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Ivan Koloff

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Ivan Koloff
Koloff, c. 1982
Birth nameOreal Donald Perras[1]
Born(1942-08-25)August 25, 1942[2][1]
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
DiedFebruary 18, 2017(2017-02-18) (aged 74)
Winterville, North Carolina, U.S.[1]
Cause of deathLiver cancer
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Ivan Koloff[2][1]
Jim Parris[3]
Orwell Paris
Red McNulty[2]
Billed height5 ft 9 in (175 cm)[4][5]
Billed weight298 lb (135 kg)[6]
Billed fromMoscow, Russia[6]
Trained byJack Wentworth
Dan Koloff
DebutFebruary 15, 1963 [7]
RetiredNovember 16, 2013[3]

Oreal Donald Perras (August 25, 1942 – February 18, 2017) was a Canadian professional wrestler, better known by the ring name "the Russian Bear" Ivan Koloff. He was the third wrestler to hold the WWWF Championship.[1][8][2]

Early life


Perras was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and raised on a dairy farm in rural Ontario along with his six brothers and three sisters.[9]

Since first watching professional wrestling on TV at the age of eight, he wanted to become a wrestler, and would often wrestle with his brothers growing up. At age 18, he left high school and joined Jack Wentworth's wrestling school in Hamilton, Ontario, where he would lift weights and learn wrestling holds.[10]

Professional wrestling career


Early career (1963–1967)


Perras debuted as an Irish rogue villain character named Red McNulty, billed from Dublin, Ireland and wrestling with an eyepatch.[2] For the next three years, he wrestled around the Toronto area, eventually quitting his regular job to wrestle in the north-western area of Canada. There, Perras acquired much wrestling experience, and from there he made his first trip to Japan.

The Russian Bear (1967–1994)

Koloff wrestling Barry Windham, c. 1979

In 1967, Perras became "The Russian Bear" Ivan Koloff, a bearded villainous character billed from Ukraine, and debuted with the International Wrestling Association in Montreal, Québec. He defeated Johnny Rougeau for the IWA International Heavyweight Championship the following year. Koloff debuted in the World Wide Wrestling Federation in late 1969, managed by "Captain" Lou Albano.[11] He soon started a rivalry with then-WWWF World Heavyweight Champion Bruno Sammartino. On January 18, 1971, Koloff defeated Sammartino in Madison Square Garden for the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship by pinfall after a knee drop from the top rope, ending Sammartino's seven and two-thirds years reign.[12][13][14] Koloff lost the championship 21 days later to Pedro Morales,[15] essentially being used as a "transitional champion" to move the title from Sammartino to Morales without the two fan favorites working against each other, much like Stan Stasiak and The Iron Sheik would be in later years. After the loss, Koloff remained a contender for the title but never reclaimed it, leaving the WWWF in 1971.[16] During his time in the WWWF, Koloff weighing in at 310 pounds (140 kg) wrestled WWWF World Heavyweight Championship title matches against Sammartino, Morales, Superstar Billy Graham and Bob Backlund, holding the distinction, with fellow villain Stan Stasiak, as one of only two men to challenge all four of these champions.[17] Koloff would also be the first opponent to ever challenge for the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship in a steel cage match in a rematch loss against Sammartino. He fought in the WWWF from 1975 to 1976, 1978–1979 and 1983.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Koloff found success in the National Wrestling Alliance, winning many regional tag team and singles titles in the Georgia, Florida, and Mid-Atlantic territories. In February 1981, he teamed with Ray Stevens to defeat Paul Jones and Masked Superstar to capture the NWA World Tag Team Championship. This would be the first of his four reigns as NWA World Tag Team Champion, later winning the belts with Don Kernodle and twice with his "nephew" (kayfabe), Nikita Koloff as The Russian Team.

