Volkoff in 2008.
|Birth name||Josip Nikolai Peruzović|
October 14, 1947 |
Socialist Republic of Croatia, SFRY
|Resides||Glen Arm, Maryland|
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Nikolai Volkoff
|Billed height||193 cm (6 ft 4 in)|
|Billed weight||143 kg (313 lb)|
|Billed from||Moscow, RSFSR, Soviet Union|
|Trained by||Stu Hart|
Josip Nikolai Peruzović (born October 14, 1947), better known by his ring name of Nikolai Volkoff, is a professional wrestler who is best known for his performances for the World Wrestling Federation. Although the Volkoff on-screen character was often portrayed as a villainous Russian, Peruzović actually originates from Croatia and has a mixed background. He is known for teaming with The Iron Sheik, with whom he won the WWF Tag Team Championship at the inaugural WrestleMania event, and also with Boris Zukhov as The Bolsheviks.
Peruzović grew up in the Socialist Republic of Croatia, which was then part of Yugoslavia. His mother is Ukrainian and his father was Croatian. He was on the Yugoslavian weightlifting team until 1967, when he defected to Canada while at a weightlifting tournament in Vienna, Austria. He received training in Calgary from Stu Hart, followed by his arrival in the United States in 1970.
Professional wrestling career
World Wide Wrestling Federation
As soon as he arrived, he began wrestling in the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) (currently known as WWE). Wrestling as Bepo Mongol, managed by "Captain" Lou Albano and partnered with Geto Mongol, he captured the WWWF International Tag Team Titles from Tony Marino and Victor Rivera on June 15, 1970. After losing the titles to Luke Graham and Tarzan Tyler in a match that unified the WWWF International and WWWF World Tag Team Titles, Peruzovic went on to singles competition under the name Nikolai Volkoff.
In 1974, Volkoff appeared in a memorable match at a sold out Madison Square Garden and wrestled one of the sport's most famous champions, the great Bruno Sammartino. Volkoff chased the WWWF title for the majority of his early career and was always given a considerable number of title shots from whoever was the current WWWF Champion.
American Wrestling Association; Mid-South
Late in 1974, Volkoff moved to the AWA where he wrestled under the name of Boris Breznikoff; managed by Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, he used the same gimmick with a different ring name. He reverted to the Volkoff name in his WWWF return in 1976. During this time in the WWWF, Volkoff was announced as being from Mongolia. He enjoyed a very successful feud with Bruno Sammartino. The feud started when Volkoff attacked Sammartino during an interview segment. They sold out arenas all throughout the Northeast. Also during this tenure, Volkoff began a ring gimmick where he would crush a fresh apple with one hand as a sign of what he would do to his opponents.
Return to WWF
In 1984, Volkoff returned to the now WWF and teamed with the Iron Sheik with the pair were managed by the "Hollywood fashion plate" "Classy" Freddie Blassie. It was at this point that Volkoff really pushed the envelope and began to sing the national anthem of the Soviet Union before every match after which the Sheik would grab the microphone and proclaim "Iran number 1, Russia number 1" before exaggerated spitting after saying "USA", in order to gain even more heat for being foreign heels.
The new team of Volkoff and The Iron Sheik captured the coveted WWF Tag Team Championship from The U.S. Express (Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham) at the first ever WrestleMania, on March 31, 1985 after The Sheik had knocked out Windham with Fred Blassie's cane. After losing the titles back to Rotundo and Windham three months later, Volkoff began to wrestle more in singles competition, including wrestling Hulk Hogan for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship on several occasions in 1985 and 1986 (including a Flag Match at the second ever episode of Saturday Night's Main Event at the Meadowlands Arena), but could never defeat Hogan for the title.
Volkoff also feuded with former 82nd Airborne paratrooper Corporal Kirchner throughout 1985 and 1986, defeating him in a "Peace Match" on Saturday Night's Main Event. Their feud ended when Kirchner used Blassie's cane to defeat Volkoff at WrestleMania 2 in another Flag match during the Chicago portion of the event.
In the fall of 1986, Volkoff's manager "Classy" Freddy Blassie sold half interest in his stable of superstars to the “Doctor of Style,” Slick (kayfabe). Giving Slick co-managerial rights to Nikolai Volkoff, Classy Freddy Blassie also shared the contracts of the Iron Sheik and Hercules. This was a storyline aimed at reducing the aging Blassie's active role and the "Hollywood fashion plate" eventually retired in the fall of 1986 at the age of 68. Sheik and Volkoff feuded with WWF newcomer Hacksaw Jim Duggan for the majority of 1987, including Hacksaw running to the ring and stopping the Big Russian's singing before their match against The Killer Bees at Wrestlemania III (Sheik and Volkoff won by disqualification when Duggan entered the ring while chasing Volkoff and then hit the Sheik with his 2x4 while he had the Camel clutch on "Jumping" Jim Brunzell).
