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Nikita Koloff Shoot Interview
Posted by Brandon Truitt on Dec 17, 2002, 00:42
Man, this is the interview that I have been seemingly told from on high not to do… It’s been bumped repeatedly for various reasons up until now but is finally here. I hope you guys think it is worth the wait, because I certainly thought so.
In addition, I have just received a set of shoots in the mail and will probably get to them soon. These include one with both Missy Hyatt AND Tammy "Sunny" Sytch.
As usual, if you want to drop me a message, send them here.
Nikita Koloff Shoot Interview (2001)
We start off with footage from Jim Crockett Promotion’s World Championship Wrestling show, with Nikita destroying Ric Flair as Ivan Koloff commentates. Flair eventually knocks down Nikita and gets him in the Figure Four, but then Ivan jumps him and we have a beatdown until Dusty Rhodes makes the save.
Next we get a clip from the end of the last match in the Nikita vs. Magnum TA Best of Seven series for the US Title, the same one shown in the Magnum TA shoot, as Nikita blasts Magnum with the chain and gets the three count for the US title.
After that is a clip from the infamous cage match with Dusty and Nikita against Ole Anderson and JJ Dillon. This is Nikita’s babyface turn coming shortly after his arch-enemy, Magnum TA, wrapped his Porsche around a telephone pole and was forced to retire. They destroy Dillon and Ole in short order, then Flair comes to ringside to threaten the newly formed Super Powers. Nikita sells getting a face reaction for the first time ever VERY well, as he’s in shock until he climbs the turnbuckle and starts making the “I want the belt” motion towards Flair.
The interview starts with the standard question of how he got started in the business, but not before Nikita jokes about how he must have shocked the Hell out of people now that he’s speaking fluent English after years of just Russian while kayfabing. He entered the business while attempting to train for a football league, but Animal of the Road Warriors (a former football teammate) asked him if he wanted to get in the business. He was told to call up Jim Crockett, which he did and admitted that he’d never been in the ring before.
He says Crockett ribbed him by claiming he had been told he had all kinds of experience, but then told him to show up on a certain date with his head shaved. He was 285 pounds and cut to shreds, so when Crockett talked to him and saw his body, he told Ivan Koloff and Don Kernoodle (the current tag champions) that he was being paired with them. All he had to do at first was stand in the back of their interviews and look big and bad. The next night there was a TV taping and he was scheduled to wrestle, but he got there later than he was supposed to and didn’t get a chance to work out in the ring first. After conferring with Crockett, Ivan told him “don’t trip on the ropes getting into the ring”, as Crockett had said it would get him fired immediately.
Training- From there, he was given on-the-job training by Ivan and Kernoodle before he’d go out and squash someone in 15 seconds flat. He’d then watch Ivan and Kernoodle’s match and Ivan would critique what Nikita did in his match.
Was he a fan growing up? Not really. He said that he graduated from the same high school as Verne Gagne (Robbinsdale High School, which also includes amongst its alumni Rick Rude, wrestler / internet columnist Tom Zenk, Barry Darsow (Demolition Smash, Kruscher Kruschev), and "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig). He’d watch a little AWA every once in a while, mainly because he used to train at Jesse Ventura’s gym and wanted to see Jesse wrestle.
First impressions of the road- He sold his gimmick as a newly-arrived Russian immigrant by never speaking English in public and never showing that he knew exactly what people were saying. The only place he ever spoke English was in the car with Ivan so, in order to sell the gimmick, Ivan had to go around and help Nikita get his apartment, hook up the utilities, and get a gym membership. He went months without paying membership fees at the gym in order to sell the “doesn’t understand English” part of his character. He tells a funny story about the manager trying get the dues by speaking slowly. “Ni-ki-ta… we… need… mon-ey… mem-ber-ship… mon-ey…” Eventually, the just told him “Nikita… bring… Ivan… to-mor-row”, so they got their money when Ivan was there to “translate”. He said that the manager never asked for it before that because he’d seen footage of him beating people with the Russian chain and decided it wasn’t worth pissing him off until several months of dues built up.
