I wanted to write a brief post on the death of Nikolai Volkof, who died on July 29 at age 70. Volkoff was a well-known heel in the 1970s WWWF, battling Bruno Sammartino among many others, before returning in to the WWF in 1984 to start the run he was most well remembered for.
Volkoff teamed with the Iron Sheik as a cartoonish bad guy duo managed by Freddie Blassie, and just before each of their matches began, Volkoff would sing the Russian national anthem. The team briefly held the WWF Tag Team Championship, winning the belts from Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo at the original WrestleMania before losing them back to Rotundo and Windham in June 1985.
Volkoff wrestled in the old Boston Garden dozens of times, but his biggest local match was the old Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro, MA, which at the time was the home of the New England Patriots. On July 8, 1985, the WWF held what I believe was the first ever wrestling card at Sullivan Stadium — the original King of the Ring. It was among the biggest wrestling events ever in the Boston area, drawing about 22,000 fans. In a non-tournament main event, Volkoff challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWF Heavyweight Championship and lost.
It’s hart to forget the image of Volkoff — this huge, barrel-chested guy wearing a Cossack hat and a solid red shirt with the initials “USSR” on it, an abbreviation for the old Soviet Union.
Although not really from Russia, Volkoff — real name Josip Nikolai Peruzovic — was a weightlifter from the former country of Yugoslavia. He originally held the WWWF International Tag Team Title in 1970 as part of the Mongols duo, and in the late ’80s teamed with Boris Zhukov as the Bolsheviks.