In late 1987, Volkoff was teamed with Boris Zukhov, another alleged Russian (actually an American wrestler whose real name was James Harrell), to form The Bolsheviks. The Russians feuded with WWF newcomers The Powers of Pain, losing to them at the inaugural SummerSlam PPV in 1988, however The Bolsheviks did not gain the success as did his partnership with The Iron Sheik. As they lost the public eye due to many losses, they eventually lost their manager Slick and were eventually used as a comic relief team losing many matches to The Bushwhackers. The Bolsheviks never held any titles together, and are perhaps best remembered for being defeated in 19 seconds by The Hart Foundation at WrestleMania VI. Eventually, by 1990, The Bolsheviks split up. Volkoff publicly ended the partnership prior to a match where he confronted Zukhov and then started singing "The Star-Spangled Banner", drawing loud cheers from the audience and turning face in the process.
A short time after The Bolsheviks split, Volkoff became a fan favorite for the first time in his career. His gimmick was now that of a recently liberated Lithuanian, following the fall of the Soviet Union; he became very pro-west which led to a feud with Sgt. Slaughter who was involved in an Iraqi sympathizer role and had teamed with the Iron Sheik, who had recently begun an Iraqi gimmick under the name Colonel Mustafa (as opposed to his actual Iranian heritage). After Volkoff's team defeated Slaughter's team at the 1990 Survivor Series (Tito Santana being the sole survivor), Volkoff left the WWF at the end of 1990. He would make a brief return to compete in the 1992 Royal Rumble match, as well as to face Hercules in a house show match on January 29 in Lowell, MA. Volkoff would also return again to pin Barry Horowitz at WWF Superstars/All-American Wrestling taping on July 6, 1993 in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
On Feb 1, 1994 Volkoff would begin a full-time return to the WWF, making a ringside appearance at a Superstars taping in White Plains, NY during a match between Diesel and Mike Moraldo. For the next two months Volkoff would be shown in the crowd, until eventually he became a sympathetic heel by playing the whipping-boy of Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Corporation. Volkoff had kayfabe fallen on hard times and was forced to take a job working for DiBiase and his new Corporation. As low man in the group he was forced to wrestle matches no one else wanted to or sent out to "soften up" opponents for other members of the stable as the sacrificial lamb of the group. The disrespect even extended to renaming him "Nickel & Dime" Volkoff and DiBiase forcing him to place a ¢ on his trunks where the Russian sickle once was along with a sign on his ring attire that read "Property Of The Million Dollar Man". Volkoff's final appearance was at the WWF's final show at The Boston Garden on May 13, 1995. During a match between WWF Champion Diesel and Sid, Volkoff made an appearance to chase Sid's manager Ted Dibiase away. Following this last run in the WWF, Volkoff entered a semi-retirement.
Volkoff made a brief cameo on an episode of Shotgun Saturday Night where Todd Pettengill discovered him homeless sleeping in a box on the streets of New York. He also appeared at WrestleMania X-Seven at the Astrodome in Houston in the Gimmick Battle Royal which was won by The Iron Sheik.
On February 3, 2005, Volkoff was announced as one of the WWE Hall of Fame inductees for the Class of 2005. He was inducted on April 2, 2005 by Jim Ross in the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, California.
In 2006, Volkoff took part in the World Wrestling Legends pay-per-view 6:05 The Reunion. Managed by the Iron Sheik, he wrestled a match against "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan. Before the match, he once again sang the national anthem of the Soviet Union and riled up the crowd.
Volkoff made his first appearance on WWE television in over 2 years on the August 13, 2007 edition of Raw as a contestant on WWE Idol, a parody of American Idol. Volkoff appeared alongside the Iron Sheik and Howard Finkel, although Volkoff was the only one who sang. Volkoff sang the Soviet Union national anthem, receiving boos from the crowd (despite being a face) and was insulted by judge William Regal, although judges Mick Foley and Maria both praised the performance. In response, Sheik, who was also insulted, went on a tirade until both he and Volkoff were escorted out of the building by security.
The March 10, 2008 edition of WWE Raw, featured rematches from previous WrestleManias. The Iron Sheik appeared along with Nikolai Volkoff to face off against the U.S. Express (Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda) in a rematch from the first WrestleMania. However, the match never got started as Jillian Hall came out to interrupt Volkoff's singing so she could sing Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.", which the U.S. Express used as their ring entrance music in 1984-85.
