January 12, 2008
BORN: August 25, 1942 in Ontario
5'9 1/2'', 206 to 300 pounds
AKA/NICKNAMES: Red McNulty, The Russian Bear
Though Ivan Koloff was born in Russian, he was raised in Canada and got his pro wrestling career started in the Great White North. He came to Canada at age six, and though he lives in North Carolina now, Koloff still deserves inclusion in our Canadian Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Koloff's pro career started in February 1965, after receiving training from former British Empire champion Jack Wentworth. After a few years part-time in Canada (including participating on Johnny Rougeau's wrestler's charity hockey team), Koloff set off for the United States. In St. Louis he had a huge feud with Edouard Carpentier.
He joined the WWWF in 1970, and was soon after managed by Captain Lou Albano. The next step was the WWWF World title, which he won on January 18, 1971 from Bruno Sammartino and lost it February 8, 1971 to Pedro Morales.
Later, Koloff developed into a tag team wrestler, and held the NWA World tag titles on a five occasions, and four different partners (Ray Stevens, Don Kernodle, Nikita Koloff (twice, not related), and Manny Fernandez.
Ontario fans will also remember Koloff's bloody feud with Angelo Mosca over the Canadian heavyweight title.
For a time, Koloff ran a wrestling school. He retired from wrestling in September 1994.
I wasn't born at the time, but everybody knows one thing for sure!!! This guy did what no other wrestler could do, and that is beat Bruno Sarmontinno, and I am sorry if that is spelled wrong. In reality, Ivan was the nicest guy in the world, and I feel that he is one of wrestling greats.
I remember seeing Ivan in Huntington, W.Va. as he accompanied Nikita to a match with Magnum T.A. I was in the front row and shouted for Ivan and Nikita to go back to Russia. At that instant Ivan turned to me and told me to shut my mouth. Later in the match Ivan interfered in the match and as I shouted to the referee he threatened to shut me up with his fist. The day after the matches I came down with the Chickenpox. I still believe that I received them from the "Russian Bear".
Eric Horsley, McDermott, OH
I remember having front row seats with my diehard wrestling buddy Bob Weaver at one of the first Starcades . It was held in Pittsburgh at the convention center (the only time). We had seat numbers 1 and 2, the best seats in the house. Ivan and Nikita Koloff were wrestling tag team and thier corner was about 5 feet from me....I let him have it, every time he said something I mimicked him and put on the Russian accent hevier than him, I have heckeled wrestlers before but he looked ready to go bananas and was screaming at me. We were howling ! I also had met him before that in an airport and he talked to me for a while, actually a nice guy.
I remember as a kid back in the seventies, looking up "wrestling" in my family encyclopedia, and seeing a magnificent picture of the burly Koloff flying off of the top rope with his big kneedrop onto the helpless Bruno Sammartino, thus ending Bruno's 8 year reign as champ. Back then, the Champ never wrestled on TV, and I remember how in awe I was of Koloff for being able to beat the Living Legend, who was too good to be seen on the tube. After that, I always got worried when Koloff made his way back to the WWWF, as Bruno was my favorite and I knew Koloff was the one guy who could beat him. A true legend in his own right.
I remember being at one match in New York in 1969, and I saw Ivan wrestle and I was in the front row that night. I was telling him to go back to Russia and it looked like he was going to hit me. After the card I got to meet him, and he talked with me for thirty minutes it was amazing how much of a nice man he is I will never forget that about him.
I will remember when I first started watching wrestling and seeing the Koloffs for the first time. It shocked me how a guy like Ivan could literally decimate men half his age and still dish it out. Even when everyone was booing him and Nikita I would always cheer because when it came to wrestling savvy, Ivan has it all.
Ivan was one of the great cold war Russian wrestlers. I always enjoyed it when he would come to NY and stay in the WWF for a few months. I never understood however, why when he would come to the ring, he would always be wearing the Russian hat. It may have been 98 degrees in the middle of July but he would always be wearing that hat.
