Monday, February 20, 2017

Ivan Koloff

Ivan Koloff, knowing among wrestling fans as “The Russian Bear,” has died. He was 74.

Koloff had been battling liver cancer and was in need of “urgent medical care,” according to a Go Fund Me page set up by his daughter, Rachel Marley, on Feb. 2.

After news of his death surfaced, condolences were spread on social media. Hulk Hogan said he felt “helpless” — with Koloff’s death coming after a string of losses for the wrestling community including George “The Animal” Steele, who died Friday.

He was born Oreal Perras in Montreal, Canada, in 1942 — and found a passion for wrestling early on, leaving high school at 18 to devote himself full-time to the sport. He first debuted as a character name Red McNulty, according to Brian Solomon’s book WWE Legends, and built up a strong following wrestling in Toronto.

Perras debuted “The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff in 1967 during an International Wresting Association match, winning the Heavyweight Championship the final year. He joined the WWWF in 1969, under the guidance of “Captain “Lou Albano.

He would go on to win the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship in 1971, defeating defending champ Bruno Sammartino by pinfall in a legendary match at Madison Square Garden. The Italian hero had previously had a seven-and-a-half year run with the belt.

In 2014 his struggle with drugs and alcohol, as well as his life as a wrestler, were shared in the book Life in the Trenches, which included testimonies from the likes of “Rowdy” Roddy Pipper, Diamond Dallas Page, Dan Severn, George “The Animal” Steele, the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, Rick Martel and Jim Abbott.


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