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 Continue reading
On July 19, I sat at ringside at the DCU Center in Worcester — we locals still call it the Centrum — to watch the draft between WWE Raw and Smackdown. And one of the biggest surprises for me of the night was the crowd’s reaction to former three-time WWF Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund.
If you don’t keep up with wrestling these days, 66-year-old Backlund is back on TV, playing the role of a coach to current WWE wrestler Darren Young. Backlund has even gone as far as to “allow” Young to use his old finisher, the cross-face chicken wing.
In Worcester, at one point during Young’s match, the crowd erupted into a chant: “Backlund! Backlund! Backlund!”Embed from Getty Images
Backlund first beat Superstar Billy Graham for the belt in Continue reading
Let’s continue my look back 30 years ago to the original WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden by running down the big matches on March 31, 1985. Please check my prior posts in this series about the build-up for WrestleMania and a review of the preliminary matches on the supercard.
- Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik defeat Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo to win the WWF Tag Team Title – The match was short, but all action and was probably the best in-ring performance of this Mania. Captain Lou Albano accompanied the babyfaces to the ring, while Classy Freddie Blassie managed Sheik and Volkoff. Jesse “The Body” Ventura, on color commentary with Gorilla Monsoon, actually claimed Volkoff was a former Olympian. There were some great, simple spots in the match, including Sheik accidentally dropkicking Volkoff (I’m not sure I ever saw Sheik do another dropkick since then) and a high backdrop by Rotundo. Fans at the time buzzed about the ending, when Sheik broke Blassie’s cane over Windham’s back, leading to the title change. Interesting to note that Rotundo performed in the original WrestleMania, and this year his son, Bray Wyatt, faces the Undertaker at WrestleMania 31.
- Andre the Giant defeats Big John Studd in the $15,000 bodyslam challenge – The rules were simple: If Andre slammed Studd, he would win $15,000 in cash in a duffel bag; if Studd wasn’t slammed, Andre had to retire. As you might imagine, this was the typical slow match these two often did, with the prerequisite
rest holdbearhug from Andre. The slam came out of nowhere, and then Andre attempted to throw the cash to the crowd, but Studd’s manager, Bobby Heenan, ran up and stole the bag from Andre. The crowd went nuts at the end of the match after getting the slam they wanted.
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 Continue reading
Chris Jericho again posted an excellent podcast, this time with WWE legend Hulk Hogan in a two-parter.
I suppose I should first mention that Hogan has a penchant for outright lying and rewriting history whenever he does interviews. That’s how Hulk operates, so any of his stories must be scrutinized.
That said, Hogan told Jericho about when Vince McMahon approached him to be the flag bearer for McMahon’s national expansion plans. Hogan said he agreed less because of Vince’s big ambitions and more to get back to Madison Square Garden and the Northeast wrestling scene that the WWF had long ruled over.
“I felt whether [the expansion] would work or not, I wanted to go back to New York,” he said. “If you’re a wrestler, the biggest you can get is to wrestle in the Garden.”Embed from Getty Images
“That Northeast, that’s wrestling up there. That’s where Continue reading
I’ve been thinking a lot about current WWE foreign menace Rusev and what his future may bring.
For eons, pro wrestling has exploited either current world situations or long-standing xenophobia to create hugely effective heel characters. But it’s been a while since the WWE has put its force behind a foreign threat like Rusev, who is alleged to hail from Russia.
When I think of bad guys from other countries, my mind immediately goes to the Iron Sheik and his successful run in the WWF in 1983 and 1984. It’s possible in ’84 that the Sheik was the most hated guy in wrestling (the irony being he is a nice guy outside the ring, having met him before briefly).
Can the WWE replicate the Sheik’s atmosphere with Rusev all these years later? Longtime mid-carder Jack Swagger seems prepped to take the role of the All-American hero who will fight Rusev.
Summer is upon us, and I find my mind wandering back to the days when the hot temperatures would bring the WWF around to some of the smaller buildings for live action here in New England.
I hit most of the big arenas back in the day for house shows and TV tapings, such as the old Boston Garden, the Worcester Centrum (the DCU Center) today, the Providence Civic Center (now called — ugh — the Dunkin’ Donuts Center), the Springfield Civic Center (MassMutual Center currently), and the Hartford Civic Center (XL Center).
But I also fondly recall squeezing into sub-par stadiums to get a more close-up experience with pro wrestling, including these spots: Continue reading