|Ivan Koloff vs. Bruno Sammartino
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
Sadly, I'm writing a second memorial piece in as many days. The legendary Ivan Koloff has died. In the first 48 days of 2017 we've lost Rex King, "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, Chavo Guerrero Sr., George "The Animal" Steele, Nicole Bass and now "The Russian Bear."
By the time I started watching wrestling in the early 80s, Koloff was nearing the end of his career. He was teaming with nephew Nikita and Krusher Kruschev. Together this threesome held the NWA six man tag team titles. Ivan and Nikita were also the NWA tag team champions, feuding with the likes of The Rock 'n Roll Express, Dusty Rhodes and Magnum TA and the Road Warriors.
When Nikita turned good, Uncle Ivan moved on to team with the Powers of Pain under the management of Paul Jones. That trio would also go on to win the six man tag team championship. Eventually, even Ivan would turn good and ended up reuniting briefly with Nikita to battle the Russian Assassins. His time in the ring ended a few years later when he retired from wrestling.
Ivan's biggest claim to fame though came long before I started watching wrestling. It actually happened before I was born. Koloff pinned Bruno Sammartino to win the WWWF championship. It was a tremendous feat, as Bruno had been the champion for nearly eight years. Granted, his time as champ only last three weeks, but the significance of the ending of Bruno's streak as champ is arguably as impactful as Brock Lesnar ending Undertaker's WrestleMania win streak.
For that feat alone, Koloff should have been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame many years ago. I don't know why he's not there yet. Maybe there were behind the scenes reasons. I know in 2015 he joined the concussion lawsuit other Superstars have filed, so who knows now that he's died if WWE will look past that and ever induct him.
I must also admit that I was convinced all along that Ivan was really a Russian. He played the character so well it's a testament to the man behind the gimmick, Oreal Perras who was born in Canada. Rest in peace, Russian Bear. You will be missed.