Canadian professional wrestler Ivan Koloff was known as the Russian Bear.
Ivan Koloff, the Canadian-born professional wrestler known as the Russian Bear, died Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, according to People.com. Koloff, who had liver cancer, was 74.
Born Oreal Perras, he invented the Russian Bear, Ivan Koloff, a bearded villainous wrestler in 1967. Under the guidance of “Captain” Lou Albano, he joined the World Wide Wrestling Federation, later known as the WWE, in 1969.
In 1971, he defeated WWWF heavyweight champion Bruno Sammartino for the belt in Madison Square Garden and held it for 21 days before losing to another fan favorite, Pedro Morales. He would continue wrestling for the WWWF sporadically throughout the 1970s and early ’80s.
He was also a high-profile star in the National Wrestling Alliance, achieving popularity and success with his tag team known as the Russians. During the 1980s, they were the alliance’s tag-team champions for four years in a row.
Koloff retired from wrestling in 1989.
He was born Aug. 25, 1942, in Montreal, Quebec, and began his professional wrestling career at the age of 18. His first villainous character was Red McNulty, an Irishman with an eye patch.
Fellow wrestlers shared condolences 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,” wrote Ric Flair.
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