75. NIKITA KOLOFF
Aliases – Russian Road Warrior
Debuted – 1984
Titles Held – NWA National Heavyweight; NWA United States
Other Accomplishments – won Jim Crockett Sr Memorial Cup in 1987 with Dusty Rhodes; wrote Christian living and positive thinking books, “Breaking the Chains” in 2000 and “Wrestling with
Success” in 2004
There must be something in the Minneapolis water. The amount of talented and hugely successful pro wrestlers that came out of Minneapolis area high schools in the late ’70s & early ’80s is staggering.
Nikita Koloff was one of those men.
Fellow Minneapolis native Road Warrior Animal recruited him for the wrestling game. In 1984 he arrived in Jim Crockett Promotions with a shaved head and very little training. They billed him as “The Russian Nightmare” from Moscow, Russia; a “nephew” to veteran “Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff. To cover for his lack of skills he was placed in short matches and cut no promos. He did most of his training while out on the road, teaming with Ivan or Don Kernodle.
He essentially was Goldberg before there was Goldberg.
Nikita became an instant success in the NWA, winning the six man tag titles with Ivan and Krusher Kruschev and a pair of NWA World Tag Titles with them as well.
It was during this time period that it was rumored that Vince McMahon offered Nikita a big money contract to jump to the WWF for a huge program with Hulk Hogan. Ultimately Koloff stayed with the NWA, thinking the success he was having now would parlay into a deal with the WWF later on.
By the spring of 1986 Koloff embarked on his greatest rivalry, a United States Championship program with Magnum TA. The run culminated with a best-of-seven series during the Great American Bash tour that saw Nikita come out victorious. The logical plan was that Koloff and Magnum would use this rivalry to build each other up in preparation for an eventual NWA World Heavyweight Championship feud between the two. Unfortunately fate intervened and a serious car accident to Magnum called for some changes. Nikita was turned babyface and became the number two guy between Dusty Rhodes.
He spent the next couple of years as a top face in the NWA, always as a top threat for the United States and World Heavyweight Championships along with a reign as the unified NWA/UWF World Television Champion, as well as rebuking a couple more lucrative potential WWF offers.
As the ’80s came to a close Koloff stepped away from wrestling to care for his dying wife.
He returned to World Championship Wrestling in 1991 as heel foil for Lex Luger and Sting. After a brief disappearance again he joined up with Sting in his battles against The Dangerous Alliance. His last big program was a United States Title run against Rick Rude during the summer of 1992. Unfortunately by the end of the year he had suffered a herniated disc in a match against Vader, effectively ending his in-ring career.
Today Koloff is a born-again Christian who runs his own small promotion as an outlet for his ministry and teachings. His last public appearance was a brief stint in NWA-TNA during 2003 where he portrayed “Mr. Wrestling IV.”
Nikita is chosen for this list because of his tremendous success and popularity during the ’80s in the NWA. He was wildly successful as both a face and a heel and never really fell below upper mid-card status. He made the typical “Commie heel” gimmick into more than just a caricature; he was a true heel bad ass, ten years before it became en vogue. It’s a shame that Magnum went out with an injury when he did as he and Nikita were on track to elevate each other to the top of the card, much like Hart & Michaels and Helmsley & Maivia did years later.
The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.