Monday, February 20, 2017

RIP Ivan Koloff

Koloff, left, on the night he defeated Sammartino, right, for the WWWF Championship
Photo Credit: Pro Wrestling Illustrated via
Ivan Koloff, a legendary wrestler for both WWE (then-World Wide Wrestling Federation), the National Wrestling Alliance, and other wrestling territories, has passed away at the age of 74. Koloff had been suffering from liver cancer. The Canadian native's career spanned over three decades, and after he had retired, he'd become a Born Again Christian who toured the world with a ministry.

Koloff was one of the best-known as one of the great Russian heels of all-time. Billed from Moscow, he was a tremendous Cold War-era foil for many a babyface hero, including Bruno Sammartino and Pedro Morales. Koloff famously defeated Sammartino at Madison Square Garden, the first and one of the only men to ever have done so, for the WWWF Championship before losing it to Morales in an attempted changing of the guard. Koloff also wrestled for the NWA, teaming with Krusher Kruschev (Barry Darsow/Demolition Smash etc.) and Nikita Koloff, who was his kayfabe nephew. He retired in 1994.

Koloff's place in history often gets overlooked because WWE doesn't honor him with the cavalcade of legends whenever it decides to roll them out on Old School RAW or other nostalgia spam segments. He's also not in the company's Hall of Fame yet, although I imagine that is going to change now that he's passed. His role as a defendant in ongoing concussion litigation against the company may have something to do with that. However, no matter what his standing with corporate entities is, Koloff was always known as a big, warm personality, as loved in the locker room as he was hated by the fans. May he rest in peace.