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Interview: Nikita Koloff

conducted by Tim Quinn for
In His Grip (official on-line newsletter of Ted DiBiase), May-June, 2001

(Published with permission from Tim Quinn)

Background:
Stemming from the great state of, the land of ten
thousand lakes, Minnesota; born and raised in the ghettos of Minneapolis; a product of welfare; and my father left when I was 2; grew up fatherless; came to Charlotte, North Carolina in 1984 when I broke into the business of professional wrestling.

Were you born with the name Nikita Koloff?

I was not born with that name, although I have both western and eastern European heritage, that was the name I adopted and legally changed in 1984, when I broke into the wrestling business. I always tell people "the other guy starved to death"....

So, that’s basically why you changed your name, "because the other guy starved to death"?

Yeah, he took on a whole new identity....

What’s your most memorable wrestling match?

Oh gosh, I don’t know if I could isolate or single any one particular match in one sense because I have numerous matches that come to mind.... I’d probably have to answer this way, let me just say that my first major event was in July of 1985 in front of 30 plus thousand people wrestled for the world heavy weight title with Rick Flair would certainly have to be a highlight of the wrestling career as well as the best of seven series I had against Magnum T.A. for the U.S. Heavy Weight Title. Those would probably be the two, I guess, that stick out, or stand out the most....

Who did you most enjoy working with as an opponent and as a tag team partner?

Of course I tremendously enjoyed working with Ivan Koloff when I was on the "bad side of the tracks", and I did enjoy the work when I saw the light and went to the other "side of the tracks" and teamed up with Dusty Rhodes and we became the "Superpowers". I very much enjoyed working with Dusty as a tag partner. And on an individual basis, I’d probably have to say that Rick Flair was probably the number one, and again, it’s hard to isolate just one, but I would say that Rick Flair was probably one of the most memorable and favorable to work with.... although there were, I would make a point of saying the list of names would be too numerous to mention, of guys that I really enjoyed working with, I really want to emphasize that: there were quite a few guys I really enjoyed working with.

You mentioned Magnum T.A. - you became a "face", or good guy, after Terry had an serious automobile accident (the story line was that Nikita respected Magnum TA so much, that when Magnum’s accident caused the end of his career, Nikita took up his banner and dedicated his own career to Magnum). Were you close to Terry in real life?

After the accident. Before the accident it was strictly a professional relationship, and after the accident we drew close together.

Do you still keep in touch with him?

Every now and then. Not as often as I probably should, and his name crops up in conversation, from time to time, people who’ve bumped into him and he’s asked how I’m doing, or that sort of thing.... so we might see some mutual business or mutual acquaintances or friends that we both know, but we have not had direct contact, so....

Here’s one that we have all wondered, when you used your "Russian Nightmare" voice, did you ever go hoarse?

I did not, it was interestingly enough, it was just something that I developed.... in fact, when I opened up to the health clubs, I was in the gym from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and it was all day long I would talk like that, everyday. It was quite a challenge, but interestingly enough I did not.

When you was at the peak of your career, one half of the Superpowers, you disappeared from wrestling for awhile....

Well, I had a my late wife, who eventually died of cancer, but she had contracted cancer at the age of 24, and I just felt that my responsibility was to take care of her over my wresting career. A lot of people in the business couldn’t understand that I would put something before wrestling. But that’s just how I felt, I just felt in my heart that I needed to take care of her, her name was Mandy, as best I could. So I put the wrestling career on hold, I just felt that that was a higher priority.

And you ended up marrying her best friend, Victoria, correct?

I did, whom I really got to know for the very first time, basically, the night before she passed away. (Victoria) was passing through town moving back from Florida to North Carolina, and called the hospital and asked if she should stop in. She hadn’t seen Mandy for close to a year and I said "yes, she would probably really enjoy that". A little interesting side note: she had always promised Mandy that if she did die she would do her make-up for the funeral and all that sort of thing. So, it’s quite interesting how the Lord really worked everything out because she was there on the day she passed away. She stayed a couple extra days to do the make-up for the funeral and everything, she stayed for the funeral...

Why did you leave wrestling on a permanent basis?

Oh, a multiple of reasons.... probably one of the biggest reasons would be, it was my goal to leave, retire on top at age 35, walk away on top. Growing up as a kid I always saw athletes who I just felt hung around too long, you know what I mean? And I just always determined in my mind no matter what sport I participated or played in, that I would walk away from that business on top of the business. You know, leaving people wanting more than people wanting me to leave.

And that’s exactly what you did....

Yeah, and I beat the goal.... I established that goal when I first broke in 1984 at the age of 24. And I beat the goal by two years. I was 33 when I retired. That was part of the reason. Another part of the reason was the travel. I had my first child in 1992. And, of course, married Victoria in 1990. You know, established a family of course., she had two older children and we had our first child in ‘92, so family was a factor, a major factor. Travel, the schedule they had us on was a major factor. Injuries. I mean, you know, a lot of people think it’s all just entertainment, but guys, they don’t understand, guys’ll really get hurt. They don’t seem to understand that, but... So injuries played a factor,. And so injuries played a factor. And so really, it was a myriad, or multiple reasons. But number one goal, reason was the goal I established when I broke in to retire on top of the game by the time I was 35.

