, and it did get peoples attention. Maybe fans didn’t like us, but it was a choice that we made versus criticism over your skill. Personally, sometimes it is hard for me because I love it so much and I put so much into my craft, and I want to be good.
Also, the challenge is whatever you start out at first. The WWE Universe tends to always see you as that. So let’s say Summer and Fandango, everyone loves Summer and Fandango the most together because that’s how you saw Summer the first time. Rusev and I, everyone loved us together because that’s how we were introduced to the WWE Universe They want us to be out there crushing people and me in the suits and the buns. Sometimes they may like or think they like it more than other things that they see or evolve.
That being said, starting out as a manager I think some people say, we only want her to manage we only want her to manage, but you have a whole bunch of other people who are Total Diva fans or fans of the WWE Universe that have been along on my journey. I think that I represent people that are out there in the audience who have dreams to be WWE Superstars. Maybe they are not the fastest or the strongest or the best athlete in the world, but they have a dream to be a WWE Superstar and any dream that they have in their heart they should just chase it. I know I represent all the people of the world and kids that have dreams and want to chase those dreams because anything is possible.
RP: Speaking of criticism, recently on Twitter someone posted a video of you pulling a punch when you realized that Dana may be hurt. Can you touch on the importance of protecting yourself and the people you are competing against in the ring?
CP: Yes. This is a contact sport, so anything can happen, and we know that. Anytime I go out to that ring, that just like any sport be it dance or professional wrestling, there is a risk that any injury could happen. On top of it being a sport, it is a contact sport which just leads to a higher risk. We all know to go into that ring that accidents happen. We are trained professionals, and we have an incredible medical team that holds meetings a couple of times a year of how we are supposed to act and treat each other in the ring if we see head injuries.
When I saw Dana have blood on her face, which happened to be Becky Lynch’s blood, I stopped. I was going to punch her in the face, and I see her covered blood, that at the time I thought was her blood, which ended up being Becky Lynch’s blood all over her. I was informed to call a doctor and a ref and let them know that Becky Lynch was injured in the ring. Becky Lynch is one of the baddest women out there. She is the man, and I am sure she would be mad knowing I went out there and tried to find a doctor and a ref because she was going to keep going. We saw that. No one was going to be able to stop her. She would be out there competing at Survivor Series against Ronda if she had a choice because she is that tough, she is the man.
Thankfully our medical team does put our health first. They teach us to look out for each other, and it is part of our job to look out for each other. Sometimes we are hurting, and we push through because of adrenaline. I will work through injury and anything but a lot of the time its people around me looking out for me.
RP: A few weeks ago you got to be part of WWE Evolution, which was the first all-women’s PPV (pay per view) put on by the WWE. What was it like being part of both the PPV in general and the women’s battle royale?
CP: I am so grateful for the opportunity, and it surpassed my wildest dreams. To have an all-women’s PPV is incredible. I have seen the women’s division grow so much since 2014 when I started on the main roster, when the women had two- or three-minute matches, and I was one of the few women talking on the mic every single week. I think at the time it was me and Stephanie McMahon had promo segments and that was it, no one else did. The women’s matches were almost non-existent. Then to see now where we are at with having a full women’s PPV and all these women’s stories are just really really incredible, and I’m just very very grateful to be a part of it.
I felt at one point when I was managing Rusev, and this women’s revolution started I almost felt like I was watching it from the side. All these women were making history, and I felt like I was invited to the dance but had to sit on the side. It was like being invited to the prom but being told you are not allowed to dance. I remember always telling Rusev that I want to be part of history with these women.
Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to tell stories and entertain, but I also wanted to do something impactful, and make history. To be part of this movement where we just see so many opportunities for women, and we are shattering glass ceilings. Being part of history in being in the first-ever women’s Royale Rumble, the first-ever Battle Royale at WrestleMania, being in Money in the Bank, in Evolution at the first ever women’s PPV in the Battle Royale, I’m so, so grateful because I am a part of history and my name will go in the history books. It’s once again telling people from around the world, not just women, but men and people from every sexual orientation, every culture, every race, every country that you can do anything you put your mind to.
