Miro, formerly Rusev in WWE, is the reigning TNT champion in All Elite Wrestling. He will put his title on the line twice this week, on a special Friday “AEW Dynamite” (8 p.m., TNT) against Dante Martin and Sunday at the “Double or Nothing” pay-per-view versus Lance Archer (8 p.m., B/R Live). Ahead of a busy week, Miro took time for some Q&A with The Post’s Joseph Staszewski.
(Edited for clarity and length)
Q: Are we finally seeing the version of yourself in AEW that you’ve always wanted to present and that fans have waited to see?
A: There is no other version, this is me. I finally have the opportunity to show how real I am and people click with that and people see it. It’s an easy thing to do for me to just be out there and be myself and do what I do best.
Q: When you are out there, what do you want the audience to get or come across from you?
A: To see how real I am. In wrestling, it’s full of crap characters who come out there and try to be something they’re not and that’s not how this thing works. You have to draw emotion from within yourself. You got to be yourself, you got to represent what you believe in and that’s what I do and that’s why it’s clicking so hard with the people because they can see I’m not bulls—ting them. This is all real. It’s coming straight from my soul, and it’s my destiny and they see that and you can’t see through that.
Q: How do you think your initial AEW storyline with Kip Sabian, being his best man, laid the groundwork for you? In my mind, I see it as you kind of rebelled against some of the sport entertainment things or character framework put on you.
A: I’m good. I always knew I’m good. This is the problem with me, I’m good at everything. So if you give me something, I’ll make it the best (of it) and that’s the problem. I won’t be happy until I’m the talk of the whole business, of course. But somewhere along the lines, and this is going to tie it into it, I kept saying yes. I became this circus bear. I was a killer. I came in 2013-14 (to NXT) and killed everybody and then they gave me a little bit of something else. I showed how good I was at that, too. I became like a circus bear. The more I said yes, the more crap I have to eat. I said yes to the wedding and yes to the dancing and yes to this and that, but that’s not who I am, man.
You have to go through these moments until you finally reach your destination. I wouldn’t change a single step. I’ll take the weddings. I’ll take everything because it leads me to my destination and now being the TNT champion.
Q: Do you feel like in WWE you ever came close to the real you at any point or even a glimmer of it in what was being presented?
A: WWE, who cares about that, it is what it is. I was the best there. I‘m the best here. Nothing changed. It’s just the direction of the wind. I came from a killer then they went, hey I don’t get along with Lana anymore. Cool, we will figure that out as well. It doesn’t matter what they give me. I am the best, but it doesn’t mean I’m used the right way. But now that I have the opportunity to be me, I’m going to go out there and I’m going to rip your heart and stick it right into your throat and make you chew it right in front of me and then I’ll kill you and I’ll forgive you. Then we’ll move onto the next. This is who I am and this is who I always wanted to be and now I’m doing it and I can’t be more happy than that.
Q: Your wife, CJ, is getting the chance to be the in-ring performer she always aspired to be and put in a lot of hard work to get there. What has it been like for you to finally get what you both wanted in your careers and to be doing it together, but a little bit separately at the same time?
A: It’s great to see her success. We all know she’s the greatest manager of all time and all of a sudden they decided to make her a professional wrestler. And you know what she did, she rolled up her sleeves, she put down the microphone and said, alright, I’m gonna be a professional wrestler and now she’s away from me, she’s away from home. Half the week she goes and trains with Nattie and TJ (Wilson) in The Dungeon.
But you can see, it’s obvious, it’s absolutely the most improved. It’s 100 percent Lana, CJ my wife, and also she proved she is the toughest woman or man in the business because she went through nine tables that no man or woman have ever done. So our family, our household are history-makers and I cannot be more proud of her, her resilience and her continuing to improve so she can become champion one day.
Q: What did it mean for you to become TNT champion and beat Darby? I think it’s been more than two years since you had a singles run as champion.
A: It just solidifies me as a made man. As you said, it’s been a while. It’s been a couple of years and that shows you the cream always rises to the top. The TNT championship is one of the best titles, not just in pro wrestling, but in sports. Because to compete every night to such a degree, I do not know any other title that’s being protected the same way.
Q: Is Lance Archer someone you followed from afar in his career before AEW?
A: Look, Lance is big. Lance is strong. He told me a really sad story that he and Cody [Rhodes] went 20 minutes (for the TNT championship) two years ago, blah, blah. Good for you. At the end of the day, you lost. Am I taking you lightly, absolutely not.
