Rusev has divulged Vince McMahon’s reasoning behind shortening his original ring name.
Initially named Alexander Rusev, the Superstar would find his name halved after a conversation with Vince McMahon.
In a conversation with At Cafe, Rusev explained that WWE has an option to submit names that you might want to use. He would eventually submit Alexander Rusev for consideration, with Rusev being an homage to a friend’s surname.
“[WWE] gives you an option to submit names you like,” Rusev explained. “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’.”
Rusev Udrya, Rusev Machka
In defining the character and catchphrase of the “Bulgarian Brute”, Rusev turned to cinematic inspiration. Namely, Rocky IV.
“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.”
Rusev isn’t the first Superstar to lose a name. Cesaro, Ali, Apollo, Andrade, and Elias are just a few others to have had their first name culled.
H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.