Nikolai Volkoff - DCP February 2017
Josip Nikolai Peruzovi? better known by his ring name of Nikolai Volkoff, is a Yugoslavian semi-retired professional wrestler who is best known for his performances for the World Wrestling Federation. Although the Volkoff on-screen character was often portrayed as a villainous Russian, Peruzovi? actually originates from Croatia and has a mixed background. He is known for teaming with The Iron Sheik, with whom he won the WWF Tag Team Championship at the inaugural WrestleMania event, and also with Boris Zukhov as The Bolsheviks.
Peruzovi? grew up in the Socialist Republic of Croatia, which was then part of Yugoslavia. His mother is Ukrainian and his father was Croatian. He was on the Yugoslavian weightlifting team until 1967, when he emigrated to Canada after a weightlifting tournament in Vienna, Austria. He received training in Calgary from Stu Hart, followed by his arrival in the United States in 1970.
As soon as he arrived, he began wrestling in the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) (currently known as WWE). Wrestling as Bepo Mongol, managed by "Captain" Lou Albano and partnered with Geto Mongol, he captured the WWWF International Tag Team Titles from Tony Marino and Victor Rivera on June 15, 1970. After losing the titles to Luke Graham and Tarzan Tyler in a match that unified the WWWF International and WWWF World Tag Team Titles, Peruzovic left WWWF and went on to singles competition under the name Nikolai Volkoff.
In 1974, Volkoff returned to the company and appeared in a memorable match at a sold out Madison Square Garden and wrestled one of the sport's most famous champions, the great Bruno Sammartino. Volkoff chased the WWWF title for the majority of his early career and was always given a considerable number of title shots from whoever was the current WWWF Champion. He had a tenure from 1976–1980 as Nikolai Volkoff billed from Mongolia. He would feud with WWWF champions Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund.
In 1976, he was masked as Executioner as he became the third member along with Killer Kowalski and Big John Studd to win the World Tag Team championship but in was vacated due to a third member interfering.
In 1984, Volkoff returned to the now WWF and teamed with The Iron Sheik with the pair being managed by the "Hollywood fashion plate" "Classy" Freddie Blassie. It was at this point that Volkoff really pushed the envelope and began to sing the national anthem of the Soviet Union before every match after which the Sheik would grab the microphone and proclaim "Iran number 1, Russia number 1" before exaggerated spitting after saying "USA", in order to gain even more heat for being foreign heels.
The new team of Volkoff and The Iron Sheik captured the coveted WWF Tag Team Championship from The U.S. Express (Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham) at the first ever WrestleMania, on March 31, 1985 after The Sheik had knocked out Windham with Fred Blassie's cane. After losing the titles back to Rotundo and Windham three months later, Volkoff began to wrestle more in singles competition, including wrestling Hulk Hogan for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship on several occasions in 1985 and 1986 (including a Flag Match at the second ever episode of Saturday Night's Main Event at the Meadowlands Arena), but could never defeat Hogan for the title.
Volkoff also feuded with former 82nd Airborne paratrooper Corporal Kirchner throughout 1985 and 1986, defeating him in a "Peace Match" on Saturday Night's Main Event. Their feud ended when Kirchner used Blassie's cane to defeat Volkoff at WrestleMania 2 in another Flag match during the Chicago portion of the event.
In the fall of 1986, Volkoff's manager "Classy" Freddy Blassie sold half interest in his stable of superstars to the "Doctor of Style," Slick (kayfabe). Giving Slick co-managerial rights to Nikolai Volkoff, Classy Freddy Blassie also shared the contracts of the Iron Sheik and Hercules. This was a storyline aimed at reducing the aging Blassie's active role and the "Hollywood fashion plate" eventually retired in the fall of 1986 at the age of 68. Sheik and Volkoff feuded with WWF newcomer Jim Duggan for the majority of 1987, including Hacksaw running to the ring and stopping the Big Russian's singing before their match against The Killer Bees at WrestleMania III (Sheik and Volkoff won by disqualification when Duggan entered the ring while chasing Volkoff and then hit the Sheik with his 2x4 while he had the Camel clutch on "Jumping" Jim Brunzell).
