WWE News: ‘SmackDown Live’ Star Reveals Why Vince McMahon Asked Him To Drop His First Name

It isn’t uncommon nowadays for WWE to shorten the ring names of wrestlers who have been established in the company for some time. The wrestlers previously known as Antonio Cesaro and Mustafa Ali, for instance, lost their first names at some point in their WWE runs. Meanwhile, the opposite happened to the likes of Andrade Almas and Heavy Machinery (formerly Tucker Knight and Otis Dozovic respectively), who are now only known by their first names. The man once referred to as Alexander Rusev falls in the former category, as it’s been a number of years since WWE’s creative team removed his first name and started calling the “Bulgarian Brute” solely by his surname.

In a recent appearance on the Bulgarian show At Cafe, Rusev talked about various topics, including the story behind the pop culture references that influenced his original gimmick, as well as the origin of his ring name. While discussing the latter topic, the SmackDown Live superstar explained that he got the last name Rusev from a real-life friend of his and opted for the first name Alexander because it had a “[mighty] and Bulgarian” ring to it, as quoted by WrestlingNews.co.

As Rusev further related, WWE chairman, Vince McMahon, asked him to drop his in-ring first name because of the possibility that fans would shorten it to “Alex,” thus potentially compromising his then-villainous character and making his ring name sound considerably less intimidating.

“[I]t 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 recalled.

Per quotes separately published by Wrestling Inc., Rusev noted that he and Lana — his onscreen valet and real-life wife — drew inspiration from the 1985 film Rocky IV for their initial gimmicks and the Bulgarian-language catchphrase featured in his entrance theme.

“I remember a scene where Rocky’s trainer says that whatever [Ivan] 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.”

While Rusev has enjoyed success in WWE as a former three-time United States Champion whose babyface “Rusev Day” gimmick has been extremely popular with fans in recent years, the 34-year-old grappler has not appeared on SmackDown Live since he reportedly asked to take some time off from touring in April. According to a previous report from Comic Book, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter said in June that Rusev’s WWE contract will be expiring “relatively soon,” though it’s unclear whether he plans to re-sign with the company or try his luck with other promotions.

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