CJ “Lana” Perry may not have been an indie darling like many of the woman on the WWE, or have pro wrestling in her bloodline, but her talent and dedication shouldn’t be dismissed.
In my opinion, I don’t feel like she gets the credit she deserves. She has been a mainstay on WWE television since her debut in 2014, and has a huge social media following.
Perry is a classically trained dancer and continued to further her education in acting and dancing when she studied at Florida State University. She may not have been working the indie circuit honing her skills in her early 20s, but she is a natural born entertainer. Being an entertainer is one of the things one must excel in to become a professional wrestler, so Perry has that part handled.
Back in 2013, Perry caught the eye of a WWE scout and was signed to a developmental contract. While there, she became paired with her future husband Rusev, and the character of Lana was born.
The Ravishing Russian and Rusev, with their anti-American tactics, made waves and turned heads when she made her main roster debut on Smackdown on January 21, 2014. Rusev, with the help of his “social media ambassador”, had memorable feuds throughout their tenure as a team. It could be argued that Lana had a huge role in Rusev’s career as a top heel and eventually a babyface. Lana brought back an old school managerial/valet feel that had been long lost in wrestling since the 80s and 90s. Whether it was a tyrant Russian bully, or a cheerleader shouting “Happy Rusev Day”, having Lana by Rusev’s side was a match made in heaven.
As a manager, Lana proved she had the mic skills and a polarizing on-screen presense, now she wanted to try her hand in the ring.
Lana made her in-ring debut at the pre-show for WrestleMania 32 as part of a ten-women tag match. The first few years Lana spent in tag matches and mixed matches with Rusev. She was never given credit for her in-ring skills, and to her defense, she had requested training to hone her craft and become a better in-ring performer. Lana has also throughout the years looked for one-on-one guidance from training legend and friend Natalya Neidhart, and Neidhart’s husband, the uber talented, Tyson Kidd.
Lana has put 100 percent into every creative storyline that has been brought to her, regardless of how outlandish it seemed. Working a storyline where you divorce your real-life husband because you had an affair takes some real acting chops. Fast forward a few months later, for shock value, Liv Morgan tried to break up Lana’s wedding to Bobby Lashley, as a jilted lover. The aftermath of that wedding crash was television gold and was one of the highest-rated segments in WWE television of all of 2019, according to ShowBuzz Daily, and the wedding on YouTube is well on its way to 8 million views.
This past April, Lana was put in an awkward situation when husband Miro “Rusev” Barnyashev was released by WWE, following his public displeasure with his role with the company. The Ravishng Russian is now left in a peculiar spot where many feel WWE has their sights to punish Lana for her husband’s displeasure. For six weeks straight, she has been put through a table by Nia Jax. So, is this her punishment? Sources are actually pointing to the opposite. According to Dave Melzter, Lana is actually in the process of being pushed as a babyface. Creative feels that continuously punishing Lana will make her a sympathetic character to the audience, and therefore, an underdog that fans want to root for.
Lana was given her biggest in-ring opportunity when she won the dual-branded Battle Royal on the October 12th episode of Raw. The win gave her the opportunity of a lifetime when she was able to face the Raw Women’s Champion Asuka, the following week on Raw. Lana took this huge opportunity and advantage of her large social media following to post videos throughout the week showing her training and prep for the match. The match came the following week, and as we suspected, Asuka retained her championship, but Lana showed improvement in the ring.
Her next accomplishment towards her singles push came on the October 26 episode of Raw, when she won a fatal four-way match defeating Nikki Cross, Peyton Royce and Lacey Evans.
2020 has been the biggest year of Lana’s career in professional wrestling, with continuous storylines and her first legitimate singles push. If she continues the path she is on and trains with friends like Neidhart and Morgan, she may accomplish more within WWE.
To have a successful career in professional wrestling, you don’t have to be the best in-ring performer or have the best mic skills, you just have to make a positive impact and have a lasting impression on the audience. Lana has been a regular on WWE television since she made her on screen debut, and that alone shows her worth in the company and powers belief that she is “best for business.”
How do you feel about Lana and her career to date in WWE? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Return to Bell To Belles for more news and opinion on your favorite female wrestlers