Last week during the WWE Superstar Shake Up, “The Ravishing Russian” Lana was revealed as being one of the many WWE Superstars switching brands, when she was announced as heading to Smackdown Live, potentially even debuting tonight. Interestingly, unlike fellow valet Maryse, who was shown in the same package as her husband, The Miz, Lana was shown in a separate introduction as her husband, Rusev, despite both ending up on the Blue Brand.
The announcement was followed by a vignette showing a new side of Lana – instead of the cold and calculated Russian businesswoman, we were shown someone with more grace and warmth, with a bit of risque thrown in.
Immediately the internet and WWE fans began to wonder what was in store for Lana. Why were the introduced as new Smackdown Live members individually? What did that vignette mean? What new direction would either be taking now that they were away from Monday Night Raw?
In the days that followed, rumours began to circulate that Lana would indeed be splitting from her long time partner Rusev and both would be going in separate directions. While not officially confirmed, the split was reported by many news sites and dirt sheets. The separate announcements on last week’s Smackdown Live seemed to indicate that the two were not going to be an item any longer. And don’t worry – the real life couple aren’t divorcing, no matter what many assumed when they initially read the headlines of the split. It’s purely storyline.
Lana and Rusev have been linked as far back as 2013, when both were still members of NXT. During an October 2013 episode of NXT, Lana appeared at ringside and began scouting Rusev, before taking him on as her client shortly after. The duo wrought havoc in NXT for months before making the jump to the main roster the following January. Rusev debuted at Royal Rumble ’14, with Lana joining him days later. The two would go on for the next three years (with a small gap in the relationship), with Lana guiding Rusev the WWE US Championship. But with the foreign heel gimmick losing steam (mostly due to poor booking), a change of scenery for both could be best for both performers.
While all the details of the gimmick remain unclear, Dave Meltzer reported that part of her gimmick could be the failed one proposed for Emma – the long anticipated (and overly promoted) Emmalina. The original idea was for Emma to become a character more in the mold of the Divas from the mid-2000’s, focusing more on her appearance than actually wrestling. In an age where women’s wrestling is not only being taken seriously but praised on the same level as their male counterparts, a character that seemingly threw back to the most loathed era of the women’s division would be an instant target for heel heat. But ultimately, WWE management decided Emma was the wrong fit for the character and a few weeks ago she returned to her popular Evil Emma character and is seemingly poised for a feud with her former protege Dana Brooke.
But Lana’s character also showed elements of another failed gimmick, that of a dancer. The vignette clearly showed Lana performing a dance routine, something that Summer Rae initially employed upon her main roster call-up when she was originally partnered with Fandango. But Lana is a far better choice to incorporate dancing into her character – she’s a lifelong student of dance, going back to her youth growing up in Latvia. While Lana (real name Catherine ‘C.J.’ Perry) was born in Florida and her parents are of Portuguese and Venezuelan, her father’s job moved the family to Latvia, an East European nation under Soviet rule for nearly 50 years until 1991. During her childhood, she attended the Riga Choreography School, the official training school for the Latvian National Ballet, with whom she made her debut at the age of 14. When she was 17, her family returned to the United States, and her pursuit of a career in dance continued, training at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ballet Hispanico, Broadway Dance Center, and the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance. She went to Florida State University and majored in dance and theater. Her vignette showed a performer akin to a Broadway musical dancer, with a dash of burlesque (she’s not, as some dirt sheets speculated, going to be a “stripper” character).
And yet a third failed gimmick is also most likely being incorporated into Lana’s new character, that of the diva SUPERSTAR, the one that was originally planned for Eva Marie, before both sides soured in the past few months, with Eva Marie seemingly on the way out. Lana was part of the late 2000’s girl group No Means Yes, and would enter the world of film and television with appearances on Real Housewives of Atlanta, The Game and Pitch Perfect, before the WWE came calling in 2013.
CJ Perry has all the tools to be a pompous Diva in the truest sense of the term diva – a holier than thou beauty who can dance and move like no one else on the roster.
The biggest shake up to Lana’s character is that of a full time wrestler in Smackdown Live’s women’s division, as mentioned during her introduction last week. And while that may seem out of left field to many, Lana’s been training for her proper in-ring debut for nearly a year, going back to last year’s WrestleMania 32, when she was part of a 10-women’s tag match, pairing with Emma, Naomi, Tamina and Summer Rae in a losing effort to Paige, Natalya, Eva Marie, Brie Bella and Alicia Fox.
Since then, she’s been sporadically wrestling on main roster Live Events, and most recently, spending her downtime at the WWE Performance Center and competing on NXT Live Events. Often, she’s paired with (or faced off against) some of the WWE’s veteran performers, such as Bayley, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch on main roster live events, or indie darlings such as Nikki Cross, Crazy Mary Dobson, Aliyah, Macey Estrella and Kimber Lee in NXT. The education she would be getting in the ring with such established wrestlers – both main roster and NXT – is just as invaluable as the training she’s been getting at the PC.
SO WHAT’S NEXT?
Well that’s the million dollar question. How will this character play out? The beauty of having Lana portray this amalgamation of three failed gimmicks is that Lana already has a far greater fan base of acceptance than either Emma, Summer Rae or (especially) Eva Marie. While she may initially start as a heel, it wouldn’t be hard to make her a face should the moment arise – during Rusev’s most loathsome, the WWE Universe quite often chanted for Lana as if she was the second coming of Miss Elizabeth. And while we have yet to get a definitive timeline for her debut, it is expected she will precede Rusev’s debut in order to speed up the break-up (she’ll have plenty of time, Rusev’s recent shoulder surgery will have him out until SummerSlam).
No matter when she debuts, it will be exciting. Finally Lana will be able to show off all the skills she honed prior to joining the WWE, as well as finally get a chance to show off the passion she’s been polishing the past year.
Main Photo: WWE