The Russians are coming: Soviets in sports-entertainment

Page 2 of 6
June 21, 2012

Ivan Koloff

Ivan Koloff was one of sports-entertainment's great Russians.

Arguably the greatest Russian competitor was Ivan Koloff. The Superstar known as the “Russian Bear” was a brute of a man. At nearly 290 pounds, he entered WWE in 1970. Managed by Captain Lou Albano, Koloff ran off victory after victory and quickly became the top contender for Bruno Sammartino’s WWE Championship. And on Jan. 18, 1971, the unthinkable happened in New York City’s Madison Square Garden when the nearly eight-year reign of Sammartino came to an end. (WATCH) A knee drop off the top rope garnered Koloff the title and put him on the map. The Russian’s reign was a short one, though, as he was defeated in The Garden by Puerto Rican upstart Pedro Morales three weeks later.

Still, the period that Koloff was in the WWE served as his meal ticket to move onto other areas during the ’70s, specifically the Mid-Atlantic, Georgia, and Florida areas. During that timeframe, The Russian Bear dropped significant weight to not only get into better shape, but also to prolong his wrestling career. And one of the positives during the ’80s was his association with an individual who became known as Nikita Koloff. “Uncle Ivan” took him under his wing, and together the two formed an extremely hated duo throughout Georgia and the Carolinas. (WATCH)

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