The professional wrestler known as the bearded nefarious character “The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff is dead. He was 74.
The news was confirmed in a statement released by the WWE: “WWE is saddened to learn that Ivan Koloff, best known to the WWE Universe as one of Bruno Sammartino’s most bitter rivals, has passed away,” part of the statement reads. His cause of death was reportedly liver cancer.
The news comes one day after it was announced that former WWE star George “The Animal” Steele had died. Wrestling legends mourned Koloff’s death, including Hulk Hogan who wrote on Twitter, “RIP Ivan Koloff, it’s been a tough week, Chavo, Nicole Bass, George Steel, Ivan and Marty Prince, I would feel helpless if not for my faith.”
Koloff was born as Oreal Perras in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and raised in rural Ontario. At 18 years old he left high school to join wrestling school with hopes of becoming a professional.
In his wrestling debut, Koloff played Red McNulty, an Irish villain. His next iteration, Koloff, came in 1967 and led him to WWWF glory.
Outside of wrestling, Koloff was a published author of the book “Is That Wrestling Fake? The Bear Facts.” He also wrote about his conversion to Christianity and struggles with drugs and alcohol in the follow-up “Life in the Trenches.”
ONE OF MY FIRST TEACHERS WHO HAD THE REAL HEEL HEAT. MY BROTHER IVAN KOLOFF REST IN PEACE pic.twitter.com/5xJ5cVRoR6
— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) February 18, 2017
RIP Ivan Koloff,it's been a tough week,Chavo,Nicole Bass,George Steel,Ivan and Marty Prince,I would feel helpless if not for my faith1loveHH
— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) February 18, 2017