Volkoff made a brief cameo on an episode of Shotgun Saturday Night where Todd Pettengill discovered him homeless sleeping in a box on the streets of New York City. He also appeared at WrestleMania X-Seven at the Astrodome in Houston in the Gimmick Battle Royal which was won by The Iron Sheik.
On February 3, 2005, Volkoff was announced as one of the WWE Hall of Fame inductees for the Class of 2005. He was inducted on April 2, 2005 by Jim Ross in the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.
In 2006, Volkoff took part in the World Wrestling Legends pay-per-view 6:05 The Reunion. Managed by the Iron Sheik, he wrestled a match against "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan. Before the match, he once again sang the national anthem of the Soviet Union and riled up the crowd.
Volkoff made his first appearance on WWE television in over 2 years on the August 13, 2007 edition of Raw as a contestant on WWE Idol, a parody of American Idol. Volkoff appeared alongside the Iron Sheik and Howard Finkel, although Volkoff was the only one who sang. Volkoff sang the Soviet Union national anthem, receiving boos from the crowd (despite being a face) and was insulted by judge William Regal, although judges Mick Foley and Maria both praised the performance. In response, Sheik, who was also insulted, went on a tirade until both he and Volkoff were escorted out of the building by security.
The March 10, 2008 edition of WWE Raw, featured rematches from previous WrestleManias. The Iron Sheik appeared along with Nikolai Volkoff to face off against the U.S. Express (Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda) in a rematch from the first WrestleMania. However, the match never got started as Jillian Hall came out to interrupt Volkoff's singing so she could sing Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.", which the U.S. Express used as their ring entrance music in 1984-85.
On the November 15, 2010, edition of Raw, as part of the Old School theme, Volkoff appeared with the Iron Sheik, singing the Soviet national anthem before being interrupted by Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov, the latter of whom then sung a duet with Volkoff of the Russian National anthem.
Currently, Volkoff works for various independent promotions throughout North America. He remains popular on the autograph convention circuit. In June 2013 he threw out the first pitch at a Bowie Baysox baseball game and sang God Bless America after the pitch. As recently as early October he was seen singing his famed Russian National Anthem at a show in New Jersey, after being introduced by the "Fink."
Volkoff lent his name to a forward for a fiction novel called "Only The Beginning" which is set in the 1980s and is about a girl's life during high school. While the book is not wrestling related, the author Jason Strecker is a personal friend of Volkoff's and in the foreword Volkoff responds to his friendship with the author along with the book's message of being of strong character and doing positive actions for others. The book also has a foreword by Jimmy Valiant.
On the January 6, 2014 "Old School" episode of RAW, Volkoff encountered Big E. Langston on his way to a match and sung him the Soviet national anthem, to which Langston smiled. Immediately after, Langston walked past fellow Million Dollar Corporation members, Ted DiBiase and Irwin R. Schyster.
On the RAW Fallout segment following the September 8, 2014, Volkoff appeared backstage with Rusev and Lana and sang the Soviet National Anthem.
On February 28, 2015, Volkoff appeared for the Superstars of Wrestling promotion in Bayville, New Jersey, where he teamed with ECW legend The Sandman to take on independent standouts Kentucky Bred – in a 3 on 2 handicap tag match. Before the match, Volkoff and Sandman sang the Russian National Anthem and proceeded to drink beers together. The duo squashed Kentucky Bred and then poured beer all over them.
On March 21, 2015, Volkoff appeared at a SICW event taking place on East Carondelet. Volkoff managed and mentored the team of younger wrestlers Ricky Cruz and Red River Jack, while also managing veteran wrestler "Cowboy" Bob Orton Jr. to take on the team of Chris Hargas, Bull Bronson, and Attila Khan. Volkoff and Orton appeared in their outfit and gimmick from their WWF days. The team of Volkoff, Orton, Cruz, and Jack came up victorious.