He talks about how Kruscher Kruschev was brought in from Mid-South and he’d heard stories about how “there is a shooting Russian up in the Carolinas” and, when he found out it was his old high school buddy, said “I should have known it was you… only YOU could have pulled this off.”
Was he ever given a hard time about the character? Yes, in a way. His family wasn’t a problem because they weren’t close, though his nephews got a kick out of it and told everyone that would listen that they were Nikita’s nephews, but no one believed him because of the kayfabed stories. As for fans, they’d bring English-Russian translation books to the arena and give them to him in order to get him to learn English. One night, they got death threats in Charleston, South Carolina. Another night, they were going to be wrestling near Fort Bragg and Ivan cut a promo about getting the “little girls in your yellow uniforms” to come to ringside, which they did… and they were very pissed off.
The veterans- Most of the veterans got along with him, but there were always a few top names and aspiring guys who didn’t like that he came out from nowhere to get a huge push. Ivan told him that he needed to stay focused on what he was doing and to remember he’d paid his dues in other ways. Too bad the WWE locker room doesn’t feel that way on several things or maybe the Invasion wouldn’t have sucked last year.
First program- He and Ivan worked against the Road Warriors, who he puts over as great strong guys. He thinks Animal didn’t know his own strength. He talks about how they never press slammed him for the longest time although they’d do reps (several lifts at once) with Ivan. Eventually, they caught him off guard one night and gave him one. After that, he told them “Never again.”
Jim Crockett as a boss- He got along with him great because he was a top guy and could draw a crowd. He found out how much he meant to Crockett when the pilots of Crockett’s private plane told him of the “do not fly” list (guys who the plane could not leave without), which contained four names: Magnum TA, Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, and his name.
Dusty Rhodes- Got along with him great, too. He thinks Dusty would say he was one of the few people allowed to get close to him. He says he never kissed ass or made exceptions how he’d do things. He also does the required Dusty impression, which is one of the most performed in the business next to the Jim Barnett one.
The Great American Bash tours- In the first one (1985), the big selling point was Nikita vs. Flair which had little build but still did about 30,000 people in Charlotte. He talks about how strange it was to go that far within his first 13 months in the business. He mainly remembers Flair being flown to the ring via helicopter and the drunks storming the ring and trying to attack him, which wasn’t cut out of the home video version.
The angle between him and David Crockett- That angle is why David was the referee of the Bash match. David wasn’t well liked in the locker room by anyone but Flair, so they popped when Nikita kicked the shit out of him in an interview (they weren’t told it was going to happen).
The Magnum-Nikita rivalry- It was a “Russian Nighmare vs. All-American Boy” angle. They didn’t really know each other before they feuded, so the comments about them being professional rivals are somewhat overblown. Memories of the Best of Seven series include how he started out going 3-0 before Magnum powered back to tie it at 3-3, before he cheated to win the final match and the US Title. That built a LOT of heat because at first he looked insurmountable, then Magnum got great heat for overcoming the odds to tie up the series, then he got even MORE heat for cheating to get the title off of him.
His other favorite opponents include the Rock and Roll Express, especially Ricky Morton. “The match is only as good as your opponent” and he puts over them as giving him some of his best matches ever. Nikita talks about how much heat the Rock and Roll Express could get just by Morton selling like a mofo.
He tells the story of a guy that’s in the business now who was a spectator at Starrcade 85, as the guy saw Nikita and Ivan beat Ricky Morton within an inch of his life, throw him out of the cage, then whale on Robert Gibson. The guy then ran down from his seat in the rafters and jumped the barricade to try and help Ricky get back into the ring. He got taken away by the cops for his troubles. He also puts over his feuds with Ric Flair, Lex Lugar, Rick Rude, and the Road Warriors.
Working for Bill Watts in the UWF and WCW- His first thoughts upon hearing Watts in the locker room while he was doing a one-shot appearance for UWF was “I don’t know how I could EVER work for this guy.” The UWF had a different intensity in its locker room compared to the NWA, as the NWA guys tended to come together more than the UWF guys.
