Welcome! This website is dedicated to an interview I conducted with wrestling legend, Ivan Koloff. The interview was held as a part of a school project I am doing on professinal wrestling. Known as the "Senior Project," this project encompasses almost all aspects needed for organization, dedication and success. A work in progress which has taken me nearly six months to complete, the project includes a presentation, a physical product, a research paper and a portfolio. For my actual physical product, I steped into the wresling ring and took a few falls. The mentor who assisted me was former WCW'er and NWA'er "Mr. # 1," George South.
For my research paper, I needed two primary sources. These were interviews. Mr. South served as one, and I contacted Mr. Koloff about possibly helping with the other. He kindly oblijed. My thesis covered the changes the sport of wrestling have endured over the years and how these changes has helped to shape it. Mr. Koloff offered his expert opinion. Below you will find a couple of pictures taken of myself and Mr. Koloff during the interview. Please do not link these off without permission. (At the request of Mr. Koloff.)
All images contained herein are © property of JWP Enterprises, INC. and can not be reproduced without prior consent from the author.
"The Russian Bear" explains the changes in wrestling.
The former Champ passes his message: "Don't do as I did. Do as I say."
Below is a copy of a form Mr. Koloff signed for me to be included in the portfolio. It is part of the interview Evaluation Form which reads: "West was very professional, but also personal and made me feel at ease. I commend him on his persistance and patience in doing this project, as I'm reluctant in having time to accomodate every request.--Ivan Koloff" The living legend's comments about me!
Ok folks! Here it is: the complete, unedited, shoot interview from September 12, 2000 with Ivan Koloff. Interviewer: West Potter. **NOT: PLEASE DO NOT LINK THIS INTERVIEW OFF. YOU CAN NOT USE IT (OR PORTIONS OF IT) FOR YOUR PRIVATE USE. THIS IS A PERSONAL INTERVIEW. IT SHOULD REMAIN PART OF MY PRIVATE COLLECTION AT THE REQUEST OF MR. KOLOFF. THANK YOU**
Chat with a Legend: Ivan Koloff
West Potter: What drove you to become a professional wrestler? Ivan Koloff: Wow, a dream. I had wanted to be a wrestler ever since I was eight years old. I ended up seeing it on television. I was raised in Canada, on the farm, ten kids, and wrestling came out around 1950. We had a TV, but we used to go to our friendís place, a neighbor, several miles away and that was a weekís ritual for us, to go to the wrestling and watch it and I think the first time I saw it, I fell in love with it. Man, as a little kid I dreamed that I wanted to do that...be a wrestler. WP: How long have you been in wrestling? IK: Since 1961. My first professional match was in 1961 against a legend, Bruno Sammatino, on television in Pittsburgh. It didnít last very long so... [laughs] WP: As an entertainer, what do you try to do for the fans? IK: In the wrestling, I believe it was the idea of giving them their moneyís worth. Of course wrestling has changed from what it was back then it has really become quite a Hollywood thing today, not to take away from the fact itís very dangerous, the stuff they are doing today. Matter-of-fact maybe even more dangerous in the sense of the high-risk moves. But I think my job and my goal was to entertain them [the fans], first of all, but to do it in such a way with credible competition; thatís what wrestling was back then. I think what a lot of people donít realize is the fact that nowadays theyíre [the wrestlers] educated to short matches and a lot of theatrics. Back then it was mostly longer matches. I can remember wrestling a lot of 90-minute matches, a lot of hour matches. Usually a typical match lasted 20 minutes to a half-hour. Thatís not too common today. It was an art back then. Nowadays itís become a [show of] theatrics with high, flashy moves, risky moves. Back then it was the art of getting hold of an arm or a leg, somebodyís neck or back and going for that body part all the way through the match. Consequently, he was trying to do the same thing. It was about outsmarting the other guy. It was an art. Today, like I say, thatís lost. WP: What has been your greatest in-ring accomplishment? IK: I would have to say winning the title, the WWF title. Back then it was the WWWF title. 