Here are some things you might not know about the “Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff:
- He has an active Twitter account @IKoloff
- His regular speaking voice is quite normal, and it’s hard to believe how long he performed the gutteral growl of the Koloff character
- He was on cocaine during some of his matches
All of this more came up during Koloff’s recent podcast with Stone Cold Steve Austin, who said over and over how big of a fan he was of Koloff.
First, the drug issues: Koloff said like many wrestlers, he enjoyed drinking socially, which then led to too much booze, pain pills, and eventually coke.Embed from Getty Images
“It just got so bad that after a while I was even wrestling under situations like that,” he told Austin. It was routine for him to wake up in the morning, smoke marijuana, and then run for three miles.
That sounds nuts, but I first saw Koloff in the early 1980s when he came back to the WWF, and he was lean and mean compared to the old photos of him weighing 300+ pounds when he beat Bruno Sammartino for the WWF Heavyweight Title in 1971.
Austin was impressed that Koloff’s substance abuse didn’t seem to affect his physical conditioning or ring demeanor.
“There is no way I would ever look at Ivan Koloff on the television screen and say, ‘Oh, this dude it out of his mind on cocaine or he’s pilled up,’ because you always looked like you were in control and were completely normal,” Austin said.
Koloff told a wild story about a tour of the Middle East. He had fought Bob Backlund the night before, so I’m guessing this was sometime in 1983. Koloff said locked up either during or after the match and he was in a lot of pain, so on the plane ride to the next date, he hit the vodka.
Somehow, perhaps in drunken belligerence, he ended up fighting the Iron Sheik on the plane. “He bit me on the neck,” Koloff said of the altercation. Given this was a commercial flight, authorities were notified, and when the plane landed in the country of Jordan, militia men came on board the plane. Koloff really didn’t say what the end result was, but did mention that after the fight with the Sheik, Mr. Fuji had tied Koloff into his chair with a seat belt.
After hearing this story, I wondered if this was the same Middle East tour I had heard about years and years ago, during which Fuji suffered some sort of hip injury came off the top of a steel cage onto him with a Superfly splash. Apparently, the locals had constructed the cage using legitimately 15-foot-high chain link sections, and when Snuka hit the tall splash, he bounced off the mat and when he came back down again, his knee clipped Fuji’s hip.
If anyone knows more about this, please add a comment below.
Austin and Koloff also had an interesting, brief discussion about blading. Koloff said the Love Brothers taught him how to make a blade and tape it to his wrist. “Once you did it one time and you were used to it, it got better as time went on,” Koloff said.
After a while, he started carrying the razor in his mouth because it was easier to get it out. “I figured it was a lot easier to get to,” he said. “I never did swallow it.”
Ivan, now 72, is an ordained minister. A new documentary on his life is due on his website at some point this month.
Check out the full interview with Austin if you’re a fan of Koloff’s career and want to hear some great stories about Nikita Koloff and Buzz Sawyer.