Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Russian Bear-Ivan Koloff

Seems like the wrestling world is losing stars from its past every day recently with Jimmy Snuka,Chavo Guerrero,George Steele and now "the Russian Bear" Ivan Koloff,who passed at 74 from liver related issues.

Ivan Koloff was always a huge star in wrestling and made his name for good in this (WWWF) territory by being the man to end the seemingly indestructible Bruno Sammartino's first championship reign in 1971.
That victory (he would lose the title the next month to start the Pedro Morales title run) stamped Koloff as one of the top drawing bad guys of the 1970's simply by being noted as a former world champion in an era where world champions didn't come along every week.

Ivan Koloff had a huge run with the Mid-Atlantic territory from 1983-86 with the USSR's gimmick of invading the USA with first the converted American Don Kernodle and then the biggest of all,training the Nikita Koloff as the baddest Soviet of them all for matches against the Road Warriors (teaming together),United States title matches vs Magnum TA and world title challenges against Ric Flair.
Ivan Koloff was the veteran teacher for Nikita in both promos,where Ivan could talk enough to keep Nikita looking menacing without giving away his inexperience and in the ring where the older wrestler could be the workhorse and again-not give away that Nikita was limited in the ring as he learned the game.

Ivan Koloff moved down the card mainly due to something that was not due to anything that he did-the auto accident of Magnum TA.
The accident forced the promotion to make a decision to move Nikita into Magnum's role as the number two babyface and after that turn and a series of matches with Nikita,Ivan moved down the card first with Vladimir Petrov,a failed attempt to recreate the Nikita gimmick and then as a coach/advisor with the Paul Jones army with the Powers of Pain,which was aborted when the P.O.P.
went to the WWF before a short babyface turn against Jones and his Russian Assassins.
The Russian Assassin had a really cool entrance and then not so much...

Koloff had such an unusual look because for a top pro wrestling heel,he was a bit undersized at a billed 6'1,but looked more 5'10.
Looking at Koloff's pictures in the 1970's,he featured more of a squatty,weightlifters type build with transitioned into more of a refined look in the 1980's,which didn't help him standing beside muscular titans such as Nikita,the Warlord and the Barbarian as he looked almost tiny!
Known for the heavy stomping boots,the Russian Chain that he brought to the ring and often wrestling blowoff matches in his "speciality" the Russian Chain Match that he was dubbed usually as being "undefeated" in,yet never seemed to win any of those,Koloff played the part of the Soviet nationalist so well,Koloff was able to disguise that he was actually from Quebec!

Ivan Koloff didn't have a long stay in the WWF during my days as a fan,being managed by Fred Blassie for a run that really wasn't all that memorable (other than one slap upside the head of Pat Patterson),but he did have one interaction with Shane and I.
I think in the Jimmy Snuka post,I mentioned that Snuka was scheduled for a Hagerstown bout against Ray Stevens that was cancelled due to the blizzard of 1983.
When that card was rescheduled,it was Koloff that would battle Snuka in the main event.
Koloff passed Shane and I entering the building and we were puzzled what he was doing there as he was not advertised.
I remember Shane being very excited to see the unadvertised Russian Bear not only there,but in street clothes!
The other story from the night was in the ring for the match as Snuka signed autographs before the match,Snuka was signing autographs and just got to Shane,put the pen on the picture just as the dastardly Koloff swung his chain to hit Snuka with a sneak attack!
Shane showed me the picture which had a small dot/line where Snuka had started to sign and was foiled by the villain!

As for the cover shown,I never owned that magazine,but I was intrigued by it in 1981.
Two of the most hated wrestlers in the world Koloff from Russia against Hussien Arab (better known as Iron Sheik) of Iran at a time where our country had issues with both countries.
It was so rare to have two "rulebreakers" battling each other with nothing to show that one was "good" underneath,just guys beating the hell out of each other for no particular reason.
I saw how rare it was then and even more so now!

I enjoy doing these posts looking back at wrestlers,I only wish I was doing them under better circumstances.....

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