1971: Bruno Sammartino-- he wasnít only my hero and first my match, he was a legend. A legend in the sense that he was so well like by the people. [He] had a following for over ten years. He was actually champion on-and-off over ten years. [For a] seven and a half year period he was champion before I won the title from him. It was definitely a gift to my career because I went from an unknown, pretty much, I had the Canadian championship three years before that, but I really hadnít accomplished a lot other than several years in the wrestling business. WP: How has wrestling opened up other doors for you? IK: I donít know if it has opened up other doors, except since I quit wrestling. I really didnít do anything in all those years except wrestle. I think it taught me, because I didnít get a lot of school education, it ended up teaching me that the education you get from age and a lot of travel: Iíve been to a lot of countries in the world and [been exposed to] a lot of different cultures and nationalities. I think I have learned through my experiences just by going to these places. Just being involved in a competitive type of entertaining sport, like wrestling, really put me in front of not only a lot of wrestlers, but a lot of promoters and a lot of wealthy people that you had to be a politician to deal with. [Iíve also learned how to] be a salesman. I can say that I have learned that by being in wrestling; not the type of sales person in retailing, but in the sense of the wrestling: How to put my product over, which was wrestling to the public at the time. I think it made me somewhat of an expert in that field. What I didnít accomplish, I canít talk about. But, what I did end up accomplishing I had to learn all those values of education. WP: We have seen wrestling go from the small high school gyms to Madison Square Garden...Why do you think this happened, and what has been the result of it? IK: I think itís always been at Madison Square Garden even back in the 40ís and 50ís, I am not sure, but they used to wrestle in large places, Gorgeous George and everything. I know what you are saying: to the idea that it has transpired from small-time even when they were in large buildings, compared to now it was small-time because of pay-per-view it has really made the revenue huge, so much bigger than it was before. Itís gone from: I think the Crockettís used to say in ďtheĒ area, which is three states: North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia (that was in a good part that they controlled) the highest figure that I heard was two million a month, revenue. Now I understand that a pay-per-view with a six or seven rating will reach six or seven million homes at what, $30 or $35.00 a home? Thatís hundreds and hundreds of times bigger! [laughs] In that sense, I think it has lost the credibility in the process of change. [From] actual competitive wrestling as far as trying to really show the people that we are really trying to beat each other to the extinct, even though back in those days there were a lot matches that were probably controlled also, there were still a lot of matches there were catch-can. It was the type of thing: [Koloff recalling bookerís orders] ĎYou guys out there, I need twenty minutes tonight. I donít care if both of you are (banged up?).í As a matter-of-fact, they used to come to us over the years, and before my time even, up until AIDS and all this stuff, they used to come to us and say: ĎLook, you going to get a little bit of color tonight, on your opponent? If heíll end up bleeding Iíll slip you an extra twenty bucks. And then heíll go to my opponent and say the same thing to him. Well back in the 30ís and maybe before that, the guys would carry a gimmick we used to call it: brass knucks or whatever it was to try to make your opponent bleed. At first if you just used your fist to try to bust their eye open, it worked. It was kind-of hard on the wrestlers until the wrestlers became smart after a while and said: ĎHey, this promoter thinks heís pulling the wool over our eyes by whispering in each one of our ears that he will give us extra money if weíll end up bleeding; it was like a car wreak at a speedway. The people got thrilled with it, and we saw their [the promoterís] point so what we ended up doing was self-inducing it after a while. That got to a point where the promoters got smart. It became a problem with the athletic commission, AIDS, diseases and cleanliness. So, they [promoters] tried to stop us from doing it. But it got to a point where even the promoter couldnít stop it until commissions, state law, said that if you bled you lose your license. WP: How is the sport different today from back when you were wrestling and when you first broke in? IK: Its 360 degrees different in sense of the time involved in doing it and what you have to do. Back in my time: youíd get up in the morning or afternoon, depending on how far you had to travel the night before, youíd shake the cobwebs from the night off and go to the gym and work out. Very seriously, you had to do it [work out]. If you didnít do it, you probably wouldnít be able to wrestle that night. Then you would travel to your next town, if you werenít already there from traveling the night before, and youíd wrestle. It was a seven days a