I have a lot of great and fond memories of Ivan Koloff.....but the most fond memory I have of Ivan, was when he was wrestling the Iron Shiek in Charleston, South Carolina on 26 Dec 1980 . Friday nite....him and the Iron Shiek gave it their all in front of only eighty  people because of a bad ice storm....he won the match he had some great battles with a lot of great wrestlers in the 70's and 80's...I wish him a long and happy and safe retirement you really brought joy to my heart.
Feb. 13, 1999. I was picking up a few things at a local store. An anouncement came over the speaker that 'Ivan Koloff ... pro- wrestler... in the store to sign autographs'. Well, I put off getting the cold stuff and met 'The Russian Bear', even got my picture taken with him. (Prceeds going to a childrens foundation) He was wonderful to talk with. His wife was with him, and they were also selling thier daughters tape 'On wings of love'. I've looked up info on the wrestler with this web page and he was awful!!! But that's what some people pay for and in pro-wrestling it's what's expected. Thank you to Mr. Koloff for being a WONDERFUL human being.
ASP in N.C. (and we share a state now two ! sooo cool !! :-))
Like the person from N.C., I also met Koloff when he was doing an autograph session in Va. in 1996. He was a very nice man, totally unlike his in-ring persona. He certainly entertained me during his days in the Mid-Atlantic area and later when Crockett controlled the NWA. A true professional.
My memory of Ivan Koloff was that he beat Bruno Sammartino at the first live match at Madison Square Garden that I had ever seen. I remember the stunned silence when he landed his knee drop from the top rope and pinned him. I was lucky to have even been in the seat, sitting next to my mom, cause I was only 12 at the time. New York had many rules back then that many people today would not have believed possible. The main one, as far as I was concerned at the time, was that you had to be 14 to attend a live wrestling event. That night, a ticket taker refused to believe that I was old enough and turned my mother and I away. We went down a few gates and tried going in through another door. The man there took my ticket and let me go in. Little did I know that I was going to see history that night. I still have the program. The night's matches were printed right on the program instead of the cheap paper inserts you get today. I also remember that, after Bruno lost, a young Pedro Morales fought on the same card and defeated the late Canadian Wolfman. Ivan....he made memories for me on that night....though thay weren't pleasent ones at the time. The Living Legend had lost.
In 1990 I began my career in wrestling as a referee. i grew up a diehard fan. Now I was able to fullfill my dreams and be a part of this great sport.
One day a promoter I was working for called to book me on a series of shows. I asked who else would be on tour and he told me. The "name" for this tour was none other than Ivan Koloff. I then made the comment that Ivan was my worst nightmare growing up. Actually I was a little intimidated to meet and work with him. After all I had heard some stories from other workers that did not paint a good picture of him.
On the first night of the show I was in the dressing room assigned to me and there was an additional chair and table, someone else was to be sharing this space. No problem as I knew several of the workers scheduled to be there.
About an hour before bell time Ivan Koloff walks in to the room and says, "Hi Mark Welcome to your nightmare!" The promoter had told him!
To make a long story short, Ivan and I became good friends and traveled the same circuit for quite awhile until his retirement. He is truly a living legend and inspiration.
Mark Wood, West Virginia
My memories of Ivan Koloff date from the mid to late 60's and early 70's when he was quite active on the local Quebec wrestling circuit. He had a long running feud with Johnny Rougeau which was regularly played out in Montreal, Quebec City, Sherbrooke and Three Rivers. His big "move" was the back breaker, where he hoisted his opponent face up, onto his right shoulder. This caused the opponents head and feet to droop to the floor causing great pain. This was only briefly tolerated until the poor opponent in agony "gave in".
I went to Harrisburg, PA. with my Dad when I was a teenager, and sneaked in the hall to the dressing rooms to try to get a peek or autograph of a wrestler. Ivan approached me with a buck and asked me to get him a coke, and one for me as well. He was so gentle and friendly. BIG too, although not very tall. What an experience. WOW. To the good old days of real pro wrestling!!
