Ivan Koloff

He was known as the Russian Bear, and spent a 30 year career as a vicious, brutal mauler. He was also a World Champion and one of the most feared grapplers in the business.

Ivan Koloff
Real Name: Jim Perris
Stats: 5′ 11″ 260 lbs.
Born: August 25, 1942
By Steve Slagle

“The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff is one of the greatest “heel” personas in the history of wrestling…and he was known throughout his 30-year long career as being one of the toughest, meanest, and best wrestlers ever. His endurance inside the ring was legendary…and his bone-crushing power was feared everywhere he wrestled. A veteran of virtually every promotion you can think of, the well-traveled Koloff was one of wrestling’s biggest superstars in the 1960’s, the 1970’s, the 1980’s, and until his retirement in the mid-1990’s. Wrestling has had many brawling foreigners, but perhaps no one as influential and successful as the mighty “Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff…
He was born Jim Perris on August 25, 1942 in Russia, but immigrated to Canada at the age of 6. His wrestling career began in 1965, after being trained by former British Empire champion Jake Wentworth. After a few years of wrestling off-and-on in Canada, Koloff headed to the U.S., were he would achieve his greatest fame…

After wrestling in various regional promotions throughout the midwest and southern states, Koloff headed north to the World Wide Wrestling Federation in 1970. The 290 lb. Koloff, stronger and larger than at any point in his career (before or after), with Capt. Lou Albano as his manager, steamrolled through the W.W.W.F.’s best competition, destroying everyone in his path. Then on January 18, 1971 Koloff did the impossible…he ended the record-breaking 8-year W.W.W.F. title reign of the WWWF’s #1 (at that time) superstar, “The Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino.
When Koloff beat Sammartino — without any cheating tactics or outside interference — the shocked Madison Square Garden crowd was silent, with disbelief. The champion who hadn’t lost in nearly 10 years, The Living Legend, had just been pinned, cleanly, by the hated Russian behemoth. Of the hundreds of men who tried over the 7 1/2 year reign of Bruno, only Ivan Koloff, “The Russian Bear”, could get the job done against Sammartino…

However, Koloff’s victory, impressive as it was, would be short-lived. 3 weeks later, the same MSG crowd that had been so silent when Koloff was announced as the new champion erupted in an overwhelming roar as Pedro Morales defeated Ivan Koloff on February 8, 1971 for the W.W.W.F. title. Ivan would never be able to regain his title from Morales, or during his 2nd WWWF reign, Bruno Sammartino. But Ivan still had dozens of championships in his future…

Koloff was one of wrestling’s elite during his career, and he won the titles to prove it! In addition to his W.W.W.F World Heavyweight title, he won five N.W.A. World Tag Team championships (w/ Ray Stevens, Don Kernodle, two with his “nephew” Nikita Koloff, and Manny Fernandez), two N.W.A. 6-Man World Tag Team championship’s (#1 w/Nikita& Krusher Krushchev, #2 w/The Powers Of Pain), the W.W.C. (Puerto Rico) Heavyweight title, the Canadian Heavyweight championship, the International Tag Team title (w/Mad Dog Vachon), the Florida Tag Team championship (w/Mr. Saito), the Georgia Tag Team championship (w/ Alexis Smirnoff), the Mid Alantic Heavyweight title, and many others. No doubt about it, the massive Russian was a true winner and one of the greatest ever…

He feuded with nearly every fan favorite of the last 30 years…Andre the Giant, Dusty Rhodes, Bruno, Bob Backlund, Tommy Rich, Mil Mascaras, Jack Brisco, Jimmy Valiant, Verne Gagne, Ric Flair, Dick The Bruiser, Angelo “King Kong” Mosca, Pat Patterson, Eduard Carpentier, and numerous others — always pushing them to the limit, and infuriating the fans…
Koloff, who was always a student of the game, also opened a wrestling school so that he could pass on his considerable knowledge to the next generation. He withdrew from active competition in 1994, and now lives in North Carolina where he is enjoying his retirement. The Ring Chronicle is honored to induct “The Russian Bear”, legend-killer and consumate professional, Ivan Koloff into T.R.C.’s Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame….

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