The most prominent instance came in 2015 when news of her engagement to Miro (then Rusev) leaked while they were in the middle of a their first big break-up angle. On-screen, Lana was paired with Dolph Ziggler, and Rusev with Summer Rae. WWE quickly pulled the plug on the storyline after TMZ’s report on the real-life couple’s big news, and the Ravishing Russian disappeared from our screens for a while.
It didn’t make a ton of sense, even in as weird a business as pro wrestling - and as weird a company as WWE. Traditional kayfabe died long ago, with Vince McMahon testifying under oath in 1989 that what he produced wasn’t “a bona fide athletic contest”. Since then, it’s become the company - and industry - line that when we watch wrestling, we’re watching performers portray characters. And most of the people who cared about Rusev & Lana’s personal lives knew Miroslav Barnyashev & CJ Perry were a couple even as they feuded on television.
Still, we heard that Perry got “nuclear heat” over the leak, and her removal from TV seemed to back that up. Now, while talking to Chris Jericho on the latest edition of his podcast, fka Lana shared some details about what the reaction was backstage, and how she was treated.
“For so long, I hit myself on the head like, ‘oh my God, maybe we shouldn’t have gotten engaged!’ ... I didn’t even put up [the] picture, I just sent it to my friends and I guess someone leaked it... TMZ got a hold of it, and basically TMZ said we were engaged, and so the story got cut - and we got blamed for it, personally. I got blamed.
“I got in trouble, I wasn’t on television for three months. And I was on television straight for two years. And I was not on television for three months, I was made to feel that it was all my fault. I had to take the blame. And for years I thought maybe it was my fault.”
Things blew over, mostly. But apparently concerns lingered when Lana’s next big romance angle came up in 2019. She went above and beyond to address them:
“Then we did the Bobby Lashley story, and I had given Vince my word that I would not take a picture with someone I am feuding with, or send it to anyone... I gave him my word that I am not gonna do that anymore...
“[Paul] Heyman and our social media had definitely suggested we blur the gray line, and I respect that. So I didn’t post Miro on my social media for probably 11 months. And I didn’t post him until after - not even after he was fired. So after I got divorced [in story from Lashley], I still waited for about a month.”
It’s not a story that needed confirmation, really. It was pretty clear what was happening based on what we saw on screen.
Still, it speaks to how WWE and pro wrestling are still figuring out how to handle the connections the internet creates between wrestlers & fans, and what matters to different segments of their audience when some only follow the characters while others follow the people who play those characters.
Listen to Perry’s entire Talk Is Jericho interview here.