Q: What excites you the most about getting to have this match with him, where it’s two very athletic big guys who do things that maybe guys your size aren’t supposed to be able to do in a ring?
A: I never took that. I’ve been offended that way. You are not the first person to offend me in this way with what you just said.
(Staszewski: I apologize.)
My entire life I’ve been told, oh you’re too fat for this, you’re too big for this. I’ve always took that as such a motivation. I can always hang out, it doesn’t matter if you are big, skinny, strong, small it doesn’t matter because once you get in that ring I’ll outshine you in every possible way. Whether it’s athleticism, whether I’m going to talk you out… I am the best and I keep proving it.
It’s in a way that people forgot how good I am and that kind of annoyed me. Now I have to remind them how good I am. But here, now enjoy it. Thank me later. I will change this business.
Q: I meant it as a compliment.
A: No, it’s not and that’s OK because people like you don’t understand when you’re a kid and you’re fat and you’re at all these disadvantages, people call you names and people call you all these different things but you have to take it as a motivation instead of a frustration and that’s how I always took it and I want to thank you. People like you who are trying to offend me all my life and push me harder and harder every day.
Q: What offends you about it? What about being called a bigger guy who is athletic, who can do some amazing things, bothers you?
A: Why is that surprising?
Q: I don’t know, I’m just curious.
A: Why can’t you tell me I’m a special athlete? Nobody can do what you do instead of saying oh, well you can do this and it’s really cool. Why is that surprising? Of course I’m going to do that. Why is that surprising to you that a 280-pound athlete can jump higher than a 5-6 guy or a 5-8 guy or he can do all these things? Why is it so surprising? Because I’m a freak of nature and I understand that. You don’t have to take it as something like, oh we don’t see. You have to admire the talent, not the flippidy stuff. I’m not mad at you, but thank you for the motivation.
Q: Your promo on Dynamite caught a lot of people’s attention last week. How much of that was planned out in your head and how much of it was kind of going with it out there?
A: I speak my mind. I had one thing in my mind that I wanted to go out there and thank Jesus Christ, my Lord and savior, because everything that’s made for me it’s through him. The help that I’ve had throughout my life it’s all through him and I wanted to give him thanks and this caught people by such a surprise because nobody is used to religion talk in professional wrestling, but first and foremost I wanted to give them that. Then I wanted to come out there and I wanted to boast a little bit about myself. I’m a TNT champion, I haven’t had this opportunity in so long.
Q: One of the things you did recently was set up a private movie screening of “Mortal Kombat” for the locker room. How many people did you get to come and why did you decide to do that for everyone, maybe being one of the new guys in the locker room?
A: I’m trying to get to know everybody. Once you get to know them, you get to know all their weaknesses. You get to know their weakness, this is all you need to know. But also I love the movie and I’ve been a Mortal Kombat fan since the first game came out and Warner Brothers contacted me. I have a great relationship with them and a whole bunch of movie theaters. They gave me the opportunity and I said, ‘Why not?’ So we set up two theaters, one for myself and one for everybody else.
Q: Is there someone in AEW who maybe you didn’t know very well coming in and wanted to get to know that surprised you or maybe been better than you thought coming in?
A: We all know there is a greasy champion out there. He calls himself a belt collector. Ha. He’s got all these titles from all these countries but there’s only one problem. I have this one piece, one title that [AEW Champion] Kenny [Omega] doesn’t have. And let me tell you, I would love nothing more than for him to fool himself into thinking he can take it from me. This is the one guy that I’ve been wanting. This is the one guy that I’ve been studying and I cannot wait until he thinks it’s a possibility.
Q: Twitch is a part of what you do and how you interact with fans. Why is that such an important outlet for you?
A: Because I love fans. I love their cheering, I love their booing. I love that and I love playing games and I love being on Twitch. It’s no different than being on people’s podcasts. I’m too handsome to be on a podcast, that’s why I need people to see my face and Twitch is doing great. I’m a part-owner of a [Fan Controlled] football team because of Twitch. I have all these other deals and opportunities and marketing stuff all because of Twitch.
Q: How much are you looking forward to working in front of a full crowd at Daily’s Place for “Double or Nothing”?
A: It’s Florida, it’s Jacksonville, the building is outside. It’s a fantastic opportunity for any fan to come and watch Miro destroy, defend his title yet again because I’m defending it on Friday live against Dante, who I’m going to have to murder and then apologize for after. It’s going to be a good warm-up for the big hoss fight the Murderhawk [Archer] wanted so bad. I can’t wait for all these fans to probably rush the ring and carry me on their hands up on top of their head as the people’s champ.
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