In April and May 1973, Koloff wrestled in Japan for the International Wrestling Enterprise promotion as part of its Dynamite Series. In his debut match, he teamed with Mad Dog Vachon to defeat Great Kusatsu and Strong Kobayashi for the IWA World Tag Team Championship in a two-out-of-three falls match. They lost the titles to Great Kusatsu and Rusher Kimura several weeks later.[18]

The Russians (which also included Krusher Kruschev) were a top villainous group from 1984 to 1986, and Nikita, under Perras' training and mentoring, and by association, became a hated villain in his own right, and would go on to have a successful singles career of his own. After Nikita turned on Ivan to join their enemy Dusty Rhodes in 1986, the latter teamed with Vladimir Petrov and Dick Murdoch to get revenge. Koloff's biggest NWA feuds were against Rhodes, The Road Warriors, The Rock 'n' Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) and Magnum T. A. In 1988, Koloff spent time in Paul Jones' faction, The Paul Jones Army, where he was a "coach" of sorts for The Powers of Pain, The Barbarian and The Warlord. He later split with Jones, reunited with Nikita, and feuded with Jones' team, The Russian Assassins, before leaving Jim Crockett Promotions in January 1989. In 1992, Koloff also wrestled in the first television main event of Jim Cornette's Smoky Mountain Wrestling, beating Bobby Fulton. He lost to Ron Garvin at Tim Horner's National Championship Wrestling on July 22, 1994. He retired afterwards.

Eastern Championship Wrestling (1992–1993)


He also spent time in Eastern Championship Wrestling,[11] appearing on the very first ECW card in 1992. In 1993 he began teaming with his storyline nephew Vladimir Koloff. The team won their debut match on the June 29 edition of ECW Hardcore TV. Koloff defeated The Sandman on the July 6, 1993, episode of ECW Hardcore TV in a number one contenders match for the ECW Heavyweight Championship.[19]

Return to wrestling (2004–2013)

Koloff in 2011

In 2004, Koloff returned to the ring for the first time in 10 years. He wrestled in the independent circuit. On August 27, 2005, Koloff defeated Dominic DeNucci in a Russian chain match at WrestleReunion. Koloff would win his final wrestling title defeating The Barbarian in a Russian chain match for the Legends title at NWA Charlotte. On July 19, 2013, Koloff lost to Shane Douglas in an Extreme Rules match at Mega Pro. His final match was against Bob Armstrong in which Armstrong won on November 16, 2013, at Superstars of Wrestling 1 in Rome, Georgia. Koloff stood around 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) tall, and weighed approximately 300 pounds (140 kg) when he was at the peak of his career as a wrestler but Towards the end of his career, he dropped a considerable amount of weight and was tipping the scale at 205 pounds (93 kg).[20]

Personal life


Perras wrote a book titled Is That Wrestling Fake? The Bear Facts that was released on January 1, 2007. He became a born again Christian in 1995[21] and traveled to churches to share his testimony as an ordained minister.[2] Koloff spoke openly and candidly of his conversion to Christianity and struggles with alcohol and drugs and the crazy days of wrestling in his 2014 book, Life in the Trenches.[22] Perras was named as a defendant in a 2015 lawsuit filed by WWE after they received a letter from him indicating that he intended to sue them for concussion-based injuries sustained during his tenure with them. He was represented by attorney Konstantine Kyros, who is involved in several other lawsuits involving former WWE wrestlers. The lawsuit was dismissed in September 2018.[23]



Perras died at his home in Winterville, North Carolina, on February 18, 2017, from liver cancer.[24]

Other media


Koloff is featured as a playable character in the video games Legends of Wrestling, Legends of Wrestling II and Showdown: Legends of Wrestling.