Did the WWF ever talk to him about coming in? No, the only time he really considered it was when Kruscher Kruschev left to become Demolition Smash in the WWF. Smash asked him to come in and be his partner, but he told him he’d worked too hard in the NWA to get the Nikita Koloff gimmick over to throw it all away and start over again. He also thought about it briefly when the Apter magazines where doing theoretical dream matches and one of the big ones was Hulk Hogan vs. Nikita Koloff.
Did he ever watch the WWF product? Yeah, and he always felt it was pretty cartoonish although he loved Vince McMahon’s marketing genius. If he’d gone there, it may or may not have worked out for him because Vince would have scrapped the whole Nikita gimmick.
Magnum’s car accident- He was in Japan when the accident happened. When he came back, Crockett and Dusty brought him into the office and told him what happened and he thought it was a rib at first. Once they convinced him, they told him they needed a huge face to take Magnum’s place and they thought that this was the right situation to turn him from super heel into a mega babyface. He was skeptical at first of teaming up the Russian Nightmare with the American Dream, but gave in because he thought Crockett and Dusty knew best. He says it was probably the best-kept secret in wrestling because the only guys that knew for the three weeks between the meeting and the match were himself, Crockett, and Dusty and that no one could to it today because the business is too overexposed. He hits the nail right on the head there, as most decisions of this magnitude are either called months in advance or done so poorly and with so little planning that it fails miserably.
The night of the cage match- He got to the building an hour late because all the fans would be seated and all the boys would already be in the heel or face locker rooms. He wasn’t officially booked to be on the card and walked into the building with a tag over his head. When he went in the face dressing room, they kept telling him he was in the wrong one and he kept saying he wasn’t, although he didn’t tell them why he was there. All the guys HAD been thinking “I’m the mystery partner for Dusty and they just haven’t told me yet”, so they didn’t even think about a megaheel like Nikita being brought in and turned face to be Dusty’s partner. It created a lot of jealousy in the locker room because he’d entered the business without ever running the ropes and he’d just been made the booker’s tag partner with only two years experience over everyone in the face locker room. The crowd was quiet when he came out because they were in shock but, when he started beating the crap out of Ole Anderson, the crowd went BANANA.
Did he change his character after that? Yes, he started signing autographs and being nice to people, etc.
The Four Horsemen- He saw it getting as big as it did, especially when they started doing eight-man tag matches with the Super Powers and the Road Warriors against the Horsemen and drew about 23,000 at an arena they’d never run in the middle of a WWF stronghold around the Fourth of July holiday. He had great matches with all the Horsemen, although Ole was the most difficult to work with. He never had a bad match with the Horsemen whether it be a singles match, a tag match, or a six or eight man tag because they were so good.
Running matches in WWF towns- It was hard at first for them to hold cards in the WWF strongholds like Boston, Philadelphia, etc. because they were so used to the cartoony and short-matched WWF style and not 45 minute matches between Ric Flair and himself. People chanted “boring” for the first several months, but it got to the point where both promotions would run the town on the same night and both get the same amount of fans.
What happened to Jim Crockett Promotions? The general consensus was that Crockett was a mom-and-pop organization that didn’t work well on the national level because they’d do stupid stuff like fly everyone to towns in the Carolinas that were about 90 miles away instead of just driving there. (As Magnum said in his interview, he’d drive from Charleston, SC, to Charlotte, NC, and STILL be able to beat Ronnie Garvin to the bars when Garvin would fly the same distance in his private plane.) He didn’t complain, though, because he was always on the plane. Crockett’s bookkeeping sucked, though, as it took about 6-8 months after Crockett went into serious debt that his accountants realized that he was in big trouble.
People jumping to the WWF and cutbacks in NWA contracts- He wasn’t too concerned at the time because his wife died of cancer and he had walked away from the business in order to care for her before she dies. He told the corporate guys what the situation was and said that he wasn’t walking away permanently, but that he had to do this.
Did Crockett screw up the UWF vs. NWA angle? Yes, because he’s not sure why Crockett paid for the territory to begin with. Vince would just run the opposition into bankruptcy but Crockett would buy out his opposition because it was the way things used to work in the territorial days.
Feuding with Terry Taylor- One of the most memorable matches whenever he does speaking engagements was him winning a the UWF TV title in a unification match against Taylor. He actually still has that belt at home somewhere. He joked that the company never asked for it back, so he kept it. He again puts over all his opponents for making him what he was.
