WWE | Pro Wrestling

Sometimes, They Never Break Wrestling Character

One of the reasons I love writing for Camel Clutch Blog is the chance to talk to many readers of the site through social media. While I write for the love of the business and love of what the “sport” was back in my early childhood, there are times when talking to fans of the business today brings me back to a place where life was good, a toe hold could win a match and there is still a belief in the “Loser Leave Town” match.

Neither concept could muster in today’s professional wrestling. Simple work would be frowned upon my social media and the IWC or joked about by Vince McMahon as to the sincerity of the idea.

Anyway, getting back to my thought (I’m old, so bear with me). A fan who occasionally reads my work (as he told me) wanted to know what I thought about wrestlers who never broke character and still may live in the same “holding pattern” from the days when they were in the ring. Ric Flair lives that kind of life. Hulk Hogan to some extent does the same thing. And then there was the man named Nikita Koloff.

In reality, Koloff was an American wrestler named Scott Simpson who grew up in the same neck of the woods as the Road Warriors, Rick Rude, Brady Boone, Curt Hennig and others. While Koloff “took off” in the NWA with “uncle” Ivan Koloff and fellow Minnesotan Barry Darsow (Krusher Khruschev), his real fame happened as a “face” and singles champion. In reality, however, even as a man who remained in character, (he liked his crew cut and stardom so much, he had his name legally changed), he never became the over the top superstar he could have been.

The story originally told was that Nikita was brought into the National Wrestling Alliance by his “Uncle” Ivan to prove Soviet superiority. Their ultimate goal was to dethrone NWA World champion Ric Flair. A physical marvel, Koloff was also hailed as the Russian Road Warrior. He was billed from Moscow in the Soviet Union, and then from Lithuania after the fall of the Soviet Union.

While he won the United States Title from Magnum TA and other national titles, he never won the NWA or WCW World Titles, which potentially stunted his growth as a wrestler. It is true that personal issues could have also impacted him as a star (his wife died of cancer in the middle of the height of his popularity), but even in his best days, he was still not as great as he could have been.

The mid 1980s proved to be his best run in the business.

In spring of 1986, Koloff started one of the biggest, most anticipated feuds in the history of Jim Crockett Promotions when he attacked NWA United States Heavyweight Champion Magnum T.A.. Following an incident where Magnum hit on-screen NWA President Bob Geigel for demanding an apology after T.A. started a brawl with Nikita during a contract signing (which started when the Koloffs berated Magnum’s mother, who was present), T.A. was stripped of his title.

The two were then booked to in a best-of-seven series, which took place during The Great American Bash 1986 tour. The winner of the series would be declared champion. Koloff and T.A. wrestled all summer, ending up tied after six matches with one no contest. The final match took place on August 17 and featured run-ins by Kruschev and Ivan and several false-finishes. Nikita defeated T.A. to win the title.In October 1986, Magnum T.A. was involved in the famous career-ending car accident. Dusty Rhodes saw an alternate opportunity. Because the Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev had been growing in popularity throughout the country Rhodes decided to book Koloff to become a face and his greatest ally against the Four Horsemen. The historic moment took place on October 24 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Rhodes needed a partner to take on Ole Anderson and James J. Dillon in a cage match. The fans in Charlotte erupted when Koloff entered the cage to help Rhodes. This evening established Koloff as one of the top faces in the NWA.

Immediately after his face turn, Koloff resumed his quest for Ric Flair’s NWA World Title and came very close to winning it on several occasions. Flair’s Four Horsemen mates bailed him out almost every time.

I always liked Koloff, who like Lex Luger – a friend and foe in the era – was at times stiff and could not sell matches, but wondered what could have been with him had he remained a heel. And despite the fact wrestling today is more methodical and more transparent, it’s good to know still recall the days when wrestlers did not break character and the business was still somewhat guarded.

Those days seem like centuries ago.

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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