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.
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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.
Such was the fear of crowd reaction that evening the then-WWWF had Koloff immediately exit the ring while their hero, Sammartino, remained.
The video quality is poor but here is the infamous evening.
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.
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