An article by Mike Mooneyham
First of a two-part series
Published March 15, 1998
Ten years ago Nikita Koloff was one of the most feared men in the wrestling business. A 280-pound powerhouse complete with shaved head and a ring outfit prominently displaying the hammer and sickle, he was the stereotypical “Russian” villain.
Koloff routinely carried a chain – a symbol that obviously represented Soviet oppression – and was billed as the nephew of longtime Muscovite bad guy “The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff. Inside the ring, “Uncle” Ivan was as sentimental as Josef Stalin and had a great Slavic face. He spoke in a raspy Russian voice and wore heavy stomping boots.”Nephew” Nikita was a major attraction for Crockett Promotions during the mid-’80s and wrestled for the world title against Ric Flair before a crowd of nearly 30,000 fans at Charlotte Memorial Stadium.
Few, however, would recognize Nikita Koloff today.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]He no longer resembles the Russian character he once portrayed so well. Looking more like a face off the cover of GQ magazine, Koloff has not only changed his outward appearance, but his inward self as well.
Koloff, 38, who retired from pro wrestling in 1992, is a born-again Christian involved in an alternative television network based on family values and principles.
His voice, no longer raspy and menacing, is soft but deliberate. He talks about his past in the wrestling profession only when asked, as if it were a chapter in his life best left closed. The wrestling business, he says, is no longer what he’s about.
“How I look at it is that he (Nikita Koloff the wrestler) starved to death, and the good Lord used nine years of exposure on television to bring me to a place and time where I am. They may remember me, but they won’t recognize me.”
Koloff, who stands 6-1 and has dropped to 230 pounds, got his start in the profession in 1984 in his home state of Minnesota.
“Before I ever stepped into the ring, I had never been in the ring for five minutes. I literally had on-the-job training. When I talked to Jim Crockett, I told him I had never even hit a rope. He told me to come on down. The Russian gimmick tied in to what Ivan was doing.”
The gimmick caught on like wildfire. Koloff joined Ivan and other `Russians” along the way – cousin Khrusher Khruschev (Barry Darsow) and Vladimir Petrov (Al Blake). Koloff took to wrestling like a duck to water.
“I was very fortunate. I won many titles. I traveled all over the world – Japan, Guam, Kuwait, Puerto Rico. I wrestled in about 42 of the 50 states. Physically I achieved quite well.”
Koloff, who played college football at Morehead State University, walked away with honors and graduated cum laude.
“I succeeded quite well in that area of life. We can read books, study, become so focused intellectually that we’re off balance as well. Perhaps some people studied too hard in school or got so involved in their business that their family life suffered. I came close to that happening in my life. I was so focused on business that my family life suffered.”