week type of schedule. Matter of fact, twice in two days, that I can remember about in the Jim Crockett Promotion days here, was: Sunday youíd have to wrestle twice, Asheville in the afternoon, and a lot of times get in the plane or your car and run to Wilmington or wherever it may be to do a evening show. On the TV nights, which was usually Wednesday night, I believe, you had to wrestle maybe one or two or even three matches depending on how many films or producer. So that made it a lot different. Nowadays, they end up wrestling maybe two, three times a week and they fly to the location and it is easier that way. But, I am afraid that the average guy today wouldnít even be able to keep up with the party life of the wrestlers of back then. It wasnít so much that the guy was on the party scene, but if you had to get in a car after leaving an arena at 11:00 and drive 300 or 400 miles, it was either a six pack, a twelve pack or a eighteen depending on how many hundred miles we judged our party life as far as the car is concerned. That became real telling on a lot of guys. A lot of us felt that it was good to do that, you know: we earned it; we had worked hard, and we deserved to do that, but the bottom line was: we were hurting ourselves even more because here we are trying to compensate for our aches, pains and bad injuries, a lot them. Back them you had to get in the ring if you had a broken arm, dislocation, shoulder or knee cartilage was blew out. That wasnít a reason to take time off. If you took time off with the promotion, you had better go to the hospital. The promoter wouldnít give you the time off. If you could show that you went to the hospital, it was OK: ĎYou better hurry up back here of I am going to put someone else in that spot because I am in a business; I am here to make money.í You knew that he wasnít shooting you a lie. He was going to do that. I can remember often arriving at the matches with my arm in a sling because both shoulders were broke, dislocations, operations, bicep broke, tricep broke, three knee operations, ankle broke three times. It has never been operated on. It is twice the size now. I have had two discs in my back fused. A number of other injuries: teeth knocked out, objects into my eyesówhere I have had them surgically removed, nails shot into my headóthey used to do that in Montreal, back in the late sixties. They used to take a nail, a two-inch nail, bend it in two and take an elastic band and shoot it. It would hit a wrestler in the head or the body and come back to the dressing room with a nail in my forehead. I have had everything thrown at me in the ring I think. [laughs] I had a knife thrown at me one time. I have it at home as a souvenir. It was open too. The handle hit me in the back and I closed it and put in my trunks and kept it without the referee even noticing. I have had rocks through at me, a lot of rocks. The people would disassemble the seats, like in Puerto Rico they used to do that: take the nuts and bolts off the seats and throw them at you in the ring. Some fans were really wild, terrible! I have been in riots, a ring full of chairs! Itís really extreme. The big change in wrestling, I think you can imagine: having to change your schedule, not having a lot of days off, if your a family man, to spend with the family, let alone time to heal up. You didnít have time to spend with your family. That of course caused a lot of divorces and a lot of family problems with a lot of wrestlers. Nowadays, probably still causes a lot of problems, with wrestling and the party life. But, these guys get enough days at home to make some type of sensible lifestyle. We never really had that years ago. WP: Who do you think is probably most responsible for the changes in wrestling? IK: Time more or less. Everything goes through changes. I think Vince McMahon was the first one to recognize and do something about it [the changes]. Now, it was recognized before Vince really jumped on the pay-per-views a lot because there were a couple of organizations like the UWF and the first organization was the IWA. That was back in Jim Crockettís time, about 1975. A guy by the name of Eddie Ehinehorn tried to organize and compete; that was his vision. I give credit mostly to the vision of Ted Turner and Vince McMahon. Ted Turner started out on satellite TV. His first program that gave him big ratings was wrestling. Heís always kept wrestling, even though today I understand that they are losing mega-bucks. I donít even know if that is true or not because whatever you make in ratings, like they are making, I donít know if they are losing or not. Vince McMahon, I have to give him credit. I never delt with the son a lot. I delt with his dad because was alive the last time I left was 1983, his son was the commentator and I always got along real good with him. He was a sharp