clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Legendary wrestler Ivan Koloff passes away

Per PWInsider, we’ve lost another pro wrestling great, as former WWWF champion Ivan Koloff has died at age 74. He’d been diagnosed with liver cancer.

Known as “The Russian Bear”, Koloff was a major heel character for Vince McMahon, Sr. in the 1970s. His most famous victory, and arguably one of the biggest moments in the history of the form, came on Jan. 18, 1971 when he defeated Bruno Sammartino in Madison Square Garden to capture the WWWF title. The win ended the Italian hero’s seven-and-a-half year run with the belt.

In the late 70s and 80s, Koloff (real name Oreal Perras; he was a French-Canadian from Montreal, making his convincing work as a Moscow-based communist villain all the more impressive) moved to the National Wrestling Alliance. As the leader of a stable called “The Russians”, Ivan would capture the NWA tag titles four times while working with some of Jim Crockett’s biggest stars, including the Road Warriors and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express.

Despite his accomplishments, The Russian Bear isn’t in the WWE Hall of Fame. He was represented by Konstantine Kyros, the lawyer behind several of the concussion-related lawsuits filed against Vince K. McMahon’s company, and was named in a 2015 countersuit filed by the company against several high-profile Kyros clients.

Cageside Seats sends our condolences to Perras’ family & friends.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Cageside Seats Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your pro wrestling news from Cageside Seats