"The Russian Bear" Ivan Koloff shocked Madison Sqaure Garden and the wrestling world when he defeated the seemingly invincible Bruno Sammartino on January 18th 1971 to become the third ever WWWF World Heavyweight Champion.
Koloff, whose real name is Oreal Perras was born in Montreal, Canada. Perras spent his childhood working on the family's dairy farm, watching wrestling on TV and exchanging headlocks and bodyslams with his six brothers.
From the age of 18, Perras dedicated his time to training as a pro wrestler and sculpting the imposing physique that would make him so successful as a heel.
He made his debut as Red McNulty a "Rogue Irish Heel" that terrorised babyfaces in various promotions across Northern Canada. However it was as "The Russian Bear" Ivan Koloff that Perras would find his greatest success. Under the management of Captain Lou Albano, Koloff made his WWWF debut in 1971 and it wasn't long before he set his sights on Bruno Sammartino. Albano had become the biggest heel in the WWWF due to his determined efforts to take the title from fan favourite Bruno and Lou really believed that Ivan Koloff was the man to finally do it.
Taking into account, Bruno had been Champion for more than seven years by this point, it must have been inconcievable that he would ever lose the title. Some of the greatest wrestling villians in the history of wrestling had tried and failed to dethrown Sammartimo, when Cpt Lou Albano led Koloff to the ring in Madison Square Garden, there was nothing to suggest that "The Russian Bear" would actually triumph. But as the old adage goes: always expect the unexpected. That night in Madison Square Garden, the greatest champion in WWE History was dethrowned. The evil Ivan Koloff battled back and forth with Bruno and eventually got the shocking victory when he hit a knee drop from the top rope. The crowd was stunned. Silent.
Koloff made a rapid exit from the building as the New York fans finally digested what had happened and started to riot.
"The Russian Bear" wouldn't hold the championship long, dropping the belt to the popular Pedro Morales just 21 days later. Koloff remained a contender in the WWWF for years following his title loss. In truth Koloff wasn't much more than a transitional champion, a means to transfer the title from Sammartino to Morales, however Koloff beat Bruno! Koloff beat Bruno.
If there is anyone on this planet that would understand how Brock Lesnar felt after breaking the streak at WrestleMania XXX, its Ivan Koloff, he too did the unthinkable. After leaving the WWWF, Koloff would go onto to have a great career in the NWA, teaming with the likes of Ray Stevens, Don Kernodle, Krusher Krushev and his (storyline) nephew Nikita Koloff in some brilliant heel Tag Teams that feuded with the likes of The Road Warriors and The Rock N Roll Express in what was a golden era for Tag Team wrestling.
Ivan Koloff had a remarkable career. He will go down in history as the man who ended Bruno Sammartino's marathon championship reign and for having some fantastic Tag Team feuds in the NWA. At the age of 71, Perras now resides in North Carolina with his wife Renae and his four grown-up children, he is an ordained minister and remains involved with various charities. Perras has also written a book entitled: Is that wrestling fake? The Bear facts.
As always thanks for reading this blog, feel free to comment in the section below or you can follow me on Twitter: @The_EB20 or like this blog on Facebook: WWE TNA BLOG By EB20 This is the third blog in a series profiling every WWE Champion in history. The last blog profiled the incredible career of Bruno Sammartino you can read it here: http://wwetnablogeb20.blogspot.com/2014/06/wwe-ch...
Every WWE Champion series:
* Bruno Sammartino
* Ivan Koloff