Nikita Koloff – The Russian Nightmare

Over the span of eight years, the name Nikita Koloff was synonymous with being a symbol of Russia in the United States and Jim Crockett Promotions. But before Nikita Koloff was born, Scott Simpson’s humble beginnings helped shape a career still talked about today.

Scott Simpson, who was one of four children in his early life, saw his father leave his family when he was two years of age. A few years after that, 10-year-old Simspon and his family moved to Robbinsdale, Minnesota. A few years later, now a teenager, Simspon began to develop his body through weightlifting and football.

Nikita Koloff
[Photo: The Sportster]

Nikita Koloff – The Russian Nightmare

While attending Robbinsdale High School, names such as Curt Henning, Tom Zenk, and Rick Rude also attended the same school. Simpson had always been an athlete, and his athleticism saw him nearly attempt to try out for the United States Football League.

But it wasn’t until one-half of the Road Warriors’ Animal that Simpson was encouraged to try and become a wrestler. Simpson had no prior amateur wrestling background behind him. He would initially get by on his athleticism.

But his entry into professional wrestling was one of trial by fire. He was by Jim Crockett Jr upon his debut to shave his head. What would follow would be his aligning one of wrestling’s greatest wrestlers, heels, and champions of all time.

Learning From Ivan

Simpson was introduced as Nikita Koloff, the nephew of former World Champion Ivan Koloff. Nikita and Ivan Koloff would team with Don Kernodle. Kernodle was an American but, at this time, was a Russian sympathist siding with the Koloffs.

Nikita Koloff would learn the tools of the trade while on the road with Kernodle and Ivan Koloff. He was 25 years of age and traveling with two men with a wealth of experience and holders of titles along the way. Nikita was very green at this point, and it was best to develop his skills if his matches were kept short.

As it’s been shared, Nikita would spend his early time standing behind Ivan Koloff and Don Kernodle as they would carry the promos along the way. All the while that this was happening, Nikita was soaking in each and every moment of these early days.

To some, simply standing and looking menacing may not seem like all that much. But for Nikita Koloff, he was actually doing so while intently at his ‘uncle’ Ivan and Don Kernodle. When the time was right, and Nikita had progressed, so had the Koloff’s turning on Russian sympathist Kernodle.

Ushering in Krusher Khruschev

After Kernodle had left the side of the Koloffs, Ivan introduced Krusher Khruschev, who would only help to strengthen the ranks of this ‘Russian’ faction. Their strength as a unit almost immediately saw them achieve success. By the end of 1984, The Russians captured the NWA Six-Man Tag Team and NWA Tag Team Championships.

The Koloff’s would defeat Manny Fernandez and Dusty Rhodes to capture the tag team titles. What was interesting to note about the tag team titles was that it was used not unlike the Fabulous Freebirds, where any two of the three members of The Russians could defend the tag team championships.

With the territories alive and well still at this time, The Koloffs also competed for Verne Gagne and would compete against then AWA World Tag Team Champions, The Road Warriors. Their battles would carry over between either the AWA or the NWA seeing both teams demonstrate how fierce they both were.

Aligning with The Road Warriors

It appeared as though Road Warrior Animal’s early encouragement of Nikita Koloff would see them work together as part of a long-standing feud between each other’s teams. Their fierce and brutal matches against one another consisted of Cage Matches and Russian Chain Matches.

The upward trajectory of Nikita Koloff’s career in Jim Crockett’s Mid-Atlantic promotion was evident by his main event title match against Ric Flair. It would be at the Great American Bash in 1985′ where the villainous Russian Nightmare would face the Nature Boy Ric Flair for the NWA World Championship.

He was so despised that even fans at the time would attack him, believing that he was every bit as dastardly and sinister as he professed to be.

Fans need to keep in mind that during this period of time, the Cold War was still considered present between the United States and Russia, so to protect ‘our country’ could prove to be no greater than to try and take out one of its most imposing threats.

Growth In The Industry

Koloff’s growth in the sport could only be possible because of the places he competed and the opponents he faced. From Memphis to Puerto Rico, Nikita Koloff’s biggest challenges weren’t in the ring but in the stands as well.

From attacks by fans to having spark plugs thrown at him by audience members, Nikita Koloff was subject to as much abuse by fans as any heel at the time. But with each passing match, he improved in the ring, and fans’ hatred for him continued to grow.

But it wouldn’t be until he developed a long-standing rivalry with one man that, in an ironic twist of fate that he would become a babyface because of the said rival.

Squared Circle Classics on Instagram: “Beach day with Yoko and Paul Bearer, who took a busy Sunday at the mortuary off so he could attempt to recruit Yoko from the evil clutches…”
[Photo: Instagram]
In the mid-1980s, Koloff began a feud with NWA United States Champion Magnum TA. An attack by Koloff led to a counterattack at a contract signing by Magnum that was brought on by the Koloffs due to a personal attack.

