Excerpt from "Is That Wrestling Fake?” The Bear Facts
Copyright Ivan Koloff and Scott Teal
I got mad one night when Dusty told us, "Nikita needs to get pinned tonight.”
I thought that was the worst thing they could do. ”Just a minute,” I said. ”If we need to lose tonight, then pin me. Don’t beat Nikita, because down the road, it will mean more if he’s unbeaten.”
I was smart enough to know that after spending twenty years in the business, I could get the job done both in the ring and on interviews, so it wouldn’t hurt me to lose. If they beat Nikita when he was still relatively inexperienced, it would kill him. His mystique was that of a monster Russian who couldn’t be beaten. We would get a lot more mileage out of the Koloff team if we waited to beat him when he was over more.
For decades, professional wrestling fans have asked the question – "Is that wrestling fake?”
However, they wouldn't have dared ask that question directly to Ivan Koloff, whose work in the ring made believers out of the most cynical viewers.
Growing up on a farm in Ontario, Ivan learned the meaning of hard work and discipline. Unfortunately, he made wrong choices and wound up in prison for cattle rustling. Upon his release, he enrolled in a wrestling school and began a career in pro wrestling as Red McNulty, the Irish Rogue.
Five years later, on January 18, 1971, he appeared in Madison Square Garden under the name Ivan Koloff and did what had never been done before. He pinned Bruno Sammartino's shoulders to the mat and won the WWWF heavyweight title. When the referee called for the bell, you could have heard a pin drop as the more than 21,000 screaming fans were instantly moved to a stunned, disbelieving silence.
That accomplishment made Ivan Koloff one of wrestling's biggest superstars until his retirement from the ring in the mid-1990s. Competing in virtually every major promotion throughout the world, he feuded with every top name in the wrestling business, including Andre the Giant, Ric Flair, Dick the Bruiser, Bob Backlund, Billy Robinson, Dusty Rhodes, and Ivan Putski.
Here for the first time, Ivan tells the story of his life: the highs and the lows; his admission of alcohol and drug abuse; reflections of a life spent on the road, and the toll it took on his body and soul; the event in Kannapolis, North Carolina, that changed his life forever.
Ivan also talks about: how he got into wrestling, wrestling as Red McNulty, the (one-eyed) Irish Rogue, how Lou Albano paved the way for his first run in New York, dealing with Vince McMahon Sr. and what he thinks of him as a businessman, his tour of Australia with Playboy Gary Hart and King Curtis, who, how, and when he was approached about winning the WWWF title from Bruno Sammartino (and you won’t believe who the New York office sent to talk to him about it), how the New York wrestling office double-crossed Ivan after he won the title, getting into a fight with Buck Ramstead in Japan, how wrestlers used alcohol and drugs to deal with their injuries and physical problems, the part steroids played in the careers of many of his peers, acting as referee for a fight in the dressing room between Don Jardine and Wahoo McDaniel, his time in the ring and on the road with Mad Dog Buzz Sawyer, why he and Alexis Smirnoff were stopped and interviewed by the FBI, his fight with the Iron Sheik on an airplane, turning down what he thinks was a second opportunity to win the WWWF title, being assaulted by fans with knives, bent nails, pieces of wood, chairs, and even a woman’s handbag, his conversion experience and accepting Christ as his Savior and Lord, his fight to beat his addictions to drugs and alcohol, and much more.