R.I.P. Ivan Koloff: 1942-2017
From The Wrestling Observer:
Ivan Koloff has passed away at 74 years old after a lengthy battle with liver disease where his health had recently started to decline considerably.
As Dave Meltzer previously noted, Koloff was best known for giving Bruno Sammartino his only pinfall loss at Madison Square Garden on January 18th, 1971. Koloff ended Sammartino's nearly eight-year run as WWWF Champion in that match, which remains one of the most iconic moments in pro wrestling history due to the reaction of complete shock that the crowd had at the finish.
Koloff dropped the title to Pedro Morales shortly after beating Sammartino and left the promotion for a period due to the fear that him being there would create a bad incident because of the emotion the fans had after Sammartino's loss.
Born as Oreal Perras, Koloff was a territory era star who worked as a top heel across the country. His last major run on television was as part of the Russian trio in Jim Crockett Promotions alongside Nikita Koloff & Khrusher Khrushev.
Koloff became an ordained minister after his full-time career in major promotions ended in 1989. He was voted into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame in 2015.
Dang. Crazy stuff. First George, now Ivan. You wanna talk about staying in character, Ivan Koloff kept that Rusky persona out of the ring despite being north of the border in hockey country. No one does that anymore and that's one of the things that makes wrestling great.
Take a quick watch of Koloff battling one of the best sellers in the biz, Ricky Morton, in a four-corners "Russian Chain" match (with young Jim Ross on commentary):
R.I.P. to "The Russian Bear".