Nikolai Volkoff, a WWE Hall of Famer who antagonized wrestling fans in the 80s with his gimmick as a Soviet bruiser, died over the weekend at the age of 70.
Born Josip Nikolai Peruzović, Volkoff wrestled as a few different characters before teaming up with The Iron Sheik, from Iran, to form a hated tag-team duo of scary foreigners. The duo won the World Tag Team Championship at the inaugural WrestleMania and on Sundayl The Iron Sheik mourned his friend and former partner on Twitter.
In another tweet, The Sheik explained what it was like to be representing Iran and the USSR in the U.S. in the 80s. "We have to wear wigs & disguises when we went to restaurant because everybody hated us. Nikolai say no more eating out so he make food in hotel room," The Sheik wrote.
Volkoff made enemies out of millions of American wrestling fans by being an unabashed booster of Soviet Russia. He would enter the ring in all red while waving a Soviet flag. Then he would insist that the crowd rise to its feet while be sang an awful version of the Soviet national anthem. The crowd would hate it and try to drown him out with boos and probably even pelt him with half-empty cans of Tab.
The irony of Volkoff's turn as a reviled communist is that he hated communism, which he fled from when he left Yugoslavia as a young man.
After the fall of the USSR, Volkoff was given a reprieve and he became a hero in the WWE, turning away from communism and teaming up with the red, white and blue patriot, Hacksaw Jim Duggan.
Volkoff wasn't the only wrestler to die this weekend. Brian Lawler, the son of Jerry "The King" Lawler, who wrestled in the 90s as "Grand Master Sexay," committed suicide in his Tennessee jail cell on Saturday.