Lex Lugar- He still wonders why Lex throws punches with his thumb sticking out instead of tucking it in to make a fist, but he got along with him great. As far as his attitude, there’s always varied opinions on guys. He says that people have said the same thing about him because he left once he got everything he wanted instead of being in until he was forced into retirement or wrestle until he died (like Hogan and Flair are doing today).
Is he surprised that Flair is still wrestling today? He’s not surprised he’s still wrestling today, as he has a lot of respect for him and gives him a lot of credit for making his career. He was also a great ring psychologist and general, etc. It wasn’t uncommon in the old days for guys that he’s friends with now like Mr. Wrestling I (Tim Woods, who died about two weeks ago), Rene Goulet, Lou Thesz (Who died earlier this year and wrestled in SEVEN different decades), etc. to wrestle well into their fifties. He says that guys like that stayed on top by not jobbing to everyone while Flair is jobbing left and right, although he can see why Flair does it if he feels it’s in the best interests of the business.
Feuding with Ivan- They had a few matches and he would just follow Ivan’s lead in it. He goes on a tangent about how some people would wrestle under their real names and some under stage names, so sometimes he’d hear a name and go “Who?!?”, then meet them and realize it who it was.
Vladmir Petrov- He doesn’t know the whole story on him and whatever problems he had (drugs or injuries… take your choice with wrestlers), but he wasn’t there long.
Growing his hair back in before he returned in the early 90’s- He did it because he wanted to do something different for when he came back, but he wouldn’t do it again if he was in the same position today. He thinks the attitude of the promotion hurt his career more than anything because he’d left the business and wasn’t treated the same when he came back.
He did a few matches for Verne Gagne and the AWA around the time his wife died in the late 80’s. This was while the NWA and AWA were co-promoting, as Flair would be defending the NWA title and Nikita would be challenging Larry Zbyzko for the AWA title. He can’t say much about Verne as a booker since he didn’t work for him much. He enjoyed working there though.
Coming back to WCW- He started getting calls to come back as soon as his wife died and claims that one of the offers included a reign as the world champion should he return immediately. He wasn’t ready to come back at that time, so he had to turn down the title. He says that story will be in his upcoming autobiography, which hasn’t surfaced in the several years since this interview was taped. Hogan and Piper’s books bombing won’t help him, though. When he did come back, it was because Dusty asked him as a favor to take a six month contract.
When he came back, they tried to bring him back as a heel which he thought was a mistake. He talks about how Bill Apter (formerly the owner/editor of the Pro Wrestling Illustrated family of magazines) once did a cover with just a head shot of him and a quote about shedding tears for Magnum TA that helped solidify him as a face. He said putting him against Lex Lugar, one of the top faces in the company at the time, did not help as half the crowd cheered when he laid out Lugar. They then moved him over to feuding with Sting in an attempt to get heel heat for him, which worked somewhat but he was still getting about a quarter of the crowd behind him against Sting. He went home after his six months was up and that was it for a while.
Being a heel vs. being a face- It was hard to come back as a heel after he had been a babyface for so long, especially outside of the ring. It’s easier to be a face than a heel, especially at that point in his life.
The first Wargames- Brutal. He says Arn Anderson still pisses and moans today about how he was in the whole match while Nikita came in for about 5 minutes of work. He enjoyed it a lot and has a lot of respect for Arn for doing the whole thing. He says the Horsemen were scared to death when Road Warrior Animal came in at the end because they knew he was going to beat the shit out of them before the match ended.
Bill Watts as a boss- He negotiated a new contract and came back in as a face, publicly apologizing to Sting in the process to get over with the fans. When Bill Watts came in, he walked over to him and said “Nikita… since you’ve been here, you haven’t been paid.” Nikita said yes, and that he was keeping track of all the days he worked because there were some holdups on his contract but he’d started work in the meantime. Watts then said “Yeah… but this is thousands of dollars here.”, to which Nikita replied “I think Ted [Turner] is good for it.” He also pulled Watts aside later and talked to him respectfully about how he was there as a favor to someone and, while he loved the business, he had stuff going on outside the business. He says that he wanted Bill to read between the lines to say “I don’t need this shit… if you want to use me, use me right or I’m gone.”, which he thought was justified since he worked hard every night to give the fans what they want. He thinks he gained Watts’ respect that day, but I doubt it since he got the “Get the fuck out, do not pass GO, do not collect $200” card from Watts by way of Vader at Halloween Havoc 1992 (A glorified squash for Vader, who was defending the injured Rick Rude’s US title against Nikita).