man. He has revolutionized his company; when his dad passed away and he took over. The reason why is far-out ideas. He came out and exposed wrestling as entertainment and not as legitimate competitive sport and has made it work to where he has big bucks. I like to give credit to time, it was bound to catch up like basketball, football and the other big sports were capitalizing on TV in a big way. WP: How do you think the wrestlers have responded to this change? IK: Big-time wrestlers you mean? I think very willingly! [laughs] They have ended up capitalizing on the income and the idea of a better schedule. They are even given somewhat the chance to negotiate paper contracts and even some type of medical situation for them. Where as back in my time it was all verbal. I never had a written contract. Never with Vince McMahon when I was there. The only time I had a written contract was when I went overseas: Japan, Australia, something like that. Because you went so far from home, you had to have some guarantee. For the other guys it was a verbal contract where: [recalls verbal contracts] ĎIím Ivan Koloff. I have been wrestling up here for Verne Gagne for the last two years. Jim Crockett, I was just wondering if you were available as far as just giving me a spot in your organization.í [reply:] ĎIvan, Iíve heard a lot about you. Let me turn you over to my book, George Scott.í [Koloff:] George would come out and I would say: ĎGeorge, hey, I just met you for the first time a year ago and I talked to you about possibly coming down there. [mid-atlantic] Look, George, I feel like I am a main-eventer. I have proven myself. I have been champion, the WWF, Canadian champion, main event from Australia to Japan, main event down here in America to Canada. I would like to have some type of verbal agreement that if I come in that you will do your utmost to promote me as a main-eventer.í [reply:] ĎYeah, youíve got that. I canít guarantee you a certain amount of money. You have to produce.í [Koloff:] ĎThen, I know I will be going in as a guarantee then I will produce it, if youíll give me the chance.í And that was it. [Scott:] ĎI think I can keep you here a couple of years and do you justice.í I would commit with that understanding. I know that when a couple of years [was about to] run out, I would go talk to him six months before the contract was up and I would say: ĎHey, do you need me to stay longer? Yes, no, whatever. I will see if someone needs me and get on the phone and negotiate...Ē WP: How have to fans responded? IK: I think big-time. The money that they [promoters] are making now...I think it is a new fan. I have been doing autographs for the Childrenís Miracle Network every weekend for eight years now. I get to hear a lot of the fans. A lot of the overtone that I hear from wrestling in the last five years is: ĎI wish it was the old wrestling. We are entertained by this. We like it and we watch it but, it has really lost the credibility. We like to see a contest.í There are new fans, the kids. ĎThe Rock, Stone Cold, Goldberg and Sting.í They are still entertaining today. I think they [promoters] have reached out to the young fan and they have captured those young fans, I am afraid, in my opinion, not for the good. They may be changing that. I hope and pray they do. What they are doing now is reaching out to the kids and in the last couple of years kids are copying it and it is a bad example. The language, gestures and the naked women; it is a bad connotation. It has gotten so bad. The kids, and you canít blame them, are looking up to these guys as their heroes. Instead of Hulk Hogan of ten years ago saying: ĎListen to your mom and dad, say your prayers, be good kids.í Itís now saying: ĎGet a 2 by 4, go pick up a weapon and beat up your friend.í Thatís where youíll make your money: the more you can beat up and control, the better off you are.í To me, thatís the wrong message, and I am sure you will agree with that. Itís the idea. I have heard of kids coming home and clothes-lining their little baby sister or bother. In one incident I hear, it killed a kid. I have heard of other kids being hurt bad. Kids copying it are trying to come off the top of building on to mattresses and stuff like that. They are getting hurt. Somebody should control it to the extent that at least these kids know not to do this at home. Get that message across. I think there is a way of doing it. There is good and bad in every sport. Thereís a visitors team, and a home team. The home team is always the good guys because of the fans from there, and the tough guys from out of town end up booing the home team. Thatís the same in all sports, but I think it needs to be controlled. A lot of promoters say, like Vince McMahon: ĎWell, go up and turn the dial then!