Rusev recently appeared on a Bulgarian talk show. Here are the highlights.
On first arriving in America: “I went there when I was 20. I signed up in the European College [in Plovdiv] and I wanted to go to the work and travel exchange program and I had the desire to go there and become a wrestler since I was a kid. I was focused on that and I was also very fluent in English. It used to be very expensive to take part in the [work and travel] program, some loans were taken and friends helped. It was hard but thanks to God and all of the friends that I have found myself in America. We were 15 people in the [work and travel] program. We were living together in a big house. We painted houses. After a month they thought that I was not good at it and despite my contract being for four months, they kicked me out from the house. They told me [I had] thirty minutes to pack my bags. And I didn’t know anybody in America apart from two people I worked with, these guys were cool…[I had] 100 dollars! Rich man!”
On working in Los Angeles before he made it in wrestling: “I started cleaning stores. We removed flooring, cleaned it and replaced it. After that I worked at Wendy’s, I made sandwiches, I quit after 2 weeks. I can’t have seven managers and two workers hanging over my head. After that a friend of mine moved to Los Angeles. [And I thought] Hollywood, Los Angeles, it has wrestling, it has everything. And we set off from Richmond, Virginia with a old car, model 1988, red on the inside, red on the outside, amazing. And then, four days later we arrived in Los Angeles, California. And then Svilen Nikolov, a man I didn’t know then, who would later become my best man, accepted us into his home until we adapted. [My friend and I] started with a Bulgarian construction company. As you can [guess], strong boys, we can’t just wait for the perfect job. So we slowly we worked our way up. We rented our own apartment. After that he quit, I did as well, and went to be a welder, then again worked in construction, I delivered pizzas, then delivered food at another place. [I also worked] in a striptease club, they took me for my good looks. After that I delivered some parts for boilers. All kinds of work, you name it.”
On his name being shortened to Rusev: “[WWE] gives you an option to submit names you like. And I was thinking about it. Then to make a joke with my friend Vasil, Vasil Rusev, who I used to share a rowing boat with, I chose Rusev. And I was Alexander Rusev with Alexander later being dropped. I liked Alexander because it sounded [mighty] and Bulgarian. But then it got dropped because Vince Mcmahon said ‘Ugh, Alexander, they’ll start calling you Alex as a nickname and you have to be a Russian/Bulgarian villain, we’re dropping it.’”
On his catchphrase: “I made [the catchphrase ‘Rusev udrya, Rusev machka’] myself. Our character, mine and Lana’s, that we present in the ring was very [inspired] by Rocky IV, we took a lot from there. And I remember a scene where Rocky’s trainer says that whatever Drago hits, he destroys. And I was thinking how something similar can work for me. And one day we had to record it in studio and that’s when ‘Rusev udrya, Rusev machka’ was born.”