It is being reported that WWE legend, Ivan Koloff, the former WWWF World Champion who ended Bruno Sammartino's epic seven plus year title reign, has reportedly passed away at age 74. Koloff, who was diagnosed with liver disease a decade ago, had recently announced that his health was rapidly declining, forcing him to cancel appearances.
Ric Flair confirmed the sad news this morning on Twitter.
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— Ric Flair® (@RicFlairNatrBoy) February 18, 2017
Koloff, real name Oreal Perras, was born in Montreal in 1942 and wanted to become a wrestler from an early age. Starting in the business at age 19, he would wrestle throughout Canada and Japan before settling on the Russian Bear gimmick in the World Wide Wrestling Federation in 1967 where he was managed by the legendary Captain Lou Albano. After defeating Sammartino, Koloff would only hold the WWWF title for 21 days, dropping it to Pedro Morales. He would leave the WWWF shortly thereafter.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Koloff would move on to the NWA, where he would once again become a champion many times over. He teamed with "nephew" Nikita Koloff, and they found great success in Jim Crockett Promotions.
Koloff retired from in-ring action in 1994 and devoted the later part of his life to the Christian ministry he started in North Carolina.
Always a hated villain in the ring, Koloff reflected on his loving relationship with the fans in a recent Post And Courier interview.
"I appreciate the fans. Without the fans, there wouldn't be any wrestling," said Ivan, who began his pro career in 1961. "The main thing for me over the years, even as a bad guy, was just to make the matches exciting. Whether the fans were picking on me or booing me or just showing their love, I appreciate them so much and want to thank them all for their support. It makes me feel so good that they still remember."
Despite all his wrestling accomplishments, Koloff has not been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Koloff spoke about the omission in 2008.
"Well, I haven't heard anything from them, but yeah. I'd be interested for sure. I'm a firm believer with my ministry that I capitalize on any situation out there that would promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To me, if they'd give me the honor of being in the HOF for WWE, I'm not here to judge them. I would love and res the fact of being able to get up and say thank you not only to fans, not only to Vince McMahon, but above all, my Lord and savior Jesus Christ. It would be awesome to have that platform to do that."
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Koloff's family and friends.