Say what you will about Ivan Koloff, but here is one man who has met him face to face and can paint a good picture about the WCW`s mean Russian Bear. I live in the south eastern part of Virginia, and met the burly former wrestler in the summer of `98. He was in Norfolk donating time and his autograph for The Children`s Miracle Network. So many thoughts hit me at once that I was at first afraid to approach him, as I grew up with a more than healthy respect for what he could do to a grown man half his age. A year and some odd months later, I ran into him again, this time I recieved an added bonus for braving to face the Bear. Not only did he autigraph a picture for my girlfriend`s handicapped children, he also talked to me in an amazingly soft voice about his days in the sport, charities and programs he is envolved with, and his nephew Nikita. His character in the WCW before his retirement in September of `94 belies his gentle, real-life spirit.
Bear in Chesapeake, Va.
I was a true blue Sammartino fan. But everytime Koloff stepped into the ring, I would say, "Well, If he can pin Sammartino, who can't he pin?" Ivan always carried the halo of his greatest victory ever, back in 1971, over his head when he entered the ring. Who will ever forget?
I can remember meeting him in 1994 at an autograph session in my hometown of Kannapolis, N.C. I shook his hand and got his autograph.That was when I was sixteen. I ran into him at an independent show in Jacksonville,N.C. after I had started my own wrestling career, and he remembered my name and where he met me down to the store he was signing in and the year it was inn The man is a truly nice man and when he says he never forgets a face, you can believe it.
David Brock, Kannapolis,N.C.
I have lots of memories of Ivan Koloff. I saw him wrestle in person on many occassions at the Charleston Civic Center in Charleston West Virginia on many occassions. This was a trimmed down version of the former WWWF champion but he was still a powerhouse and in great shape. He was usually squaring off against Paul (before he was wonderful) Orndorff or the great Dick Murdoch. My fondest memories of Koloff were when I first started watching Georgia Championship Wrestling on superstation channel 17 from Georgia. Koloff was ruling and terrorizing the area with his tag team partner Ole Anderson. They held the Georgia tag team titles and had so much heat I thought that every fan wanted to kill them. Their biggest program, that went on for years and years with Ole (as a Horseman ) and Dusty Rhodes, was when they were scheduled to face Jack Brisco and Mr. Wrestling II (the great Johnny 'Rubberman' Walker) in a tag match for the Georgia titles. Ole was blustering and bragging until Gordon Solie told him that there was a special referee being sent by the NWA to ref the match. Ole still bragging with Koloff said it didn't matter who the NWA sent. Then Dusty Rhodes appeared and all hell broke loose. Ole lost it!!! The night of the match the crowed was abuzz. They showed a 16mm film as they use to in those days with Solie doing the voice over. The crowd and the two teams waited and waited. Then through the crowd comes Dusty beaten and bloody crawling to the ring. This sparked off one of the greatest and longest feuds in wrestling history. Koloff and Anderson were phenomenal heels. Their reign of terror in Georgia is somewhat forgotten. Most people remember the Ivan Koloff and Alexis Smirnoff team and the match against Kevin Sullivan and Tony Atlas (with Rock Hunter putting the drugged up towel over Atlas' face for the win) but I say Koloff and Anderson were the greatest tag team I ever saw and as Dusty said back then, " Until you have a broken back. Until you have a broken neck! Both of you, this thing will never be over!!!!" P.s. I'll leave it up to you as to who beat Dusty with a lead pipe in the parking lot of the Omni before that match. lol
John Mozuke, grouchoM@peoplepc.com
Ivan Koloff, IMHO, is one of the nicest people outside the ring. I have spoken to him several times at local wrestling shows. My earliest memories of him are from the Georgia Championship Wrestling days. Not everybody knows this, but Ivan is also a born-again Christian. I have two autographs, and he always adds "John 3:16" to his autographs (one of the autographs is from a picture he took with me). BTW he can still rile up a crowd.
Barry L. Laws, Jr.