í Thatís not the case. You should be able to turn your TV on, being that it comes into the home, and its regulated. After all, other programs are rated that we have, that we go to the movie on. But, we have a choice of going to the movie or not. Here, we have a TV at home that should be controlled to the point that. [its acceptable] We have the FDA controlling medicines and food and such that it is just as important as food going into us as stuff that goes into our brains, and what kids are being fed; what they are seeing. If we as adults donít see that and do something about it as in the promotional end, or even being able to control it government wise. Or, just as a citizen. It shouldnít always have to be the government that does it. We donít want the government to control everything. We want to be able to control ourselves. So, it is up to the people to say: ĎHey! Clean up that crap because we are not going to support it any more.í What about the ones that donít clean it up? I see that ECW just got a lawsuit in the paper today. The idea that wrestlers got carried away. I mean, competition is one thing but when it comes to the point of hurting the audience physically, then it has gone to far. Something needs to be done. WP: Due to these changes, do you think the fans have lost the ďtrueĒ meaning of the sport? IK: Yeah, definitely. Again, going back to the credibility being destroyed. They can see the wrestler are athletes because they are doing phenomenal things out there even a good athlete in other sports would have trouble doing. It takes a lot of practice to do what they are doing, and a lot of guts because this is risky stuff they are doing. They are getting hurt more than people know. You canít do that stuff without getting hurt. I didnít intentionally try to hurt my body. In 24 years, having all of the injuries that I have had, it is an indication. Someone of these guys are doing a lot more than I ever did, and I mean a lot more. Coming off of cages onto the floor! Coming off of the top rope onto the floor. I did that twice and hit a guy in the back with my fists and I broke an ankle. I am not sure about the other time. I am not sure if I hurt my knee or not. These guys are out there hurting themselves. I donít think they are better athletes than I was because I was in shape back then too, it was 20-25 years ago. I was like 25-30 years old. I couldnít have been in better shape. They [the wrestlers] arenít doing as much and they have pads, but believe me, those pads are not enough to absorb what they are taking in. WP: If you had to pick one match that changed the course of wrestling history, what match would it be? IK: Wow! What match would it be? I donít know if I can think of one really. I guess when it went to the pay-per-view, that pretty much changed the focus of wrestling. I donít think thereís one particular match, maybe you can bring one to mind and I would agree with it, but I cantí focus on one in particular. Thereís a lot back then that really stands out, like Andre the Giant against Hulk Hogan, Pontiac Dome. They drew a sell-out crowd. Hogan slammed Andre the Giant. I am sure Andre got a good padding on his wallet for that! Because there was no one who could slam Andre if he didnít want to be slammed. I wrestled him before. [smiles] The first time I really tried to take him down, I was 300 pounds; I was in my late twenties, the peak of my career. I couldnít do nothing with him. He should me that real quick! I had to sit behind him and pull him down and I couldnít do it. I got him a little angry with me and he backed me into a corner and just leaned on me and pushed back like that... [demonstrates] And believe me, when you have someone 550 pounds squishing on you, as strong as he is, you donít try to get smart with him any more! [laughs] I know Bam Bam Bigelow tried to get smart with him, and as the story goes, Andre made him cry in the ring; cry like a baby. [smiles] I know Bam Bam wouldnít appreciate me saying that! [laughs] He wouldnít beat up an old cripple now would he? [smiles] WP: What wrestler should get the most credit for making wrestling mainstream? IK: I guess the foundation of wrestling was a big setup to get it that way. I donít know if thereís one wrestler...I would have to say guys like Hulk Hogan, I suppose, that really emphasized it back then. He was one of the guys that went from pretty good, mediocre, like I was making back then. Like $200,000 or $500,000 a year which was real big in the 1970ís and 1980ís. You had to be a champion like a Flair or something. But to jump up to what Hulk Hogan made seven or eight years ago in New York whenever he became real big, the pay-per-views became bigger and bigger. He was a five or six million dollar man. That was what I understand, anyway. He had to be instrumental. Vince McMahon, you have to give him credit, he was the one who went out there and made Ted Turner try to compete against him. You