CJ “Lana” Perry is known as The Ravishing Russian in the ring, and while we find it impossible to discredit her ravishingness (yes, totally a made up word!), The Resilient Russian is just as suitable of a name. The WWE Superstar has been focused, hard working, and tireless in her quest to achieve a career in the squared circle, despite her lifelong struggles with learning disabilities. Passion for the craft and an unwillingness to listen to the naysayers has carried her forward however, and now she’s set to appear at Money in the Bank this Sunday on pay-per-view and the WWE Network, going boot to boot with some of the best and brightest in the women’s division ladder match.
We recently sat down with the ravishing AND resilient CJ “Lana” Perry to discuss her training focus for Money in the Bank, how she never lets go of the WWE butterflies, and why, like life, her career is a marathon and not a sprint.
TrunkSpace: You are gearing up for a very exciting weekend by the looks of it!
CJ “Lana” Perry: Yes, a very exciting weekend. I’m so excited that I don’t know what to do with myself.
TrunkSpace: Is it difficult to stay focused on Money in the Bank, but then also have to juggle everything else that’s going on with work, and life, and just sort of building towards the event?
CJ “Lana” Perry: There’s definitely a lot going on, that’s for sure. We’re filming “Total Divas” right now on top of everything, so it’s pretty much just go, go, go. I think I have 12 hours home today before I leave tomorrow. But my number one priority is Money in the Bank this Sunday, and training for that. I actually fly out to San Diego tomorrow to train with Daniel Bryan because, it’s not like he hasn’t had any ladder matches, right? He keeps on telling me to keep my feet on the ground. I’m like, “I can’t keep my feet on the ground. I have to climb a ladder!”
TrunkSpace: We get nervous just climbing a ladder to put up Christmas lights! Even when you plan for every possible outcome and scenario, there still has to be some nervousness, right? It’s so high!
CJ “Lana” Perry: Oh, it’s nuts. I’m not scared of heights, but I realize ladders… they’re so unstable, so it’s not just the height. It’s just insane to me. This is going to be Naomi’s third ladder match, so I was able to train some with Naomi. We were using basically an 8’ ladder, and they’re going to be 10’ and 12’ is the big one. It’s the 12’ one that you have to go up to actually grab the briefcase! It’s crazy. When we put the ladder in the ring, it’s even more unstable. Obviously they’re going to be trying to pull you down, and who knows what other shenanigans are going to be happening. So I’m just trying to prepare myself as much as possible for this – lifting a lot. It’s really heavy. People don’t realize how heavy these ladders are. That’s why I was training with Naomi. We went to a ring, she had me doing things outside in her backyard, because she’s insane. She’s the crazy cat lady. (Laughter) Then I’m training with Bryan tomorrow and Friday to prepare for this.
I have to get used to the fact that my feet will be coming off the ground.
TrunkSpace: We would have to imagine that a ladder match requires a different approach to training because, even just the art of falling… it takes on a new artistic point of view from 12’ up!
CJ “Lana” Perry: Oh, for sure. Definitely a completely different approach. Ladder matches are… the risks, the stakes, are so much higher. They’re so much more intense. We’re so much higher! You could fall 12’ at least, or maybe more, depending if the ladder falls onto the outside and you fall out of the ring. You just have to be really, really prepared. You have to be prepared physically, but also mentally. That’s the reason why the first ever ladder match happened a year ago for women, because the stakes are so high, and it is really intense. That’s the reason why this is the second ever Money in the Bank ladder match at the pay-per-view Money in the Bank, besides the rematch that they had on RAW last year, the following week after the pay-per-view. So it’s just… to be a part of a historic moment like this – and the talent in this match, the women, they’re all such incredible talents – so I’m really, really excited, and grateful to be in the ring with such talented women.
TrunkSpace: You’ve been working in this industry for a long time now, traveling the globe doing what you love. It’s a lifestyle that few people ever get to experience. Do you still experience that same excitement about what you do as you did early in your career?
CJ “Lana” Perry: Oh, of course! I get excitement all the time! I mean, I can’t even tell you how I’ll feel goosebumps. When we went to Santiago, Chile, and the fans were just exploding. It was electrifying. The energy there is just… I could feel it through my entire body. Then I went into the audience and had a hoodie on, and I watched the rest of the show once I finished, because it was just such… the energy was just so exciting. I just love what we do so much. I’m so grateful for what we do. I never lose the butterflies.
I love traveling. I love experiencing new things, new cultures, food, sights, and people, so it’s so exciting. I always try and get out in any of the cities that we are in if we have time. I always try and go sightseeing, eat the food, and just experience it because I’m so blessed to be able to do what I love for a living and travel the world. And I have my husband with me, so it’s really, really, really exciting.
TrunkSpace: Yeah, that has to be a part of it that makes it even more unique – getting to experience it all with the person that you love?
CJ “Lana” Perry: Yes! I’m so grateful for it. We always talk about that, Rusev and I, how grateful we are that we get to travel the world doing what we love with the person that we love.
TrunkSpace: It was just last month that you won your very first singles match. Have things been altered for you at all – your approach to preparation or training – since that career changer?
