Ivan Koloff passed away today at age 74. He was battling liver cancer and there were reports last week that he was in poor health. Several wrestlers posted about his death including Ric Flair, who called Koloff a close friend.
I'm Sad To Wake Up And Hear of the passing of my very close friend the Russian Bear Ivan Koloff. You will be missed My Friend. Rest In Peace pic.twitter.com/nziKZ2Zqy4
— Ric Flair® (@RicFlairNatrBoy) February 18, 2017
Koloff was born in Montreal, Quebec and his real name was Orreal Perras. In the wrestling world, he was known as “The Russian Bear” in the late 1960s and wrestled into the late 1980s.
What Koloff was most known for was when he beat Bruno Sammartino for what was then known as the WWWF World Championship (now the WWE Championship) on January 18, 1971. The match took place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It could be argued that it was the biggest upset in wrestling history because Koloff’s win ended the nearly 8 year title reign of Sammartino and it was shocking to everybody at the time. Koloff ended up being a transitional champion because he held the title for just 21 days before dropping it to Pedro Morales, who had an nearly three year reign as WWWF Champion.
A few years ago, WWE.com posted this article by Bill Apter telling the story of what it was like when Bruno lost the title to Koloff.
Koloff is not in WWE’s Hall of Fame yet. He is one of those names that fans have wondered about for a long time because he was the guy that beat Bruno and should have been in there years ago. His omission from the Hall of Fame is a big one. There is a profile page of Koloff on WWE.com if you want to check out photos and videos.
One day after George Steele, now Ivan Koloff has passed away. Rest in Peace Uncle Ivan, a great wrestler and person. #RIP
— Jim Cornette (@TheJimCornette) February 18, 2017
ONE OF MY FIRST TEACHERS WHO HAD THE REAL HEEL HEAT. MY BROTHER IVAN KOLOFF REST IN PEACE pic.twitter.com/5xJ5cVRoR6
— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) February 18, 2017
RIP Ivan Koloff,it's been a tough week,Chavo,Nicole Bass,George Steel,Ivan and Marty Prince,I would feel helpless if not for my faith1loveHH
— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) February 18, 2017
— WWE (@WWE) February 18, 2017
Here’s a video of Koloff losing the WWWF Title to Morales.
On behalf of everybody here at TJRWrestling we send our condolences to Koloff’s family, friends and fans all over the world.