would think it would be the other way around because Turner is a billionaire, McMahon is a millionaire. Back then he [McMahon] probably didnít have a lot of money. I guess it goes to say when you are spending your own money you try to spend it more conservatively and try harder to make it work. In Ted Turnerís case, he always hired someone to handle the wrestling. WP: On television today, who do you think is the best wrestler? IK: I donít watch it. I havenít watched it in over a year to be honest with you because of the language and gestures. One that stands out, itís hard to pick one guy, Stone Cold, the Rock. I hear that the feedback from the people, in the autograph sessions, in the past, I overheard Hulk Hogan and Sting. Now, Sting is still in there, but it went to Stone Cold and it went to the Rock, now is the big focus, Goldberg is among them. Now that he became a bad guy, they [the fans] are mad at him. They are still talking about him. There are certainly other guys... WP: Who do you think is the best wrestler of all time? IK: Best wrestler of all time, wow! I go back to the Lou Thez years and all that. He was a very mechanical wrestler. Like a Ric Flair, you have always go to mention his name because whether you like him or not, heís been in there going on thirty years, heís been a featured man and heís been an up and down man. Heís been a very active wrestler. Off of the top rope; he could show the mechanics of wrestling real good. He could wrestling with a Ricky Steamboat, who was a very scientific wrestler, or a brut of a wrestler and still have a real good match. So, yeah you definitely have to mention him. Its hard to find some guys like that now. Some of these guys today, like the Dean Malenkos and the Benoits are very mechanically trained in the old-school wrestling. They are the ones that I like to watch, personally myself. Of course, guys like Hart, Bret Hart, definitely because he was trained by his dad and he was a tough man. So, Bret is tough. There are a lot of tough wrestlers in wrestling. There are working wrestlers that can put on a good show and then thereís tough wrestlers like Shamrock and, the guy who wrestled in the UFC with Shamrock, real tough, came from the tough men contests...[west:] Severn? [Koloff:] Severn, yes, Severn. Guys like that are tough hookers. We had a lot of those guys back in pro wrestling back in the 1920ís and 1930ís. There were some tough guys like that. They were called hookers. They could wrestle you, some more than others. They could not only make you submit but they could break your arm or your shoulder. They were good at joints. They could break ankles and all that. Some of these guys like Karl Gotch and Lou Thez were trained like that. Some more than others. I am talking more of guys who were good performers but yet good technicians when I mention Ric Flair and stuff. They could go. Anybody who can wrestle 90 minutes, you have to be in good shape. I donít know if these guys could do it today. But guys like Ric Flair showed that he could not only mechanically do the wrestling like a scientific match but that he could stand his own with a Ken Shamrock but maybe not be able to whoop him in a real fight. But, Ken Shamrock will know heís in there with somebody that knew something. Iíve wrestled Ken Shamrock before. Back when he was Vince Turelli, when he first started out. Back in the Atlantic Coast Wrestling down here. I am glad he sympathized with an older veteran wrestling. [laughs] He didnít put his all on me. I think I helped him in the sense to show him the art of wrestling. WP: Besides the toll wrestling takes on the body, how does it affect oneís mind? IK: If you still have a mind after you are out of wrestling [laughs], you can suffer a lot of concussions. I have been to the point where I have never been really knocked out. But, I have been put to sleep by the sleeper hold. As far as being so close to being paralyzed I was there, I was conscious. I would come off the top rope and not quite be able to land right and land on my head and break my shoulder. Gosh, my whole body felt an electric shock go through it stayed there for thirty seconds and it seemed like an hour. That happened to me several times. I wonder how I never got hurt. Itís a miracle. WP: What mentality must you have to be successful in wrestling? IK: I think you have to be a well-rounded athlete. I always said it takes three things to be a successful wrestler: one was to be able to speak real well because of marketing, even in the earlier days, the other is you had to have your body in great physical shape. How good you looked and how good you learned your trade, how to wrestle. That comes from doing it over years and years. You can go and be in a school for years at a time and try to learn it. So it ends up taking a big toll on the body, but hopefully not only will