More photos in the Gallery

Ivan Koloff is universally respected as one of the all-time great monster main eventers. For more than two decades, he terrorized opponents and fans alike. In the 70s, he scored the greatest upset in wrestling history when he ended the incredible eight-year reign of Bruno Sammartino as WWF World heavyweight champion. In the 80s, he remained a tremendous star in his own right while helping to build Nikita Koloff into a monster, both in the ring and at the box office. In the meantime, everywhere he appeared, success in the ring and the box office followed.


  • 7-time Georgia tag-team champion, five times with Ole Anderson
  • 5-time Florida tag-team champion with Pat Patterson, Nikolai Volkoff and three times with Mr. Saito
  • Southern heavyweight champion
  • 3-time Mid-Atlantic television champion
  • 3-time Mid-Atlantic heavyweight champion
  • Canadian heavyweight champion
  • 2-time Canadian International heavyweight champion
  • 2-time United States tag-team champion
  • 4-time NWA World six-man tag-team champion
  • IWA World tag-team champion with Mad Dog Vachon
  • 2-time World television champion
  • WWA World heavyweight champion
  • 4-time NWA World tag-team champion with Ray Stevens, Don Kernodle and twice with Nikita Koloff
  • WWF World heavyweight champion



Q. Ivan, when and where were you born?
A. I was born August 25, 1942 in Moscow, Russia. I was only 6 years old when I came over to Canada. I was raised by a French-Canadian family and I stayed with them until I began my professional wrestling career.

Q. Do you have any background in amateur wrestling?
A. I come from a big family of ten kids. I had seven brothers and I guess I received some amateur wrestling experience from them - it's called self-defense. By the time I was 15, I weighed 200 pounds so I got my share of seconds at the dinner table.

Q. Who trained you in professional wrestling?
A. I received most of my training from Jake Wentworth. He was the British Empire Heavyweight champion. Dan Koloff, my great uncle who was a wrestler in the 30s and 40s, also trained me. I watched The Gallagher Brothers, Yukon Eric, The Shire Brothers, Hans Schmidt, Fritz von Erich, Verne Gagne and Pat O'Connor on TV in those early years.

Q. Which match stands out in your mind?
A. I would have to say the Tower of Doom match that I had with the NWA outfit, right before I left. It was a triple cage match that was 3 stories high, and it was scary!

Q. Who has been your toughest opponent in your career?
A. Andre the Giant. He was so big that there was nothing you could do to beat him. I also respect Wahoo McDaniel because of all of his accomplishments in pro-wrestling. He was a very tough competitor.

Q. What is your favorite wrestling move?
A. I've been noted for many different moves over the years. There was the inverted backbreaker, the bear hug - that's how I got my nickname, The Russian Bear - and the clothesline.

Q. Who has been your favorite tag-team partner?
A. Nikita Koloff, without a doubt. Over the years, I've had some great partners - "Superstar" Billy Graham, Ray Stevens, Krusher Krushchev, Baron von Raskchke, Ernie Ladd and Don Kernodle.

Q. Which championship are you most proud of?
A. The World Wide Wrestling Federation Title, in which I defeated Bruno Sammartino in 1971.

Q. What does it take to be a topnotch wrestler?
A. It takes 3 things: First, good wrestling skills. Second, a body that is not only in good shape but also flexible. Third, with all the marketing going on in wrestling today, the ability to speak well.

Q. What advice would you give to anyone starting out in professional wrestling?
A. Fight any temptation of drugs and alcohol, keep in good shape, and learn the trade.

Copyright 2000,
Design 2000,
All Rights Reserved.