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
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
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
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.