you come out with some physical health left but to come out with all your faculties. I have seen guys in wrestling that are really punchy, for lack of a better word. I donít know if that is due from the injuries and all, probably some of that. The lifestyle has got to be mentioned. Whether these guys today mention it or not, its a fact that, I definitely want to make this point, since this is going to be mentioned at your school, [the fact that] all the things that athletes go through. I donít say all athletes because I know some of them have stayed away from that. Thatís ignorance when you go out there and get involved with alcohol and think that that is something that is going to help you or something that is going to make you last longer. I really thought that in my years at first it was a sociable drink because I was raised that way. I was raised on the farm. I worked like a man since I was ten years old: milking cows and working in the fields and everything. That whenever we had company over to our home at Christmas time, family came in to visit, it was only a couple of times a year. We worked like men, and we were able to party like men. Beer was brought in, whiskey was brought in. Not to take away from my mom and dad because they made it so that the children could drink too. So, we knew probably that this stuff wasnít good for us but we ended up doing it because it was socially acceptable. Drinking was a sociable thing back in the 1960ís and 1970ís and even today. I took that as being ĎI want to relax after the match. I had a tough match. I traveled here three of four hours and I am going to travel to the next town three or four hours. I am tired, I am hurt, whatever... I think a few beers will help me. But really, the truth is, I didnít deserve that. I was hurting myself because by doing that what I was doing was setting myself up to not only not get a good nightís sleep but [for] my body [not to] be able to heal my injuries because the alcohol steals away the strength from my body. I didnít know that back then. I was up to more than a six pack then. It wasnít a sociable beer; it was a sociable six-pack, twelve-pack, eighteen-pack. As the years went by it got to the point by the late seventies that I had a number of injuries like the cartilage started tearing in my knee. I had a broken shoulder by then. I had to put up with pain. I had to help sleeping. I said: ĎWell, the doctor is giving me pain killers so, its acceptable by society to take pain killers, so now I guess its all right for me to get it in the street because its available out there.í What I was doing was numbing the pain so I could get a little bit of sleep. But what I was doing was hurting my body in the sense that I was becoming accustomed to these [pain killers] and I took more and more later on. I am pretty sure I was not only taking prescription drugs, but I was taking illegal drugs from the street. I never got involved in steroids, but a lot of wrestlers did. Iíve got a good friend of mine, Superstar Billy Graham, I just talked to him a couple of months ago here, out in California, heís been crippled the last few years; heís about my age. Heís about six feet. Heís been crippled for about eighteen years. I mean crippled so he canít walk. Heís got blocked vision because he took them [steroids] way back for about 25 years; starting out with a little pill then to the shot. He had the biggest muscles there was in the business. Pythons: 23 inch biceps. But, heís paid the price now. As the years went on, I got into taking more stuff. The reason why I am saying this is, I am not bragging, I am saying this to get a message to the kids: Donít do as I did, do as Iím saying. Please, for your own sake. What it did to me was it caused me to become addicted to alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and all the prescription pills. So much so that it was a problem for me to a two thousand dollar habit a week. It not only destroyed my health, but it also destroyed my family. I have a daughter today that will not speak to me; 27 years old because of my personality, my attitude. I want the message to get across to these guys. I am sure they donít want that to happen to there kids. I think I am a pretty tough guy, I bragged about it for years...how tough I was. I had to be tough to do what I did, even though it was stupid. Not only the wrestling part of it, but the taking of the drugs and still physically be able to do what I did and mentally do it. I donít take the credit for that. I give the credit to my God for that...to pull me through that. To be able to now come back and give the message to the kids in saying: ĎPlease donít do it, because, man, I will pay the rest of my life.