Her appearances in the ring may have been sporadic, but Lana, the Ravishing Russian, clearly remembers what could have been the biggest night of her career. It was the night of the 2019 Royal Rumble, when entering No. 28, Lana injured her ankle and was replaced by Becky Lynch. Becky, of course, went on to win the Rumble and headlined WrestleMania 35 where she defeated Charlotte and Ronda Rousey to win the WWE Raw Women’s champion. Also Read - Former WWE Star Shad Gaspard Found Dead on Los Angeles Beach
Later, during a backstage interview, Lana almost broke down realising that irrespective of how hard she tries to improve, her quest of becoming a fierce in-ring competitor backfires. And at that moment, you couldn’t help but wonder that those were the words of CJ Perry, the never-quitting woman putting life into the character. For all you know, given the opportunity, Lana would have still competed, in spite of a bad ankle, but it was Becky’s popularity that got her over. Also Read - Former WWE Champion John Cena Pays Tribute to Irrfan Khan, Rishi Kapoor With Cryptic Posts on Instagram
More than a year later, Becky is closing in on a year of holding the title and enters WrestleMania 36 defending it against Shayna Baszler; while Lana will be on Bobby Lashley’s side as he takes on Alistair Black. Yet, the Ravishing Russian has not forgotten the night of January 27, 2019 and hopes to have her “Dream Match” against Becky provided The Man is able to retain the Raw Women’s title. Also Read - WWE Raw Results: Rollins, McIntyre Make MITB Match Official, Jinder Mahal Returns
“If Becky retains the title against Shayna at WrestleMania, I would want to go after her,” Lana tells India.com in an exclusive chat. “That would be my dream match going after Becky for the Raw Women’s Championship and winning. Becky owes me a thank you from the Royal Rumble 2019 when I selflessly gave up my spot for her to be in the Royal Rumble. She main-evented WrestleMania and won, which means I gave everyone The Man. I still haven’t gotten a thank you from her so I think I should be given a title match.”
Lana’s ring-time may not be enough, but she has shown the desire to improve upon it. Before the Rumble, Lana had a decent run as an in-ring competitor participating in the Mixed Match challenge with Rusev and later competing in the Money in the Bank Ladder match. However, since she never quite received the long rope, Lana focussed on getting better at things that were in her control. All that, as Perry puts is, is a part of the person and the character’s resolve to evolve over time.
“I’m still Ravishing Russian, just that I now speak perfect flawless English. I think it’s very important for people to understand the need to evolve as a person,” Lana explains. “I debuted on WWE television back in NXT 2013 and a year later on Smackdown and Raw. I as a person have changed and grown and become better, smarter and stronger in the last six years and so has my character. It’s important because without evolving, we won’t be able to tell real-life, compelling stories.”
Lana has always been popular crowd. When the WWE linked her with Dolph Ziggler, the suits were replaced by denim skirts, the pops were deafening. Even when WWE began airing vignettes of her return in 2017, people anticipated it highly. Her versatility could be gauged by the fact that Lana can speak five different languages and has appeared on television outside of the WWE. For a WWE superstar, the biggest challenge is to pick up traits, behaviour, instincts and implement it, something that Perry has done rather effortlessly.
“In the very beginning when I started, Vince McMahon told me the importance of evolving. CJ Perry has many different elements of her and I knew I could put all those into portraying the Ravishing Russian Lana. So I’ve been very excited to grow over the years. My outfit, promos – all those extensions of me. I grew up in Russia and studied there under disciplined teachers. So that’s what I brought to the character during my initial run,” Lana says.
Perhaps it’s the same flexibility to evolve that Lana was able to morph from this despised anti-American manager of The Bulgarian Brute Rusev – a monster-heel running roughshod over the biggest WWE Superstars – to becoming the co-founder of Rusev Day, where both she and her husband were so over with the crowd. In an era where the biggest starts fail to create a connection with the fans, Lana again went on to generate hate from crowd for making out with another man in front of her husband, generating shrieky and high-pitched noises making her an absolutely amazing ‘bad person.’ If that isn’t connection, what is?
“It’s really a crazy experience actually to have both situations. To be able to experience, being able to provoke the crowd so loud that the whole arena is booing you is the greatest adrenaline rush. Then, to be able to go into a different zone where the crowd is cheering for you, sure, I’m the same, I’ve never changed. For some reason the WWE Universe decided to chant at one point ‘Lana is the best, she’s No. 1’. Suddenly, they are booing again because they don’t support the decision of being with Lashley,” Lana says.
“I personally am very thankful that I have a very special connection with the WWE Universe and I’m able to provoke strong reactions. I can’t speak for Rusev, but I would say he probably feels the same that he’s been able to connect with the audience very well. For some reason, we have been able to provoke two extremely opposite yet strong reactions. I’m very thankful, because at least I have a relationship with them, at least I am able to make them feel something so passionately and that is extremely important. Being part of the WWE or other reality TV, that has been my biggest goal, to connect with viewers so passionately that they have to stand up and make a noise.”
What happens to the WWE after WrestleMania 36 in uncertain. Reports suggest they may take a break till the time the COVID-19 comes under control. If that is to happen, the creative has another opportunity to reboot Perry, repackage her. Lana may finally get to live her dream of becoming the first-ever Ravishing Women’s Champion.