WrestlingINC: You were first discovered by Road Warrior Animal, right, when you were trying out for the USFL?
Nikita Koloff: Yeah, I graduated college and was training for a pro football tryout when Road Warrior Animal gave me the phone call. He was actually approached by Don Kernodle, who was Ivan Koloff's partner at the time. They were the world tag team champions in the NWA. Don had approached Road Warrior Animal and, actually, what he asked was, 'Do you know any big guys who wouldn't mind shaving their head and becoming a Russian?' Animal said, 'I know just the guy right now.' That's how it all happened.
WrestlingINC: Did you watch wrestling as a child?
Koloff: Not really, that's kind of the irony behind it. My passions as a child was football, and I had my sights on playing football one day. I was familiar with it, but i wasn't necessarily what you might call a fan of it. I was certainly familiar with it because during my college days, I trained at Jesse Ventura's gym and I befriended Jesse back in those days. If I followed it at all, it was just because I knew Jesse.
WrestlingINC: You were booked in squash matches and tag team matches early on in your career. Did you get the feeling that pro wrestling was the right career move during that time?
Koloff: I didn't know what to expect and it was a very unique story. Jim Crockett gave me an opportunity with no amateur background, no professional training, literally just having a conversation with me over the phone, sight unseen. I showed up at his office in Charlotte, North Carolina the day he said to be there. He really took a roll of the dice. He literally put me right on the interview set that day with Ivan and Don and then said, 'Be in Raleigh tomorrow night, you're going to wrestling on TV of all things.' I really had never even been in the ring. So, he really took a chance but -- if you go by the career -- it was a great roll of the dice for Crockett.
WrestlingINC: You learned really fast. You were involved in those tag matches. I remember one of your matches with the Road Warriors was the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Match of the Year runner-up in 1985. Who do you credit for learning so quickly on the job?
Koloff: Well, if was literally that: it was on-the-job training. First couple of months after that initial match on TV and having my first professional wrestling in eleven seconds on television. That just launched/catapulted the career. And, of course, Ivan and Don.
I have to give all the credit to Don and Sgt. Slaughter for coming up with the original idea of a nephew for Ivan. Then, Ivan and Don teaching me the ropes -- no pun intended -- those first couple of months in and out of the ring, on the road and sitting in their corner. Then, just dialogue, discussing the psychology of the business. Certainly it helped that I was a quick study, as far as the student learning. But at the same time, I have to give credit where credit is due and that's to Don Kernodle and Ivan Koloff.
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