On the November 15, 2010, edition of Raw, as part of the Old School theme, Volkoff appeared with the Iron Sheik, singing the Soviet national anthem before being interrupted by Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov, the latter of whom then sung a duet with Volkoff of the Russian National anthem.
Currently, Volkoff works for various independent promotions throughout North America. He remains popular on the autograph convention circuit. In June 2013 he threw out the first pitch at a Bowie Baysox baseball game and sang God Bless America after the pitch. As recently as early October he was seen singing his famed Russian National Anthem at a show in New Jersey, after being introduced by the “Fink.”
Volkoff lent his name to a forward for a fiction novel called “Only The Beginning” which is set in the 1980s and is about a girl's life during high school. While the book is not wrestling related, the author Jason Strecker is a personal friend of Volkoff's and in the forward Volkoff responds to his friendship with the author along with the book's message of being of strong character and doing positive actions for others. The book also has a forward by Jimmy Valiant.
On the January 6, 2014 "Old School" episode of RAW, Volkoff encountered Big E. Langston on his way to a match and sung him the Soviet national anthem, to which Langston smiled. Immediately after, Langston walked past fellow Million Dollar Corporation members, Ted DiBiase and Irwin R. Schyster.
Peruzovic has been married for 35 years and has two daughters. In Freddie Blassie's autobiography Listen, You Pencil Neck Geeks, Freddie Blassie describes Peruzovic as a "good family man" who helped Blassie reconnect with a daughter from whom he had been estranged for many years. In a 2009 shoot interview released by Pro Wrestling Diary on DVD, Peruzovic discusses in-depth his history with Freddie Blassie as well as helping Blassie re-connect with his daughter. In 2010, he appeared along with wrestler Jimmy Cicero on Karlos Borloff's internet TV show Monster Madhouse. Peruzovic works with the Baltimore County Police Athletic League kids programs. He previously worked as a code enforcement officer in Baltimore County. He still occasionally wrestles independent shows.
He ran unsuccessfully in the 2006 Maryland Republican Primary for State Delegate in District 7 (representing parts of Baltimore & Harford County) in Maryland.
- Finishing moves
Championships and accomplishments
- Championship Wrestling from Florida
- Georgia Championship Wrestling
- Maryland Championship Wrestling
- MCW Hall of Fame (Class of 2009)
- Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling
- Mid-South Wrestling
- New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame
- Class of 2013
- North American Wrestling
- NAW Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
- Northeast Championship Wrestling (Tom Janette)
- NCW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- NWA Detroit
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him # 136 of the 500 best singles wrestlers during the "PWI Years" in 2003.
- PWI ranked him # 96 of the 100 best tag teams of the "PWI Years" with the Iron Sheik in 2003.
- Universal Wrestling Association
- UWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- World Wide Wrestling Alliance
- WWWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- World Wide Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment
- World Wrestling Association
- World Wrestling Association (Larry Sharpe)
- WWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- "Nikolai Volkoff Profile". Online World Of Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-09-21.
- "Nikolai Volkoff WWE Hall of Fame Profile". WWE. Retrieved 2011-03-30.
- Sears, Bryan P. (March 30, 2005). "Ex-wrestler finds code of conduct". Towson Times. Archived from the original on September 26, 2007.
- http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/bs-sp-nikolai-volkoff-profile-20130910,0,568074.story Retired professional wrestler Nikolai Volkoff turns his energy to helping children
- https://sports.yahoo.com/news/iron-sheik--the-man-behind-the-mask-224707360.html;_ylt=Ajd1UiC.g8.fZ7oXwqR62zusFWFH;_ylu=X3oDMTIyYWNucDR0BG1pdANIQ01PTCBvbiBhcnRpY2xlIHJpZ2h0IHJhaWwEcGtnA2lkLTMzNjcxMzgEcG9zAzMEc2VjA2hjbQR2ZXIDNA--;_ylg=X3oDMTBhYWM1a2sxBGxhbmcDZW4tVVM-;_ylv=3 The cruel tragedy of The Iron Sheik
- Peruzovic is currently training wrestlers in AON Wrestling out of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Volkoff, now a Baltimore County code inspector, is a veteran of the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) from the 1980s, when the likes of Hulk Hogan, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, and Rowdy Roddy Piper crossed paths.
- "Finishing Moves List". Other Arena. Retrieved 2009-11-03.
- 1994 WWF results
- Maryland Championship Wrestling (2009). "Nikolai Volkoff". 2009 Inductee. MarylandWrestling.com. Retrieved October 5, 2011.
- Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2000). Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nikolai Volkoff.|
- WWE Hall of Fame Profile of Nikolai Volkoff
- Another Former Pro Wrestler Seeks Political Fortune, FoxNews.com, 2006-03-25