Nikita Koloff and Magnum T.A – An Unlikely Union

The two were scheduled to face one another in a best-of-seven series. Several near falls, with their series tied at three, wins a piece, and a no contest, it would come down to one match. The match resulted in a win by Koloff, making him the new NWA United States Champion.

After defeating Wahoo McDaniel to unify the NWA National Heavyweight Championship with the NWA United States Championship, Koloff would go on to feud with Ronnie Garvin. But after this, the plan was to have his longstanding feud with Magnum TA resurrected. However, as fate would step in, that feud never took place. Magnum TA was involved in a career-ending injury.

It would be Magnum’s injury, along with the state of the world and how the days of the evil Russian were coming to an end, that resulted in Dusty Rhodes turning the Russian Nightmare into a Superpower. A surprise partner of Dusty Rhodes, Koloff came in with the hopes of earning the respect of the American people, much like Magnum TA had earned his respect.

Among The Top Faces in the National Wrestling Alliance

Nikita Koloff was now one of the top faces for the NWA. He would once again resume his quest to capture the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and pursue Ric Flair. But each time Nikita attempted to capture the title, Flair’s faction members, The Four Horsemen, would often prevent Koloff from capturing the title.

Koloff was no longer affiliated with his uncle Ivan, and Nikita had challengers, including his uncle, for his NWA United States Championship. In fact, as part of a storyline, Nikita had his neck injured when one of his uncle Ivan’s stablemates as part of the Paul Jones Army, Dick Murdoch that hurt tried to take him out.

But a one-time rival became an ally, and in this instance, the union of Russia and America had come together as Dusty Rhodes and Nikita Koloff would join forces and were recognized simply enough as The Super Powers.

The Transition Away from Jim Crockett Promotions

As the 1980s reached the latter half of the decade, Jim Crockett Promotions had acquired the Universal Wrestling Federation. The UWF Television Champion would now face Nikita Koloff for his NWA Television Championship.

After being beaten down previously leading into their title unification match, Koloff would defeat then UWF Television Champion Terry Taylor to align the championships.

But with his wife becoming ill due to Hodgkin’s Disease, the appearance of Koloff would change as well. He would grow his hair, and the muscle that fans had become accustomed to seeing previously wasn’t the same anymore. His passion for the sport was waning at this time and Koloff’s wife would eventually pass away the following year.

“I had a wife die of cancer, Mandy…I actually left wrestling at one point in the midst of my main event career. I walked away on a sabbatical to take care of her. She was diagnosed with cancer at age 24.

It went into remission and then came back with a vengeance, and when it came back, that’s when I stepped away to take care of her and nurture her through that. She passed away at the age of 26.”

Over the next few years, Nikita Koloff would compete in both Verne Gagne’s AWA and return to World Championship Wrestling. Upon his return, he would engage in short-lived feuds with Big Van Vader, Sting, and Lex Luger, including competing in War Games. But after sustaining a herniated disc in his neck, Nikita Koloff would return from the ring in 1992.

Eight Years – A Career with No Regrets

Over the course of his eight-year career, Nikita Koloff went from being someone with no wrestling background to a despised heel and beloved face. He captured titles and competed in World Championships along the way. During his career, that ultimately spanned less than a decade, he competed in and outside the United States.

Since his departure from the ring, Koloff has made sporadic appearances, including in NWA-TNA under a mask as ‘Mr. Wrestling IV’ and leading fans to believe he was coming to attack his former rival and then friend Dusty Rhodes. He ultimately would be there for Dusty and not against him.

Ric Flair offered to drop the NWA World Title to Nikita Koloff to get Nikita to return to wrestling - Wrestling News | WWE and AEW Results, Spoilers, Rumors & Scoops
[Photo: Wrestling News]
It has been more than two decades since Nikita Koloff was an active competitor in the ring. But the lure of him coming back after his wife passed away also speaks volumes of how he was valued by those in the NWA locker room including the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Ric Flair.

It was actually just a few weeks after her passing that he invited me down to his house in Charlotte. We had lunch by the poolside, and he offered me the World Heavyweight Title. It just didn’t feel right.

I would say maybe a few weeks later, or a couple of months later, I can’t remember the exact time frame, but he invited me down again and offered it to me a second time. Looking back, no regrets in doing that, and I established my character where I didn’t feel I necessarily needed a belt to be over.”

Nikita Koloff on how Ric Flair tried to convince him to return to wrestling.

The Russian Nightmare was a better place for having Nikita Koloff an active part of it. He protected his character and go to extreme lengths to convince many of his background that many questioned what his actual origin was.

Koloff was a student of the game. One might say that Koloff was a pupil; that was an absolute dream. But to his opposition, the fear he struck in them was indicative of being a nightmare.