í If you didnít see, I tried as hard as I could to walk in as normal as I could and I am having a good day today. As long as I watch my diet [and keep it] real strict, and stay away from fat products and that type of thing, milk products and alcohol, tobacco. Iíve got to stay on a strict diet to be able to walk around today and I still have to take medication for arthritis and osteoporosis have really got me heavy. But thank God for the fact that, and I believe its all right to talk about God as far as school is concerned its just not which God. My God has kept me alive all these years and I give credit to that fact because it came to a point five years ago to where I ended up being in such bad shape that I realized it and he [God] took away that. Thatís why I know its more than me because I tried for years to stop drinking and quit the drugs and everything; even chewing tobacco: a whole can in my mouthóit wasnít enough to put a pinch, I had to be hog; just stuff it in there. Have you ever seen anybody? Its so ridiculous to try to talk with a whole mouth full, a can of Copenhagen or something in their mouth. Its so confusing [?] I remember getting to that point where I asked for his [God] help. That is what happened to me: when he took that desire away from me; the drugs, alcohol and the tobacco. I still have a lot of challenges, but with God in my life I can at least now make a life whereas before, I was in the gutter physically and mentally. I wasnít to the point of suicide as far as taking a gun or anything like that, but I was at the point of committing suicide on myself with all the stuff. Thatís just as bad. Thatís a slow suicide, thatís the worse thing. The other way is fast. I am just so glad I didnít have the guts to shoot out my own brains. Though, thatís what I felt like doing. Whenever you start losing your family, losing your health, you lack the professionalism that you had all those years and you canít do it anymore; thereís no reason for living. For most of us, if thereís no reason for living, we donít want to live. Thatís where I was. If thereís anything you can project from this meeting today would be that; that there is hope. There is someone out there that will always help you and thatís my God. Thatís why I wear this cross. WP: You mentioned the steroid use. Do you think that was more common in your day, or today? IK: Probably just as common today. I think more kids are educated to it today that it will harm you. But some of them want it so bad that theyíre willing to do it. Really, itís not necessary. Because if you look at the guys on TV today, you can have a good body without having a muscle body. You had so many athletes in the past that had super bodies without having to take steroids, like the Ric Flairís and Stingís. I donít believe they are pumped up on steroids. If they were, theyíd be bigger than they are! They just worked out in the gym and watched their health. Whoever is taking it now, I think, realizes that they are going to have to pay a price for it; if they donít, they should. Its not normal. If it was normal, it would be something that wouldnít hurt you. It would be sold over the counter. They donít do that because its no good for you. Its going to hurt you sometime. If not now, later. WP: Do to the popularity of the major shows today, do you think the smaller federations will ever completely fade out? IK: No, I think the opposite. I really think that people want to see a live show. A lot of people canít afford to go to the big events when they come into Raleigh and Greensboro. These people are on a fixed income and canít afford a $30.00 or $40.00 ticket, the trip there and the parking. They still like to go and be involved in that atmosphere, cheering somebody on. I think that the smaller organizations are going to flourish out of demand. Some could possibly go back to local TV and have a competitive style. There will still be a lot of characters out there. I think they will show more wrestling and less theatrics. I hope thatís what it is. I think there are enough people out there that want to see that. WP: Finally, where do you see professional wrestling in twenty years? IK: [laughs] Possibly on other planets. Its do for that, the way they are going! [laughs] I believe it might even come to the point where every event on TV will have to be paid for. Itís nearly at that stage now. They make you pay through cable, even if its not a pay-per-view. That will just make the little ones flourish. I canít imagine how big its going to be in twenty years, if it lasts. I guess it will last because people will always want entertainment. I understand that wrestling and football are the most reasonable cost-wise to produce. So, there will always be talk shows, soap operas and wrestling!
Through my interaction with Mr. Koloff, I was also able to meet NWA Legend, Chief Wahoo McDaniel:
Ivan Koloff Timeline
Russian Bear Related Links
My Ric Flair Robe Website!
Ivan Koloff Bio Website.
Another Great Website!