An introductory guide to the early WWE Champions

Page 4 of 9
April 24, 2013

Ivan Koloff

They did not call Ivan Koloff “The Russian Bear” for nothing. One of the most renowned Russian competitors, Koloff ran roughshod over all competition in the Montreal area in the late 1960s before making his WWE debut in 1970. Captain Lou Albano, a then–relative newcomer to managing, wound up representing Koloff, and boldly predicted the WWE Title would go around his client’s waist. That prediction came true on Jan. 18, 1971, when a knee drop off the top rope was enough for Koloff to defeat Bruno Sammartino and become the new WWE Champion. 

Koloff’s reign was short-lived. Although immediately successful in title defenses against the likes of Chief Jay Strongbow and Gorilla Monsoon, the powerful Russian returned to the Garden three weeks later and lost the coveted championship to Puerto Rican sensation Pedro Morales on Feb. 8, 1971, before a delirious MSG gathering.

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