• Matty Paddock

Exclusive: Lana on life in WWE without 'Rusev', Becky Lynch and more

WWE’s Lana says she’ll continue to dig deep after having everything “ripped away” from her over the last year.

The former model and dance star is finding her feet in what is very much a sink or swim environment in WWE.

Having spent much of the first three years with the company managing Rusev – who she would go on to marry in 2016 – she’s been forced to go it alone following the company’s decision to release him in April last year.

It was a situation Lana, whose real name is CJ Perry, never saw coming – hinting in an exclusive interview with me that she always believed it would be she who’d be more likely to hit the WWE exit first.

As it is, she’s now a staple feature on Monday Night Raw while her husband is a star with All Elite Wrestling, arguably WWE’s closest rival, where he is TNT Champion.

Recalling the workplace separation from the man who now wrestles as Miro, she said: “I was definitely shook by the whole situation – never in a million years would I have thought that would have been the outcome, I thought it would probably always have been vice versa.

“It made me realise that you can never get comfortable and can never get complacent. You always need to have heart, passion and try to work harder than anyone else.

“It was really terrifying when all of that happened because I was like ‘man, I really have to stand on my own’ and I had to go on this journey on my own.

“I had to dig deep, very deep – but we’re here now, and I’m going to continue to dig deep.”

Being forced to essentially fly solo after years plying your trade with husband might seem bad enough but, as with much of the world, 2020 and beyond represented nothing but change.

Not long after Rusev’s final on-screen WWE appearance, the company also lost arguably its biggest asset – its fans.

Forced to bolt their doors and perform in empty arenas, the company has ploughed through the global pandemic and consistently produced its weekly television shows and monthly pay per view events without an audience.

"...it was like everything was being ripped away from me that I loved so much..

Lana, would also lose the company of good friend and mentor Becky Lynch after the former Raw Women’s Champion took time out of the spotlight a year ago to focus on pregnancy and the birth of her first daughter.

“During the start of the whole [pandemic] situation, I was personally in shock,” she went on to add. “It felt like my whole world was being ripped away from me.

“To just not have the fans – I miss the fans out there so much, and I get emotional every time I talk about it because I’ve just been so fortunate to have such a passionate relationship with our fan base.

“I’m so thankful that when I come out there they always make so much noise. I’m not the best, I’m really not the best at anything, but they would either cheer really loud or boo me really loud, and I felt we had this really co-dependent relationship.

“When that was gone, it was like everything was being ripped away from me that I loved so much, whether it was Rusev, or different people – Becky was another person who was always there and now she’s not there, the fans are not there."

WWE of course tested the waters of having fans back at live events with WrestleMania earlier this year, while AEW had its fans present for Blood & Guts recently.

It's believed both may be gearing up for more regular shows with an audience before the summer is out.

“It was an adjustment," added Lana, of their initial absence. "I just can’t wait for them to come back and be there at an arena. – I can’t emphasise how thankful I am for their support.”

Want more exclusive interviews from the world of professional wrestling? Check out my work on Daily Star and The Independent, and follow me on Twitter @MattyPaddock.

Image - WWE