WWE Hall of Famer Nikolai Volkoff died this weekend at the age of 70, WWE confirmed in a statement on Sunday.
“WWE is saddened to learn that Josip Nikolai Peruzović, known to WWE fans as Nikolai Volkoff, has passed away at age 70,” the company wrote in a statement. “Best known for his dastardly, WWE Tag Team Championship–winning union with The Iron Sheik, Volkoff’s in-ring career spanned the better part of 40 years, which featured battles against the likes of Sgt. Slaughter, Hulk Hogan and Bruno Sammartino. As one of the greatest villains sports-entertainment had ever seen, Volkoff’s infamous rendition of the Soviet National Anthem before his matches made him an instant icon in the eyes of the WWE Universe as a Superstar they truly loved to hate. Jim Ross inducted Volkoff into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2005.
Volkoff wrestled for Vince McMahon Sr.’s WWWF beginning in 1968 and won the WWWF Tag Team Championship in 1970. He wrestled all over the world, leaving and returning to the WWWF a few times before really hitting his stride in the mid-1980’s. It was then that Volkoff teamed with the Iron Sheik as a heel tag team that pitted Volkoff, who was Croatian, portrayed a Russian character, and Sheik is Iranian. Famously, Volkoff would ask American fans to stand and honor the Russian national anthem prior to his matches.
Volkoff was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005. He last appeared on WWE TV a few years ago, singing the Russian national anthem alongside Rusev and Lana in a backstage segment.
It has been reported that Volkoff was recently released from a hospital stay where, among other ailments, he was treated for dehydration.
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