Regarding his Bulgarian Brute character, he credits the transformation of it from taking inside jokes with his friends combined with elements of Rocky films. This is how he developed the Rusev character.
Rusev also told a story on why WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon made him shorten his ring name from Alexander Rusev to Rusev.
“[WWE] gives you an option to submit names you like,” Rusev said. “And I was thinking about it. Then to make a joke with my friend Vasil, Vasil Rusev, who I used to share a rowing boat with, I chose Rusev. And I was Alexander Rusev with Alexander later being dropped. I liked Alexander because it sounded [mighty] and Bulgarian. But then it 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’.”
It’s been reported that the reason that Rusev hasn’t appeared on WWE television as of late is due to him asking for some time off. He’s expected to make his return shortly.
You can watch the entire interview by clicking on the player below:
H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.