Do watch the product they call professional wrestling today?

I do not. I might catch a glimpse of it every now and then.... I’ve probably watched a total of 10 to 15 hours in the past seven years.

What do you think of that product today?

Uh, I think it’s entertainment with a flavor of wrestling where it used to be wresting with a flavor of entertainment.

If I was to compare you with any of today's wrestling stars, it would be Bill Goldberg. From what you know of him, what’s your opinion of Mr. Goldberg?

Often imitated, never duplicated..... It is, biblically speaking, the bible says "nothing new is under the sun...."

And everything seems to come full circle; rather it be bell bottom pants, tie-dyed shirts, everything always seems to come full circle... I have had people say to me, you know, "he’s the Nikita Koloff of this era" - so to speak. I’ve had people say "boy, I think he’s studied your films".....

Do you know any active Christian wrestlers?

The only one that I am aware of, to my knowledge, is Sting. And I have yet to talk with him about that decision that he made. That’s through conversation, I guess you’d say, with other people that I have heard that, but I have yet to talk to him myself.... But as far as I know, he is, he’s it.

So, what are you up to now?

I travel doing more ministry, speaking in churches, doing motivational seminars in schools and also for businesses, as well as operating a legal services business called "Pre-paid Legal Services" my wife and I operate that business. We also have a number of other guys, other wrestlers involved with us Ted DiBiase, Alfa the wild Samoan used to be part of the WWF world tag team champs, Alfa and Sika. Alfa is involved with us. Don Kernodle who used to be one of NWA world tag team champs with Ivan when I first broke in who was actual instrumental in training me Don and Ivan were. Don is involved with us now. What we’re doing is showing these guys that there is life after wrestling. That we can take the world wide exposure that we had and be able to use that to their advantage and build them an outside business. So we’re heavily involved with promoting that business called "Pre-paid Legal Services".

You also have a ministry with your wife, Victoria....

Koloff for Christ Ministries...

How did you begin your ministry and can you give us some details?

Well, again, it’s what I call a real "God thing".... In 1995 I met an evangelist by the name of Terence Rose, who’s from South Africa, and ended up in ’95 just feeling led to volunteer my time with him in serving under his ministry and I did that for 22 solid weeks. I was just fed the Word of God and grew in my walk, and in the mean time I was going on a missionary trip here and there, overseas. Today I’ve been to England, Africa, Singapore, my former homeland - motherland - of Russia, Trinidad, South America, and the British West Indies, on missionary trips. And in the meantime I continued to get fed the Word of God, was growing in my walk. About two and a half years ago I was pulled out of a crowd of about 600, my wife and I, and a word was spoken over us that we were called to - you know in the past, even as a youth, I would rub people the wrong way - they said north and I said south and I’m thinkin’ yea you’re right on target - that the Lord was going to use that to break down denominational barriers. And within three to four weeks of that word spoken to us, the phone began to ring, just literally. Two and a half years later it hasn’t stopped ringing; I have now ministered in 14 different denominations. I have yet to call one pastor, the Lord has just opened doors for them to call me - they get my number somehow and call me.

We do a number different ministries, of course I just preach, that’s one of the ministries is come in and preach to a church. But also, my wife does women’s workshops and her and I together do marriage enrichment workshops. We also do a wrestling outreach - we literally bring the ring in, bring in a wrestling crew, we entertain them with matches and we transition it to the gospel. And we’ve had as many as 130 people come to ringside for salvation.

When and why did you give our life to Jesus and how has He worked in your life?

October 1993. In a condensed version: I left my last match in November of ‘92, and early ‘93 was when I made the final decision that I was not going to go back. And, of course, going from traveling 25 days a month to having 30 days a month at home... a lot of time of thought, and reflecting on all the accomplishments that I had done by the age of 33: traveling all over the world and making thousands of dollars, owning fancy cars and big houses, having a beautiful family and the just whole packaging.... And all the titles and the accolades that came along with the fanfare and worldwide notoriety. Looking at that and all the achievements I’ve (had) athletically and academically - I’ve climbed the ladder of success, if you will, you know, reached the pinnacle, but yet something was still missing. And some friends through business had invited us to the church a couple of different times and October ’93 my wife said "let’s go check out that church" - it was the First Assembly Of Concorde... And we went to that service and on that particular Sunday morning.... My wife said she knew something was up when I put a hundred dollar bill in the offering plate, she said "a dollar bill maybe, but a hundred dollar bill; I knew something was going on".... And, quite frankly, at the end of that service, the pastor asked the question "is there anyone here who has never accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior" and in an instant I just knew - I knew what was missing in my life really to fill that void: it was that personal relationship, had never accepted Christ as my Savior... Without hesitation, I think I may have even been the first one to the altar. As Ric Flair used to say "To be the man you’ve got to beat the man and walk that aisle..." Well, I walked an aisle and it wasn’t to beat the man, but meet the man - the champion for the world, Jesus Christ. I bowed a knee to Christ that day and wept like a baby, and that was the beginning of the journey. And from that point on, for the last seven years, it’s just been a phenomenal journey.