Presidents of WCW- They were front-men and fall guys for Turner management, as they’d get blamed for screw-ups but never get full credit for anything they did right because the office took most of the credit.
How did the boys react to Watts? He kept to himself, although he saw a lot of guys who were pissed at Watts such as Scott Steiner. He says that was just Watts’ style.
Was there resentment towards the Eric Watts push? “What father’s not going to push their son?” He doesn’t hold anything against him for it, although Eric didn’t really have the tools to make the push work.
WCW’s big problems- After hearing comments about troubles in the company today he says “It was like that all the way back in 1988. When I was there in 1990, 91, 92, I’d scratch my head.” They kept changing matches so often that NO advertised match would ever make it on the card, yet the guys in those advertised matches would all still be wrestling on the card. “When you get pizza guys run the wrestling business”, you screw everything up.
Eric Bischoff- Didn’t know him well. Got along with him when he was an announcer in the AWA.
Leaving WCW again- His leaving due to a few reasons, including receiving a neck injury in that Halloween Havoc 92 match against Vader. The morning after, he found out he had a hernia from lifting Vader and had to get operated on. While he was rehabbing, he realized how little he wanted to go back each time he left the business and decided it wasn’t worth it anymore. Getting married and having a family that he had to leave in order to wrestle finally convinced him to leave. In addition to that, he’d set a personal goal when he entered the business to retire when he was 35 and he was 33 at the time. He was also told his neck had wear on it similar to a 55 year old, so he started wondering if he wanted to risk getting crippled and not being able to play with his kids. After adding all that together, he just retired.
He compares Turner Broadcasting’s treatment of WCW to the owner-coach relationship in North Dallas Forty, where the coach yelled about how every time they treated football like a game they were told it was business and vice versa. Turner also wanted the wrestlers to move from Charlotte to Atlanta and would only book their flights to leave from Atlanta as a result. He even told them it was cheaper for them to fly from Charlotte instead of from Atlanta, and ended up cashing up his tickets then exchanged them for tickets to the same destination by way of Charlotte. He made thousands of dollars like that.
Did he ever consider a return? He wouldn’t rule it out, and he even was asked by WCW recently to return, but he was told on a Friday night that if he wanted in to be in Buffalo on Sunday morning. They didn’t even talk contracts with him, they just said to be there. He still gets fan mail each month and is flattered by it since he’s been retired for about a decade. He still keeps in shape, although he doesn’t watch the product anymore because he’s so busy with all his businesses.
Wrestling today vs. wrestling back then- “Apples and oranges. It used to be wrestling with a hint of entertainment. Now it’s entertainment with a little bit of wrestling if you’re lucky.” He says the storylines used to be built into the matches, but are done more in vignettes these days and it makes it hard for people to concentrate on the ring. Prior to Bash 85, he’d never had a match with Flair and had little history to their feud, but they still put 30,000+ asses in seats. He says that Vince Russo is right when he says that titles are worthless these days, and that’s because the titles aren’t treated as being worth something anymore. He says it’s sad because he was brought up by old-school wrestlers.
Steroid abuse- He doesn’t advocate it although it worked for him. When he was playing college football, he admits he used them to get an edge, although he used them moderately and recognized the long-term detriments. He says that Superstar Billy Graham is the poster child for what steroid abuse can do to a body and says there’s plenty of former stars who will really regret abusing steroids down the road. (This interview was done well before Graham’s steroid and drinking-induced liver problems and Davey Boy Smith’s death, which has been popularly attributed to steroid abuse)
If he could have one last run or match, against who? “Interesting question… I never really gave it a tremendous amount of thought but they guy who comes to mind is Bret Hart because he’s a great worker and a great tactician.”