CJ “Lana” Perry: I would say it’s been very encouraging, but I’ve been doing the same thing. I’ve been training. I say it’s the slow and the steady that’s going to win the race, and I am the slow, and I am the steady. I might not be the fastest, or the quickest learner, but I am passionate. I work hard. I am resilient and I work hard to persevere. It takes time to become good. It just takes time to be good at anything. I would say I’ve really only been wrestling on a weekly base for the last year – wrestling at live events every week has been only consistently for a year. It takes years to become great.
One thing is just getting in the ring and training. Another thing is that where you get good is having matches every week. Having matches at least several times a week is the way you become good, and so it’s just been the persevering of, “Okay, yeah I lose, but…” I lost a lot. I think my first win before my singles match was on Mixed Match Challenge. It was with Rusev, and I beat Bayley, which was just, I believe, a miracle, because she’s incredible. Incredible, incredible talent and in ring performer.
I had read – and my dad actually sent it to me because he likes to read the internet – he sent me that I had had 60 matches, and that I had lost 60 times on the main roster. This was my first win. It was 61, and it was on his birthday, and he was turning 61. So it was really cool for me.
I think my story is about persevering and working hard, and that reflects my life. I haven’t always been the best at anything, but I continue to work and persevere, and I will win the race.
TrunkSpace: Everybody needs a dad internet filter because the internet can be a scary place! (Laughter)
CJ “Lana” Perry: (Laughter) I know! It really, really is. It can be very, very scary.
TrunkSpace: You mentioned how you’ve been performing in the ring regularly for the last year, but what was that very first moment like when you were standing behind the curtain, waiting for your music to play?
CJ “Lana” Perry: Well, last year was my singles debut at Money in the Bank actually, against Naomi for the title match. I was beyond nervous. I thought I was going to throw up. It was just so much pressure. I wanted to be in the Money in the Bank ladder match. Shane McMahon told me that I hadn’t proven myself yet. Then Naomi wanted to face me because she wanted a match for Money in the Bank, so I really, really, really lucked out that I was able to have my first singles match, and that it was a title match. I got really lucky, but at the same time, it’s like, “Am I ready for a title at Money in the Bank pay-per-view?” (Laughter)
I didn’t deserve that, but those were the cards that were handed to me. So it’s like, “Did I earn that yet?” No, I had one tag match on TV, and that was a year before Wrestlemania. But, life throws you some crazy cards, and you have to play the cards that are given to you. You have to make the most of it. I was so, so nervous. I was just like, “Okay, I know some people might think I do good, but I’m sure half the internet and Twitter trolls are going to eat me up and say I’m the worst wrestler of all time.” It just is what it is. You just have to make the most of it. I was so nervous, but when I walked through that curtain and, I can’t explain it. When I’m standing there, my heart is racing and I’m just trying to calm myself, but once I go through that curtain, it’s just like, “I’m born to do this.” I love it.
TrunkSpace: Like you mentioned, you’re currently filming the latest season of “Total Divas.” How does that fit into your day-to-day life? Is it something that you’re consciously aware of at all times, or does it just kind of exist as a part of your life, going along with you?
CJ “Lana” Perry: I just let it go along with me. I always wanted to do “Total Divas” because I felt like my journey was so unconventional, especially compared to all the other women – all the other WWE superstars. I really, really wanted to show my life, and to show my journey, because my journey to the WWE, and my in-ring journey reflects, really, my life journey. I have had a very, very unconventional life. I’m an American that grew up in Russia. I have Christian missionary parents. I have a lot of learning disabilities, and you’re going to see that in “Total Divas.” I knew I had learning disabilities, but I didn’t realize I had such severe learning disabilities. You’re going to see me deal with that. At one point I wasn’t on TV for 13 weeks and I was just so discouraged. I can get really, really, really discouraged. When you keep on working hard and you keep on trying, you keep on trying to get into storylines, and you just have to wait. It’s a patience game, and it’s about being resilient and persevering. I’m happy that I am able to show these ups and these downs on “Total Divas,” because life is that. If I can share anything with people, to girls and boys and people of all ages, it’s that life is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. My career is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and that applies to all areas of life.
TrunkSpace: Sharing the story of your struggles to overcome learning disabilities could help other young people feel not so alone in their own struggles.
CJ “Lana” Perry: Yes. That’s what I hope, to really encourage people. Even if you do have learning disabilities, and you do learn differently, that doesn’t mean that it can stop you from achieving your dreams, and achieving the things that you love. I think that when I realized that, when I saw all the disabilities that I have, I was like, “Wow, I went through college?” Holy freaking moly! I should never have. That’s the reason why I feel like I’m able to persevere in WWE, because it’s kind of like, even with the critics, even with people saying I shouldn’t be here or that I’m not the best or not good enough or not strong enough, it’s like, no, I am going to keep on being resilient and I’m going to keep on persevering.
TrunkSpace: Well, we think you should let your husband keep Rusev Day, and much like how we celebrate our birthday, you should adopt Lana Week!
CJ “Lana” Perry: (Laughter) I like that! Though I take a whole month for my birthday, so we can do Lana Week and Lana Month! (Laughter)
Money In The Bank airs Sunday on pay-per-view and on the WWE Network.