Do you pray with your wife?

Yes

Why?

You know, the enemy’s goal is to divide and conquer. And, it starts in the home - if he can keep couples from praying together, he’s got a lot better chance of dividing that family and conquering that family. The act of praying together strengthens both the walk of the husband and the wife. Of course, my wife and I have our own private mediation study time and prayer time as well..... And what that does, if you were to look at the shape of a triangle and you got the husband and wife on the bottom and God on the top and both are focused on the Lord as they grow in their personal walks and move up the triangle, obviously it develops not only that personal relationship with God, it also strengthens the horizontal relationship with husband and wife. And so the more we pray together as a couple, it just solidifies that bond that we have in that individual relationship that we are growing with the Lord.

What does it mean to be saved?

Eternal life first and foremost. The ability to be born twice and dying once as opposed to being born once and dying twice. Spend an eternity with Jesus Christ. I can only imagine the joy that will bring to spend an eternal lifetime with Him, number one. And then the pleasure and joy of this lifetime and seeing other lives dramatically changed. As recent as last Friday night in our home, and this is just how good God is, we had a business function and when it was all over we had an opportunity to lead a young man, who was a professed atheist, to the Lord and prayed that prayer of salvation with him that night. He came into our house, very evidently heavy burdened in his life, not knowing the Lord or having that personal relationship with Him. I saw him the next morning where his whole continence, his whole radiance, the bounce in his step, it was just very obvious that a transformation had taken place - so much so that he came to me and said "can I go to church with you tomorrow..." Which he did. He came to church with me the next day, Sunday. And I gave him a bible and a friend of mine picked him up Saturday morning and he was reading the bible. Sunday after church he told me "I want to go to that bible study Friday evening..." It’s just the opportunity to see that transformation in another individual is such a humble opportunity, it’s hard to put it into words - it’s just phenomenal to be a part of that and know that I’m eternally effecting the building of the kingdom and it’s exciting to be a warrior on the front line. Every time I consider the opportunity and privilege to stand at a pulpit and share the Gospel and share my story, I’m excited all over again.

If an unsaved person wants to be saved, what must he or she do?

As I explained to that young man Friday night, man has complicated the relationship with God, with Jesus Christ, and really it’s a simple prayer - a tremendously simple prayer, in that it’s just a matter of saying "Jesus, I want you to come into my life, I heard about you, I heard of you, I’ve heard your name mentioned...." Maybe you haven’t heard the name of Jesus mentioned.... But it’s about saying "Jesus, I would like you to come into my life, I would like you to cleanse me of the sin I committed in my life because I have been a sinner and I want you to forgive me for that sin. Live in me and be a part of my life so that I may live for you all the days of my life." It’s no more complicated than that, "in Jesus’ name, amen". It’s just as simple as that, and the key is that you have to mean it in your heart, it can’t just be words, you have to actually mean it in your heart. Just like that young man did Friday night and your life will be transformed, it will be changed. There may not be any bells and whistles or firecrackers going off, but you will know, without a shadow of a doubt, that your life has been changed.

 

What is the most rewarding part of what you’re doing today?

I’m rewarded on two ends. On the ministry end of course, seeing the number of people who are coming to the alter for salvation is incredibly rewarding, but I couldn't begin to put a price-tag on number one. Number two. On the business end, we’re bringing a valuable service to the market place that has been long over due. That the number of testimonies coming back from people who have called in or E-mailed, that have wrote in saying Thank You for telling us about that service because it helped them this way or it helped their family that way. As you know there are tons and tons of legal issues that are out there now a days and one of the thing about the service is that it makes legal expenses affordable. Where as in the past people have been price out of the legal system. Too much law for those who can afford it and to little for those who can't.

Talk a little bit about your book what it’s about, how we can get it.

I’m extremely excited about it. I’m no author. In fact I often joke about that wrestlers can't read, let alone write. I felt that the Holy Spirit lead and I put this book together in about a weeks time. I’ve had tremendous feed back on it. It’s called "Breaking the Chains" a hand book to Christian Living. It’s really designed for the new convert or the person that has been a Christian for 20 years. I’ve had both read the book and the mature Christian said that it was really thought provoking it challenged me. The new Christian said it was kind of a guideline to where I need to go and the next step to my Christian walk. It really covers all the bases there. That’s the first one "Breaking the Chains". It’s available right now on the Internet through (at his website). That’s the only place right now that it is available. I’m going to make it available on the Internet to be down loaded. We’re in the process of working on that. I’m in the process of writing the autobiography. "Breaking the Chains" has a brief bio, but the autobiography will go into much more detail on the life and times of Nikita Koloff.

Ted has thought about putting together a wrestling outreach in the same mold as the power team - would you be interested in helping with a program like that?

Well, he and I have talked about it for probably close to two years now, and I just told him "when you’re ready, I’m ready". We’ve done a couple events together that have been very packed and very powerful. Whenever the Lord opens that door.... and I’ve told the Lord "when you open that door, I’m ready" because with the popularity of wrestling it’s such a natural it’s not even funny.


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