Is he surprised how open the business is compared to the 80’s? Surprised? No. Disappointed? Yes. He says that most fans take the viewpoint shown in an All In The Family episode where Archie proclaims “Maybe they know what’s going to happen… but I don’t!” when Meathead makes a big deal about wrestling being fake.
What matches are the ones he’d pick to define his legacy? Best of Seven series against Magnum, Bash 85 against Flair, any of his matches with the Road Warriors… after that, probably his Russian chain match with Sting or some of his matches with Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard.
What is he doing these days? He does several things, including raising four girls ranging from four to eighteen, he home-schools the two youngest ones, he has numerous business ventures including an Internet business he and Ted Dibiase have invested in. He and Afa the Wild Samoan are trying to get a lot of the current Samoans in the business like The Rock and Rikishi in addition to several other wrestlers to invest in certain New York Stock Exchange companies. He’s also a born-again Christian and has been to Russia, Africa, South America, Singapore, and other countries spreading the Word. He’s writing several books including an untitled autobiography. He and Dibiase even do a wrestling outreach program to bring wrestling to the church.
In closing, he thanks the fans for being very loyal and supportive of him, both in wrestling and in his other ventures. One of the most flattering things that happened to him was finding out that a girl serving him in a restaurant one day was Nikita and, when he inquired about the name, found out that her mother was a big wrestling fan and had named her after him (she didn’t know it was him until he showed her his driver’s license). He thanks everyone for their support and loyalty again and looks forward to maybe meeting them some day.
The first match is the finals of the Nikita vs. Magnum TA Best of Seven series. LONG TV match here and, as shown in the introduction to the interview, Nikita steals the US Title from Magnum by hitting him with the Russian chain while Ivan Koloff distracts the referee.
The second match is Nikita vs. Ric Flair from Starrcade 86, which you can tell because the scaffold from the infamous Midnight Express vs. Road Warriors scaffold match is still towering above the ring. Typical Flair match, which is still very good but boring considering how many times he’s done it and with better wrestlers than Nikita playing the part of the broomstick. It comes down to a bullshit double disqualification, as the first ref gets bumped and when the second comes out, he gets hit by both wrestlers at the same time and calls for the bell. The entire locker room empties to separate the two, which is just your average night when Dusty Rhodes books… even at a house show at the Alpharetta Auction Barn.
The third match is the Ivan and Nikita Koloff vs. Rock and Roll Express cage match for the tag titles, which is from Starrcade 85. The video quality is VERY soft on most of this one and is hard to watch… just find a copy of the Best of Starrcade 1983-1987 double VHS set instead. That way, you can get a great copy of this match and other classics like the Magnum vs. Tully “I Quit” cage match and the Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine dog collar match. The Rock and Roll Express wins when Ricky Morton rolls up Ivan Koloff for the three count. After the match, Nikita, Ivan, AND Krusher Kruschev beat the living piss out of Morton and Robert Gibson with the Russian chain.
Fourth is a match between Nikita and Arn Anderson from World Wide Wrestling. I would cover this more, but I’m already well past blowing my deadline so I’ll just be listing matches from now on.
Fifth is a Super Powers (Dusty and Nikita) vs. Horsemen (In this case, Arn and Tully) TV match.
Sixth is the Nikita vs. Lex Lugar cage match for the US Title from the Great American Bash 1987 tour. This particular match was on between the shows with the first and second WarGames matches.
Seventh is another Nikita vs. Magnum match from their Best of Seven series and appears to be the first one in that series.
Eighth is an eight-man tag involving the Superpowers and the Road Warriors against the Horsemen (the original unit with Ole Anderson in the fourth spot).
Thoughts: This is one of my favorite interviews, as it meets two of my main three criteria when rating interviews. Nikita is exceptionally honest and entertaining while he talks although he is not very controversial, unless there were comments that I am misinterpreting for whatever reason. The approximately two hours of matches included are just icing on the cake, as the Nikita vs. Magnum series alone is highly acclaimed and has been imitated many times including a series between Booker T and Chris Benoit in 1998. An old-school NWA fan can’t go wrong with this one. Very Highly Recommended.