Former WWF tag team champion and memorable 1980s wrestling villain Nikolai Volkoff (real name Josip Nikolai Peruzović) passed away Sunday at the age of 70.
PW Insider’s Mike Johnson first reported the news and Dave Meltzer later confirmed. Meltzer said he was told Volkoff recently had a heart attack, was told he needed surgery, and refused.
The Insider story said Volkoff had spent several days recently in a Maryland hospital where he was being treated for dehydration and other ailments and was recently released.
A former weightlifter in Yugoslavia, Volkoff was trained by Stu Hart and eventually found his way to Vince McMahon Sr.’s World Wide Wrestling Federation as Bepo Mongol and won the tag team titles while managed by Captain Lou Albano. He would leave the organization in 1971 and eventually return under the name Nikolai Volkoff, feuding with Bruno Sammartino over the WWWF title.
His most well-known run to mainstream wrestling fans was in the mid-1980s with the Iron Shiek, managed by Fred Blassie. The duo won the tag team titles once and Volkoff later became a singles wrestler, using his Russian heel gimmick in feuds with Hulk Hogan and others. He would remain in the company until 1995 when he went into “semi retirement”. He appeared randomly on throwback editions of WWE Raw through the years.
He leaves behind a wife and two daughters.