Wrestler of the Day – November 21: Nikolai Volkoff

Time for a 300lb Lithuanian in Nikolai Volkoff.

Volkoff got started back in 1967 and thanks to the magic of Coliseum Video, here’s a match from December 16, 1970.

Gorilla Monsoon/Pedro Morales vs. The Mongols

The Mongols are way old school and named Bepo and Geto. Monsoon is HUGE. He’s the Asian Champion and Pedro is US Champion (the WWF version which was gone by the 70s). This is 2/3 falls and we’re joined in progress. It’s in Philly and from sometime in the late 60s. The Mongols are bald other than ponytails. This is the WWWF also. Monsoon is sent to the floor by the International Tag Team Champions.

Geto, the smaller one, drops a bunch of knees off the top on Gorilla to win the first fall. Clipped to the second fall and Pedro is in trouble. One of those Mongols looks a lot like Nikolai Volkoff. And I’m right as he’s Bepo. Bear hug by Gorilla but Bepo makes the save. This isn’t incredibly good. Pedro watches Monsoon getting his teeth kicked in. The Mongols get disqualified for double teaming so we go to the third fall.

Monsoon’s back is hurt so FINALLY we get Pedro. He throws some decent dropkicks which gets the pin on Geto. The film starts messing up and looks like it’s being played in fast motion. The third fall was either clipped or lasted 18 seconds. Pedro looked good if nothing else I guess.

Rating: N/A. Haven’t used one of those in awhile. This really isn’t fair to grade with all the clipping and lack of any story at all. It’s not too bad and Pedro looked great. Monsoon was a freaking load and the Mongols were nothing special. Then again it was the 60s so how angry can I really get with it?

We’ll jump ahead about fourteen and a half years to Wrestlemania I.

Tag Titles: US Express vs. Nikolai Volkoff/Iron Sheik

The Express is Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo and they’re defending tonight. A little trivia for you: the song Real American was originally used for the two of them but Hogan wound up using it instead. The heels do their whole Russian national anthem and Iran/Russia #1 deal before the match. Rotundo and Sheik start things off with the Iranian hooking a headlock. A dropkick puts Sheik down and Mike grabs a headlock.

Off to Barry who avoids double teaming and causes the challengers to collide. Back to Rotundo to work over Nikolai with an elbow drop getting two. Windham comes in off the top with a shot to the arm and Rotundo does the same thing. Sheik suplexes Mike down for two as the foreigners take over. Nikolai drops him throat first across the throat and the USA chant starts up.

A sunset flip gets a quick two for Mike but it’s back to Sheik for an abdominal stretch. That doesn’t last long though as Mike hiptosses out of it and it’s off to Barry via the hot tag. The bulldog (Barry’s finisher at the time) takes Volkoff out as everything breaks down. In the melee, Sheik hits Windham in the back with the cane for the pin and the titles.

Rating: C. This was a better match than we’ve seen so far with the fans getting way into the whole USA vs. foreigners thing. The title change was there only so something historic could happen and the Express got the belts back about two and a half months later. They would split soon after that with both guys heading to the NWA.

Volkoff would be in the opening match at the first Saturday Night’s Main Event.

Iron Sheik/Nikolai Volkoff/George Steele vs. Mike Rotunda/Barry Windham/Ricky Steamboat

That’s quite the face tag team. This was on the SNME DVD (Awesome DVD that should certainly be picked up if you can find it. Awesome stuff on it) as an extra. Blassie is with the heels and Albano is with the faces. The two foreigners had taken the tag titles from the US Express at Wrestlemania for a token tag title change.

About a year prior to this, the US Express had been using Real American for their theme music. That went to Hogan of course and here they use Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen which works like a charm for them as it’s perfect. We start with Windham and Steele which is an odd matchup if there ever has been one.

Sheik was hitting the end of whatever usefulness that he had at this point. Rotundo would soon head to WCW and become a member of the Varsity Club, ending in an awesome moment with Rick Steiner taking the TV Title from him after months of being talked down to by him. Wow what a tangent that was.

Oh and he’s more commonly known as I.R.S. Oddly enough the faces dominate early on. We go to commercial with the faces dominating. We begin the awesome SNME tradition of not having action during commercials so we don’t have to be all confused about how we got to a point during a break.

Wow there are four hall of fame wrestlers in here and two on the floor. That’s rather impressive, especially considering that the two that aren’t in there are two of the three most talented. Steele comes in and his teammates abandon him, allowing Windham to get a quick rollup for the pin. Steele eats a turnbuckle and the tag champions beat him up. That doesn’t last long as Albano comes in to calm him down and Steele is a face.

Rating: C-. Eh this was fine. It wasn’t meant to be anything special other than a way to get Steele out of the dark side, but the heel offense consisted of about four Volkoff punches and other than that it was a complete squash. I don’t get why it was so one sided, but it did its job and wasn’t bad at all so for the first match in show history this was perfectly fine.

He opened the second show too.

WWF Title: Hulk Hogan vs. Nikolai Volkoff

I love the smelled of squashed Russians in the morning. After a long national anthem, here’s Hulk. He promises to win and keep the title and defend America. He comes out to Stars and Stripes Forever here in a nice touch. It’s a standard Hogan 80s match vs. a monster as Hogan gets jumped early but then makes his amazing comeback. Hogan knocks him over the top and Volkoff’s fat rings the bell.

A ram into the post though has the powers of Russia in the lead and Hogan is in trouble. Jesse isn’t talking much at all here. Volkoff slams him and Hogan makes his comeback and finishes with a spinning legdrop. Yes I said spinning. Hogan spits on the flag and uses it to shine his shoes.

Rating: C. This was a run of the mill Hogan match which is what this was supposed to be. It got Hogan on national TV and let him beat up someone that most people were going to naturally boo. This is the epitome of what SNME was supposed to be about in the old days and it worked very well.

Time for a lower level American. From SNME IV.

Nikolai Volkoff vs. Corporal Kirschner

This is a Peace Match. Translation, it’s based on some peace talks that had been going on around this time. So they’re fighting for peace. Got it. We get technical stuff, but neither are very good at it. So basically they can’t do traditional stuff and it’s amateur style. This…is rather stupid. Volkoff throws a cartwheel! WOW. Would not have called that one. The fans are liking it if nothing else so there we are. Blassie hooks a leg and Volkoff drops a knee for the surprising win. Of course there’s a postmatch beatdown as the heels get run off.

Rating: C-. It was different to say the least. It came off ok though, but this feud never went anywhere at all. Kirschner was the replacement for Sgt. Slaughter who went to the AWA. No one bought it, especially when he was literally a demotion from the previous military guy’s rank.

This somehow earned a rematch at Wrestlemania II.

Corporal Kirchner vs. Nikolai Volkoff

This is a flag match which means a regular match where the winner gets to wave their flag. For some reason the ring is VERY loud all of a sudden. Kirchner is a guy you likely won’t have heard of but he’s famous for being VERY stiff which is why he wasn’t around long. Blassie is with Nikolai here and his man hits a spinning kick to start.

We head to the floor where Volkoff rams him into the post and cuts the Corporal open with a piece of razor that he immediately puts back down into his trunks. Blassie yells at Kirchner a bit before they head back inside. It’s a slugout but Blassie throws in his cane which goes upside Nikolai’s head for the pin. This was another very short match.

Volkoff was in the lucky spot between Savage vs. Steamboat and Hogan vs. Andre at Wrestlemania III.

Nikolai Volkoff/Iron Sheik vs. Killer Bees

Unlike the previous match that had a feud going with it, this is just a random heel and face pairing. Slick (the foreigners’ manager) still has his torn up suit on. Volkoff starts singing the Soviet national anthem but the pretty new Jim Duggan runs out to break it up. The Bees finally show up and it’s a big brawl to start. Duggan is marching around at ringside with the 2×4 complete with a little American flag taped to it.

We start with Blair and Sheik but it’s quickly off to Brunzell. The Bees work over Iron’s arm with tags faster than I can type them. They stay on the arm until Brunzell hits his gorgeous dropkick for two on Sheik. Everything breaks down for a bit and Brunzell gets caught in the corner. Nikolai keeps Brunzell in trouble as the fans chant USA. There’s the bearhug by the Russian but Jim smacks his ears to break the hold.

Off to Sheik for the gutwrench suplex for two and a regular version for two. Brunzell comes back with a quick high knee but the referee doesn’t see the tag. A double elbow puts Jim down again and Sheik poses a lot. Duggan chases Volkoff into the ring and sees Sheik with the camel clutch on Brunzell. Being the patriot that he is, Duggan blasts Sheik in the back with the board for the DQ.

Rating: C-. Not a terrible little match here until the stupid ending. This was again about furthering another feud in the form of Duggan against the evil foreigners. Why the Bees would be ok with Duggan doing that is beyond me but I guess since they’re all good guys they have to get along in WWF logic.

Back to SNME with show XI.

Can-Am Connection vs. Iron Sheik/Nikolai Volkoff

Sheik tries to sing and gets hit in the head with a 2×4. Isn’t that called massive assault? Zenk and the Sheik start us off. Duggan, after BASHING VOLKOFF IN THE HEAD WITH A BOARD just sits right back in the front row. Sheik gets a good abdominal stretch on Sheik. This show needs to end. Duggan runs in AGAIN and Martel rolls up Sheik for the pin.

