‘The Russian Nightmare’ Nikita Koloff was this week’s guest on The Apter Chat. Koloff opened up about his meteoric rise to stardom in the 1980s NWA and how Magnum T.A.’s car crash changed his own career trajectory.
Koloff On His Meteoric Rise To The Top Of The Pro Wrestling World:
I didn’t have any background in wrestling of any kind and within 13 months, I’d become the World Tag Team Champion, The World Six Man Champion, and now I’m wrestling Ric Flair for the World Heavyweight Title. Of course, part of that story was, ‘We’re gonna take all the gold back to Moscow.’
(laughter) If you spent any amount of time around the wrestling business…there was not just the main event of the first ever Great American Bash, but even matches leading up to that, and even matches after that.
The whole turn to become the Super Powers with Dusty [Rhodes], there was animosity all along the way and Ivan [Koloff], to his credit, God rest his soul, was so inspirational and encouraging in regards to that.
If he said it once, he said it more than once. He said, ‘Nikita, listen. Don’t let that bother you. You stay focused on your career and what you’re doing and understand that maybe you didn’t pay your dues in the wrestling ring or in a high school gym, but you obviously paid your dues in other ways by taking care of your body, building it to what it became, and then becoming a student of this business.
That has led to your accelerated success, so don’t let that bother you. Stay focused.’ Great question, there was tons of that, lots of that.
On His Best Of 7 Series With Magnum T.A.:
When I go out and do autograph signings, it’s typically the number one thing mentioned by wrestling fans. They’ll mention the Flair match and the Great American Bash, and the War Games, and the Road Warrior Chain Matches. They’ll bring up some, but probably the #1 most mentioned is the Best of 7 with Magnum T.A….
That was certainly part of the most memorable part of my career. I loved working with Terry. We had some great chemistry working with each other. It was easy to draw the fans in and we had similar snug styles of working. From a believability standpoint, I used to hear fans say, ‘I don’t know about those other matches, but that match with Nikita Koloff and Magnum T.A. was real.’
My initial thoughts would be is that it [babyface turn] certainly would not have happened at that particular time. If I was gonna turn babyface at some time, that would not have been the time to do it. I had a ton of heat on me as a heel.
Magnum’s being groomed as the next World Champion. That really was the path he was on. Of course, him and Dusty [Rhodes] working together as America’s Team and all that, so that would have just continued on, I believe. My career as a heel would have continued on.
Someone recently shared with me – they used to travel with Dusty when he was on the creative team in WWE – and said, ‘That angle with Nikita becoming your partner with the Super Powers was either the most brilliant move in wrestling ever or it could have turned out to be one of the worst moves. That could have been an absolute disaster, especially for Nikita’s career.’ Of course, as it worked out, it was a brilliant move.
I don’t know if I would have ever turned babyface because….was there ever a Russian babyface prior to that? The feuds would have continued on. I don’t know if I would have ever had the experience of wrestling babyface and certainly it would not have happened there.