During the 1980s, when I was still watching pro wrestling regularly, Nikolai Volkoff–the wrestling persona of Josip Nikolai Peruzović–terrorized the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE) with his Russian pride (Peruzović was actually Yugoslavian) and horrible singing of the Soviet National Anthem. Over the weekend he passed away at 70 years old. Volkoff was often the enemy of “Real American” Hulk Hogan and teamed with fellow America-hater The Iron Shiek, both appearing as enemies in the CBS cartoon Hulk Hogan’s Rock And Wrestling, and and later tag-teamed with fellow Soviet Boris Zukhoff. He was a great villain and a great entertainer in the squared circle. My condolences to his family and friends.
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Wow…all this time, I thought he was Russian. The fact that the two biggest heels in 80s WWF wrestling were a Russian character and an Iranian character goes to show how much anxiety there was at the time here in America about the Soviet Union and Iran. I also remember how the Iron Sheik went from portraying an Iranian heel in the 1980s to an Iraqi heel in the early 90s with the whole Operation Desert Storm in Iraq. What’s interesting about this is that Iraq and Iran have been long time enemies. Quite possibly, the person who portrayed the Iron Sheik was neither Iranian or Iraqi.
I just checked. The Iron Shiek was Iranian. So that makes it quite comical that he portrayed an Iraqi heel in the early 90s as Iraq and Iran had been bitter enemies for a very long time. Learning that Nikolai Volkoff was from the former Yugoslavia reminds me of two Yugoslavian products that used to be in the U.S. There was the Yugo car that I used to see a lot during the 80s and early 90s here in America. Then there’s from when I worked in the meat business, the imported ham from Yugoslavia. It came in a huge tin container with a key, and you had use to the key to open the container. That was some tasty ham indeed! We used to sell lots of Yugoslavian imported ham in our grocery store deli. I sliced tons of that stuff! Then Yugoslavia fell apart in 1992 and after that, our imported ham came from Denmark instead (and of course we always sold the Krakus ham from Poland). From 1993 and on, I haven’t seen a Yugo driving around, and I haven’t seen or tasted that Yugoslavian imported ham either. Rest in peace, Josip Nikolai Peruzovic.