We are saddened to report that pro wrestling legend Ivan Koloff has passed away, following a fierce battle with liver disease. He was 74-years-old.
Oreal Perras was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1942 and became a fan of professional wrestling at a very young age. He began training at just 18-years-old in Ontario, and in 1967 created a character that would live on for decades, the “Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff, becoming a strongman villain billed from the Ukraine. Shortly after, he signed with Vince McMahon Sr.’s World Wide Wrestling Federation, and became one of the most hated wrestlers of all time when he ended Bruno Sammartino’s 2,803 day reign as WWWF Champion at Madison Square Garden. It was at the time the most shocking moment in pro wrestling history, and remains one of the most infamous moments in the decorated history of the iconic New York arena.
After his career with WWWF came to an end, he began roaming the territories of the National Wrestling Alliance, finding the most success in Jim Crockett’s Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, Championship Wrestling from Florida, and Georgia Championship Wrestling. Koloff played a villain for the majority of his career, creating rivalries with the likes of the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, The Road Warriors and beyond.
He ended his career as a 5-time NWA Florida Tag Team Champion, 7-time NWA Georgia Tag Team Champion, 5-time Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champion, 4-time Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion, 1-time WWWF Heavyweight Champion, 3-time NWA Television Champion, as well as many other titles from the National Wrestling Alliance and various other promotions across North and South America. He is a member of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame, and the Southern Championship Wrestling Hall of Fame, but was never inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Rachel Marley, the daughter of Ivan Koloff, created a crowd-funding page for her legendary father just this month, attempting to raise money for his medical expenses. Following his retirement from pro wrestling, he became an ordained minister, and traveled the country attending wrestling conventions and visiting churches to share his story. 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.