Ivan Koloff says he was strung out on coke during matches

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.

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“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.

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6 comments

  1. Pingback: George “The Animal” Steel and “Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff die within two days of each other | Boston Garden Balcony
  2. Joe Lowry

    Wow another story I never heard before. Ivan Koloff, the Russian Bear, former WWWF Heavyweight Champion, a coke addict in and out of the ring? Wonders never seize to amaze me. As for the blading, I own the DVD WWE’s Bloodiest Cage matches. One of the “extra’s” on the DVD is a cage match between Ivan Koloff and then WWWF Champion Bruno Sammartino at New York city’s, Madison Square Garden. The match actually ended when Sammartino kept repeatedly slamming Koloffs head into the side of the ringpost, over and over. Eventually Koloff was bloodied and knocked out and Da’Bruno walked out the cage door for the victory. Why do I mention this? Because at no time during this match did I witness Koloff resort to “blading” himself. He was bloodied on contact. So the blading had to have been early on his career. I also remember a match at the old Boston Garden where Pat Patterson bloodied The Russian Bear with his right hand, again no blading was needed. And yes the old Wrestling magazines did have a few cover photos of the Russian Bear wearing the infamous “Crimson Mask.”

    • J.Cee

      Yes, David, I remember reading about that match in one of the Apter magazines. Koloff face was a crimson mask, literally. Mid 70’s…this grudge match was advertised on 56. I really wanted to go to the Garden to see this match, or a battle-royal, since they were a rare event way back then as opposed to the NWA.

      • david

        Battle Royals were a lot of fun one of the best ones I saw at the garden did not even have Andre in it witch made it strange because he was in all the ones I saw at the garden this one was one by Blackjack Mulligan and it was a great Battle Royal.

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