Championships and accomplishments



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Chad Bonham (2001). Wrestling with God. David C Cook. p. 197. ISBN 978-1-58919-935-4.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Solomon, Brian (2006). WWE Legends. Pocket Books. pp. 155–158. ISBN 978-0-7434-9033-7.
  3. ^ a b "Ivan Koloff's profile". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved May 1, 2011.
  4. ^ https://www.wrestlingdata.com/index.php?befehl=bios&wrestler=1205
  5. ^ https://www.midatlanticwrestling.net/resourcecenter/interviews/koloff/ivankoloff01.htm
  6. ^ a b "Ivan Koloff bio". WWE. Retrieved August 26, 2016.
  7. ^ https://prowrestlingstories.com/pro-wrestling-stories/ivan-koloff/
  8. ^ Mooneyham, Mike (June 10, 2007). "'Evil Russian' softens, looks back on career". The Post and Courier. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved July 15, 2013.
  9. ^ Tornoe, Rob (February 18, 2017). "Legendary wrestler Ivan 'The Russian Bear' Koloff has died". Inquirer.
  10. ^ "Jack Wentworth - OWW". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  11. ^ a b Shields, Brian; Sullivan, Kevin (2009). WWE Encyclopedia. DK. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-7566-4190-0.
  12. ^ "Daily Pro Wrestling History (01/18): Ivan Koloff defeats Bruno Sammartino to win WWWF title". WON/F4W - WWE news, Pro Wrestling News, WWE Results, UFC News, UFC results. January 18, 2019. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  13. ^ "Remembering the night Bruno Sammartino lost the WWE Title". WWE. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  14. ^ Johnson, Steven; Oliver, Greg (November 16, 2010). The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels. ECW Press. ISBN 978-1-55490-284-2.
  15. ^ Hornbaker, Tim (July 2012). Legends of Pro Wrestling: 150 Years of Headlocks, Body Slams, and Piledrivers. Skyhorse Publishing Inc. ISBN 978-1-61321-075-8.
  16. ^ Greer, Jamie (February 18, 2017). "Former WWE World Champion Ivan Koloff Passes Away". Last Word on Pro Wrestling. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  17. ^ Freedman, Lew (September 7, 2018). Pro Wrestling: A Comprehensive Reference Guide. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-4408-5351-7.
  18. ^ Kreikenbohm, Philip. "Ivan Koloff - matches - International Wrestling Enterprise". Cagematch.net. Retrieved July 26, 2023.
  19. ^ "ECW Hardcore TV #14". Cage Match. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  20. ^ https://www.midatlanticwrestling.net/resourcecenter/interviews/koloff/ivankoloff01.htm
  21. ^ Courier.com, Mike Mooneyham Special to The Post and (February 25, 2017). "WWE, Ivan Koloff and an opportunity missed". Post and Courier. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  22. ^ D'Ambrosio, Brian (August 21, 2014). Life in the Trenches. Anthony Zuccarini. Firefly Books.
  23. ^ "WWE seeking to block concussion-related lawsuits". FoxSports.com. Fox Entertainment Group (21st Century Fox). July 1, 2015. Retrieved November 27, 2015.
  24. ^ Shanley, Patrick (February 18, 2017). "Ivan "The Russian Bear" Koloff, Professional Wrestler, Dies at 74". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2000). Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  26. ^ Oliver, Greg (April 18, 2013). "Jake The Snake turns CAC banquet into a sobering experience". Slam Wrestling. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
  27. ^ Johnson, Mike (June 30, 2009). "Ricky Steamboat, Nick Bockinkel Among 2009 Class Honored By Wrestling Museum & Institute". PWInsider. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  28. ^ Hoops, Brian (January 19, 2019). "Pro wrestling history (01/19): Ric Flair wins WWF title in 1992 Royal Rumble". Wrestling Observer Figure Four Online. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  29. ^ "HighVolumeProWrestling". Facebook.
  30. ^ "Welcome". Prowrestlinghistory.com. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  31. ^ "Lawler, McMahon, Road Warriors among PWHF Class of 2011". Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum. November 26, 2010. Retrieved November 28, 2010.
  32. ^ Southern Championship Wrestling (2002). "SCW Hall of Fame". SCW Superstars. SCWprowrestling.com. Archived from the original on October 5, 2002. Retrieved April 15, 2012.
  33. ^ Meltzer, Dave (November 9, 2015). "November 9, 2015 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: 2015 Hall of Fame Issue". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Campbell, California: 1. ISSN 1083-9593.

Further reading