Nikolai Volkoff, the Soviet villain from 1970s-80s WWF, has passed away at age 70. Volkoff, whose real name was Josip Peruzovic, was the stereotypical Soviet Russian villain who frequently challenged Hulk Hogan, Bruno Sammartino and others for various championships in the WWWF and later WWF. Volkoff was a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.
Despite portraying a Soviet-Russian bad guy, Volkoff was born in Croatia. Volkoff trained as a weightlifter before immigrating to Canada. There he was taught by Stu Hart and became a wrestler in 1970. He worked in WWF under various foreign gimmicks, winning the tag belts twice. His most well-known run came when he teamed with the Iron Sheik. The two won the Tag Titles at the first WrestleMania. The two were managed by “Classy” Freddie Blassie and would frequently sing their respective national anthems before spitting on an American flag.
Volkoff also challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWF Heavyweight Title in a flag match in one of the first episodes of Saturday Night’s Main Event.
Despite his fearsome nature, Volkoff was considered a good family man and was beloved by many wrestlers backstage. He even turned babyface later in his career and would sing the Star Spangled Banner to the delight of the crowd.
After returning from full-time wrestling, Volkoff retired from wrestling and worked as a code enforcement officer in Baltimore County Maryland. Volkoff continued working on local independent shows up until this year.
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