RP: Building on that, what advice would you give to someone whose dream it is to work for the WWE someday?
CP: I would say, weightlift a lot, eat a lot of protein, take a lot of acting classes, and start taking wrestling classes as soon as they will let you. If that is 18 or whatever age where you are at start doing it, take gymnastics if you can, martial arts, any type of MMA, Olympic style wrestling all help so much. Again take acting classes, this is not just a contact sport. We are story tellers and entertainers, which is such a big part of professional wrestling and that can not be forgotten.
RP: Switching over to Total Divas. This is your third season on the show. What has been the biggest adjustment for being in front of the camera for Smackdown vs. being in front of the camera for Total Divas?
CP: There is a huge difference, people judge you. People are judging, even though I go by Lana on the show, a little more of CJ “Lana” Perry. It’s kind of the first time that people saw me on a regular basis in the WWE Universe without an accent and talking in my American voice. I think that people start to judge you for you and who you are because they see you in your everyday life and your flaws and ups and downs.
People judge you for you versus when I would come out on Raw or Smackdown. I would come out as the ravishing Russian Lana, and I committed to being a majority of my career a bad guy. I would just commit. The more you boo or hate me, the better I’m doing my job, versus if people don’t like you for you personally for maybe what color dress you wore that day or because you got too excited for a dance battle it’s a lot more personal. But that is what I signed up for, and I am who I am. I am imperfect and have my ups and downs, and I am very proud to share my imperfections with the world.
RP: Was it difficult getting used to having cameras around all the time and exposing your personal life?
CP: Definitely not, because Rusev and I always have cameras. I feel like I am always on Instagram Live, or Instagram Story, or filming us or taking pictures. We just are who we are if the cameras are there or not. That was never actually strange for me. I was just like of course there should be cameras following me. (laughing) He [Rusev] is the same way. We are like obviously there should be cameras following us. So that was not the hard part to adjust to.
RP: The finale of Total Divas is coming up on November 28th. What can viewers look forward to in the last few episodes?
CP: I think the big thing that will be such an emotional roller coaster for the viewers is to see Jim The Anvil, Nattie’s Dad, pass away. That is actual on the season finale, and he has been on the show since season one. For me, he was a very close friend. We loved hanging out, and we loved taking fireball shots. He lit up a room, and he has been part of that show since the very beginning. Nattie is very close to her dad and unfortunately passed away in August, so you see that on camera and I think that it is going to be very emotional. But I know he would be so proud of his daughter. So that’s a big part.
You are also going to see my story which is having my first ever Money in the Bank ladder match. If you watched the last three season of the show, you see my very first match at WrestleMania three season ago. Then you saw me last season preparing for my singles debut. That’s when Mark Carrano, who is in charge of talent relations, told me I was not good enough to be a singles competitor, that I would not be a singles competitor anymore. But I still kept on training. I still kept on persevering. I still kept on resiliently chasing my dreams and it paid off, it really really paid off.
You see me get my first win. You see me as an in-ring competitor and you see I am in a ladder match, which is one of the highest stakes matches that you have. They are one of the hardest matches out there and to be able to achieve that. You get to see that in the season finale. It goes back to if you have a dream radically pursue it no matter what people say or think.
RP: Viewers seem to enjoy when you and Rusev are both on the show. I particularly enjoyed when he decided to throw the birthday party. So the question is what has to be done, who needs to be called to get you and Rusev your own show?
CP: Oh. I don’t know. Start tweeting it out. I mean I feel like the true star of Total Divas is Rusev. I’m entertaining, but I know who the funnier one is. He is always making me laugh and I personally love watching him on the show. (laughing) He makes me laugh so much, so we would love to have our own show. I think the world wants to see more of Rusev. I mean he showed up being a clown as Birdie’s birthday.
RP: Happy Rusev Day or Lana Knows Best could be the name of the show
CP: (laughing) Yes, I like that one, Lana Knows Best. Perfect!!
The Season Finale of Total Divas airs November 28th at 9 pm EST/PT on E!
*parts of the interview edited for clarity
*photos courtesy of the WWE