Happy Birthday to the late Nikolai Volkoff
The wrestler who came to be known as Nikolai Volkoff was born on October 14, 1947 in Split, Croatia which was then part of Yugoslavia. His birth name was Josip Hrvoje Peruzović. Before I go on, the picture above is of me with him at what was then called the MCW Arena in Joppa, MD back in 2018. He would do meet and greets at all the area wrestling shows where he had the opportunity I was told. I went that day for the meet and greet with the Four Horsemen (Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Barry Windham, and J.J. Dillon). He passed away several months later on July 29, 2018.
He was on the Yugoslavian National Weightlifting Team until 1967, when he emigrated (defected?) to Canada after a competition in Vienna. He was trained to wrestle in Canada by Stu Hart, and then came to the United States in 1970.
He first wrestled as part of the WWWF as Bepo Mongol, one half of The Mongols managed by Captain Lou Albano. After that he left to go into singles competition under the name Nikolai Volkoff. He wrestled Bruno Sammartino at Madison Square Garden on October 25, 1976. That match is below:
He later wrestled in the AWA, Mid-South, and Japan before coming back to the WWF during his most well-known era. He teamed with Iranian wrestler the Iron Sheik, with Classy Freddie Blassie as their manager. He later was a member of The Bolsheviks, along with Boris Zhukov.
At the end of the Cold War, he changed things up and became a babyface who had become a defector. He ended up in a feud with Sergeant Slaughter, who had turned heel and was an Iraqi sympathizer, and Iron Sheik again.
After he left the WWF, he wrestled for different promotions in the Northeast before coming back to the WWF and becoming part of Ted Dibiase’s Million Dollar Corporation.
Volkoff became a U.S. citizen in 1970. He worked as a code enforcement officer for the Baltimore County government and ran for the Maryland House of Delegates in 2006 in District 7, but lost in the Republican Primary. He voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
He died at home after a brief hospitalization. He is buried at the St. John the Evangelist Cemetery in Hydes in Baltimore County.