Rating: N/A. This was just insanity and nothing at all of note. Then again it’s the end of the show so it’s not like anyone was watching here anyway.

Nikolai would finally find a new partner in Boris Zhukov as the Bolsheviks. Here they are in MSG on November 24, 1987.

Bolsheviks vs. Killer Bees

Slick is with the Russians here. The national anthem is one of the best ways ever to draw heel heat. Bockwinkel wants to talk about the size of Zhukov’s head for some reason. The Bees put their masks on because they like to be annoying. Blair has longer hair so I think that’s him with the hair sticking out of the back of the mask. The Russians say take the masks off or we’re leaving. Let the stalling begin.

The referee is threatening them with a DQ if they don’t get in. The bell rang so I guess this is part of the match. There go the masks but they’re in the tights of the Bees, which makes me think we’ll be seeing them later. Apparently the winners of this get a shot at Strike Force, the tag team champions. We’ve been stalling for four minutes now and FINALLY we get Brunzell vs. Boris.

Boris blocks a hip toss but walks into a head scissors to take him over. I’d expect a lot of tags by the Bees. They work on the arm of Zhukov who is in trouble early. Nikolai comes in sans tag which really just gets Boris in more trouble than he was already in. Here’s Volkoff in legally now and I still think those trunks will eat him one day. A double elbow takes him down for two.

They start in on the arm of Volkoff as well and then shift over to the hamstrings and the legs. Zhukov comes in and it’s still all Killer Bees. The Russians have had nothing at all here. Slick is going to file a complaint about the referees. They work on the hamstring even more as they couldn’t be more clearly stalling without holding up a big old neon sign that says WE’RE STALLING!

Volkoff comes in with an atomic drop but loses control on a slam. A front facelock goes on as we shift the momentum over to the Russians. It’s Blair getting beaten on here if you’re interested. Gutwrench suplex gets two for Nikolai. Zhukov mostly gets a suplex on Blair but it’s partially botched. How do you manage to botch a vertical suplex? It’s one of the most basic moves in the sport.

Back to Volkoff for some choking. Double teaming stops Blair from tagging as we’re well over fifteen minutes into this now. The Russians hammer away even more and knock Blair and Brunzell to the floor. We have a random bell which is waved off as the Bees put the masks on and switch off. Brunzell (everyone but the referee gets this somehow) comes in without a tag and gets a dropkick for two. The referee gets distracted and the legal man comes in with a top rope cross body to win it.

Rating: C-. This is a fine example of a long match not necessarily being a good match. It went WAY too long when you could legitimately pull out 10 minutes out of this and it’s the same match. There’s a lot of basic work including about 8 minutes of nothing but hamstring work on Zhukov. Boring match for the most part but nothing horrible.

One more SNME with XIV.

Tag Titles: Bolsheviks vs. Strike Force

This is 2/3 falls to continue the SNME tradition. Apparently Okerlund looks like Khrushchev with a mustache. We see Strike Force beating the Harts to win the tag titles and they say stuff that might have been in English but I’m not entirely sure. Slick calls them Pint Sized Rambos. That’s a cool name. Boris and Tito start us off. Such a disparity in talent between the two teams.

This is your standard 80s style tag match which means it’s fun but not really that good. That works though. The crowd is way hot so that’s a big perk. Martel hooks the Boston Crab for the tap out to make it 1-0 for the champions. They celebrate into the first commercial.

That’s one thing I love about SNME: they let the match stop until we get back so we miss nothing at all. The heels cheat to take over as you would likely expect. Something tells me the champions are retaining here. Can’t place it but they have something extra. I think it’s called talent. Slick throws in the cane which is picked off and the shot allows the champions to retain in two straight falls.

Rating: B-. This was really quick and not great. However I’m a big mark for Strike Force so this was fun. The Bolsheviks never won anything so this was no shock at all. Boring match but nothing wrong with giving the champions another win they should get. Then again I’ve always been a big Strike Force fan.

The team would also be on the first Summerslam in 1988.

Powers of Pain vs. Bolsheviks

The Powers (Barbarian and Warlord) are still faces here and have the Baron (Von Raschke) with them. Just like in the previous two matches the brawl is on as soon as the good guys hit the ring. The Powers double clothesline Boris Zhukov as Volkoff tries to sneak in for a cheap shot. Barbarian easily catches him coming in and sends him flying until we get down to Barbarian vs. Boris to start things off.

Boris puts his head down and…..something happens (it looked like a choke but it’s not really clear) before it’s off to Warlord for a gutwrench suplex on Zhukov. Both Russians double team Warlord but they can’t even get him down to his knees. Nikolai chokes away before Boris puts on a chinlock. The Russians have a double backdrop broken up and it’s off to Barbarian again. Everything breaks down and it’s a double shoulder followed by a swan dive to Boris for the pin.

Rating: D. Another lame match here but the Powers looked decent. The Baron would be gone in a few weeks as the company wasn’t pleased that a dark character was getting cheered, so they turned Demolition and their evil S&M looking gear face instead. Also did the Russians ever actually win a major match?

Time for comedy in December 1990.

Bushwackers vs. Bolsheviks

This might be December 30, 1988 as that’s the only date I can find for these teams to be fighting in this arena. The Bushwackers jump the Russians to start and it’s a big brawl. After about a minute and a half of brawling we finally get down to Luke vs. Boris. This is more along the lines of a Sheepherders’ match than the traditional stuff you would see from these guys.

The vast majority of the commentary is talking about how odd the Bushwackers are which is rather true. Trongard can’t figure out who is who here. Basically the Russians can’t get anything going at all. It’s another big brawl as the Bushwackers bite legs. Luke gets in trouble though and the Russians take over for the first time. Volkoff is called the Russian Bear in blatant gimmick infringement by Hayes.

This isn’t going anywhere at all as we’re just waiting on the down under comeback to end it. The Russians here are straight up jobbers which says a lot. Somehow Trongard still can’t tell the Bushwackers apart. They look alike but it’s not like they’re identical. Butch comes in for the save when Luke is double teamed but accidently hits Luke. Luke naturally goes after Butch because that’s just what you do.

Hot tag with no heat at all on it brings in Butch who the announcers call Luke. Everything breaks down again of course and we get the dreaded heel miscommunication to put Volkoff on the floor. The Battering Ram takes down Zhukov, followed by the double stomach breaker and we begin the long awesomeness of the Bushwackers’ undefeated streak! Yeah I’m just trying to fill in space here. Trongard says the Bolsheviks are former tag champions which isn’t true. He was rather irritating on commentary for stupid things like that.

Rating: D+. This was a glorified comedy match but for a debut it was ok. The fans seemed to be into them for the most part so it’s hard to complain about them for the most part. This wasn’t horrible but considering this was more or less the peak of the Bushwackers’ abilities by this point, this wasn’t much at all. Not horrible though.

Then Volkoff wanted to be an American. Here he is at Survivor Series 1990.

Alliance vs. Mercenaries

Nikolai Volkoff, Bushwhackers, Tito Santana

Sgt. Slaughter, Boris Zhukov, Orient Express

This is during the Iraqi Sympathizer period for Slaughter and the idea here is military themed. Before the match, Slaughter tells Gene about having a Thanksgiving dinner with the Mercenaries and not having to be inconvenienced by being in the desert. That’s better than being in the Army and eating K-Rations right? This was a pretty edgy angle at the time. Stupid but edgy. This interview is in the arena with the Mercenaries’ music playing. That must be a pretty dull period for the crowd.

The Bushwhackers torment Boris to start and the flying forearm from Tito eliminates him in about 20 seconds. Sato comes in and is accidentally superkicked by Tanaka. The Battering Ram puts out Sato and it’s 4-2 inside of two minutes. Tanaka comes in and the forearm from Tito makes it 4-1 in less than 2:15. Volkoff pounds on Slaughter with his usual stuff but gets punched in the face for his efforts as Slaughter takes over.

After a long beating, Slaughter eliminates Volkoff with an elbow. There were about three minutes of beating in between there but there was absolutely nothing of note to talk about. The Bushwhackers double team Sarge for a bit but Slaughter beats them down and gutbusts Luke for an elimination. A clothesline takes out Butch about 30 seconds later and it’s one on one.

Tito immediately dropkicks Slaughter into the post and things speed up with by far the two most talented guys in the match in there. Tito hits a top rope forearm for two and stomps away even faster. Piper is trying not to curse and Slaughter slams Santana’s head into the mat. A neckbreaker and backbreaker combine for two on Santana.

After some more beating, Tito gets a quick forearm attempt but hits the referee by mistake. The forearm hits the second time but General Adnan (Slaughter’s manager/boss) hits Santana with the flag and Slaughter puts on the Camel Clutch. The referee saw the flag though and it’s a DQ win for Tito.

Rating: D-. Well that…..happened I guess. They went through seven eliminations inside of eleven minutes and the match was awful. Basically this could have been Slaughter vs. either Volkoff or Santana and gotten the same payoff. I have no idea what they were going for here, but my guess is that they had nothing else to fill in fifteen minutes with (the show only runs two hours and twenty minutes and we’ve got the ultimate dumb filler to go).

Volkoff would leave soon after this but returned in mid 1994 as part of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Team. Here he is against someone you may have heard of before on Raw, May 23, 1994.

Matt Hardy vs. Nikolai Volkoff

The Russian easily takes him down and rolls Matt up for two. A double underhook suplex drops Matt again as we’re in full squash mode. Matt hits some worthless forearms before getting slammed and Boston crabbed for the submission.

Volkoff went into retirement after this but came out for a few shows, including Heroes of Wrestling.

Bushwackers vs. Nikolai Volkoff/Iron Sheik

I’m calling them the Bushwackers as they’re Luke and Butch, formerly the Bushwackers. There’s some guy with Volkoff but he’s another guy that is imitating a better manager. I’m just not sure who he’s imitating. We get the USA chant going, despite the faces being from New Zealand but this isn’t the smartest crowd in the world. The manager is dressed up in a Russian military uniform. Oh dear.

He speaks English with a so bad it’s funny but the show is so bad it’s not funny accent if that makes sense. Oh and Volkoff is now an Olympian also. We get the Russian National Anthem of course and the Persian clubs which are as old school as possible. The clubs become Iranian all of a sudden and we’re three minutes into this. Sheik needs to humble someone. It would be more entertaining.

We hear about Hogan and Backlund for no reason at all but whatever. That’s my word for this show: whatever. We’re at about 5 minutes of build for this disaster. I guess Bushwackers is a copyrighted term. Somehow they look better than anyone else. Luke licked my face once. Can we get the tape of the Bushwackers on Family Matters instead of me having to watch this atrocity?

Apparently they’ve won tag titles in 26 countries. Well ok then. The heels jump them early to start to further establish that they’re EVIL. Dutch explains the term short end of the stick which has some kind of scale according to him. Please, just take me now. Sheik gets on the mic and says if they keep chanting USA then he’ll leave. You know what comes next. The announcers argue about cutting each other off. I hate this show quite a bit.

They’re really trying to get this whole they’re Heroes thing embedded in. Can we just watch Heroes instead? Just the first season though as it’s by far the best. Sheik is wearing shorts also. The kicks they’re throwing aren’t even close at all. How much are these guys being paid? I guarantee you it’s too much. After a “slam” Nikolai covers Luke and Butch comes in for the save.

He doesn’t need to though as Nikolai reacts to the saving shot before it hits so there we are again. The camel clutch, which made British Bulldog tap inside of 5 seconds in 1986 is on for 15 seconds before Butch saves. At least I think he saved as we cut to a shot of the manager so for all I know Butch just did the Charleston for awhile and Sheik didn’t like his movement and showed him what to do. Who knows though?

I do however know that the manager raised his right arm. You can hear individual lines from the fans by the way. And I mean individual conversations, not just random screams. ANOTHER foreign object misses and Luke pins Sheik with the fastest count this side of Nick Patrick gets the three. The heels almost fight afterwards but they hug it out.

Rating: G+. That’s below an F-. This was stupid and bad. I think it was a comedy match but I couldn’t tell. They did manage to name the heel team The Iron Curtain though which I can’t believe no one got that before. We’re half done with this and I want to cry. Or die, either one. Getting humbled wouldn’t be bad either. When the Bushwackers are the best workers in there, that’s not saying a lot at all.

We’ll wrap it up with World Wrestling Legends: 6:05 the Reunion in 2006.

Nikolai Volkoff vs. Jim Duggan

Oh dear. Sheik is with Volkoff here to really make this evil. Volkoff looks OLD. Cornette is having a ball here. Earl Hebner is the referee. When Duggan is in far better shape of two guys you know one is in bad shape. Duggan fights out of the corner and the Three Point Clothesline ends this in maybe 90 seconds.

In American wrestling, there will always be a place for a big Russian. While Volkoff may not have been the best ever at it, he certainly was one of the longest running ones in history. You could have Hogan punch the guy and slam him as many times as you would like and the fans were going to cheer it because they were AMERICANS. Volkoff wasn’t much in the ring, but he played a basic and important role.

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  1. whosnext98 says:

    A little tidbit, Volkoff would eventually be replaced in the Mongols by Bepo Mongol: Real name Bill Eadie, better known as the Masked Superstar and Demolition Ax 🙂

    klunderbunker Reply:

    Actually that would be Bolo Mongol.

    whosnext98 Reply:

    Quite correct, and I need to proofread better :p