Ivan Koloff, who infamously dethroned Bruno Sammartino, dead at 74
Ivan Koloff, a pro wrestling villain who famously ended the reign of Bruno Sammartino in 1971, has died at the age of 74.
WWE is saddened to learn that Ivan Koloff, best known to the WWE Universe as one of Bruno Sammartino's most bitter rivals, has passed away at age 74.
Koloff, nicknamed "The Russian Bear," quickly became a primary rival to one of the most beloved WWE Champions of all time, Bruno Sammartino. In an infamously memorable instance in WWE and Madison Square Garden history, Koloff crushed Sammartino's throat with his knee by jumping off the top turnbuckle. This act on Jan. 18, 1971, allowed “The Russian Bear” to cover the WWE Hall of Famer and score an astonishing three-count to become WWE Champion, ending the Italian powerhouse's record-setting seven-year title reign.
Three weeks later, Koloff was defeated by Pedro Morales.
Koloff was actually Canadian, real name Orreal Parras. After his pro wrestling career, he became a Born-Again Christian and preached at churches throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
His death comes a day after another legendary heel, George "The Animal" Steele died at age 79.
Wrestlers offered their condolences to Koloff's family.