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Nikolai Volkoff, the former pro wrestler who played a gruff Russian villain during his 40-year career in the ring, and often appeared with tag team partner the Iron Sheik, has died. He was 70.

Born in Croatia, Volkoff first worked for the New York territory, then known as the World Wide Wrestling Federation, under the direction of Vince McMahon Sr. beginning in 1968 under the moniker of Bepo Mongol.

Volkoff made his way back to the then-WWF in 1984, and this stint would see him gain the most notoriety he experienced in his career. Teaming with The Iron Sheik under the management of the legendary “Classy” Freddie Blassie, the duo captured the tag team championship from the U.S. Express tandem of Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham at the first WrestleMania event inside Madison Square Garden in 1985.


Volkoff retired in the mid-’90s and stayed out of the public eye, except for a 2006 failed run for the Maryland state assembly.

He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2005.

In the ’80s, wrestlers were defined by their larger-than-life characters. Those same characters needed just as equal villains, and Volkoff was one that just stood taller than the rest.


Rest well, King. Here’s a good Nikolai Volkoff match from 1985 for the fans out there to remember him by: