Former NWA and WCW wrestler Nikita Koloff recently sat down for an interview with Wrestling Inc.’s Drew Rice for The Wrestling Inc. Daily. During the interview Koloff recalled turning babyface to fill in for Magnum T.A.’s role alongside Dusty Rhodes to team up against the Four Horsemen.
“Well, I’m glad I got to experience both sides [babyface and heel] of it, let me just say that,” reflected Koloff. “And you mentioned Magnum T.A. And for those not familiar [with his story], his career was ended short with a car wreck that broke his neck. [That] left an opening and void on the other side as a partner for Dusty. I think it was a brilliant move by Dusty and Jim Crockett to move me into that slot and create The Super Powers. Which, for the next two-plus years, we did sellout business wherever we went.
“Someone asked Dusty, prior to his passing, years later did he know [if] it would work when they did it. And he said that nobody had any idea whether it would work or not. But it did, it got over, and so I look back on that switch with wonderful memories. [I’m] just glad, grateful, blessed that I really feel I had the opportunity to experience both sides of it.”
While reflecting on his wrestling career, Koloff discussed his schedule and how he wrestled an outrageous number of matches in 1986. Koloff said that while the schedule was tough, that you got into a groove as a wrestler.
“1986, 454 matches. I’m pretty sure they don’t do that anymore,” laughed Nikita Koloff. “Hard to wrap your head around that, right? There’s only 365 days in a year, how does that work? I don’t even know how many shows they do nowadays, but I can’t imagine the guys wrestle more than a hundred times a year now.
“There was [a schedule]. We were handed a booking sheet every week telling you what town you were in, who you were working against, so you could kind of mentally prepare. And of course, back in those days, it was typically programs. So, I might’ve wrestled Ric Flair for six months and it was just a question of what town I was in, and then what was the outcome, what were we trying to accomplish in that town? You could potentially wrestle back in those days’ night, after night, after night, and even two or three times on a weekend. House shows in the afternoon and evenings and TV tapings in the mornings.
“The weekends were the most grueling because we went on a superstation, and we’d have to be at that studio at 8 a.m. and ready to go and tape three hours of shows for Saturday night and Sunday night. Then we’d probably have a house show that afternoon, an evening show somewhere else, another house show Sunday afternoon, another evening show Sunday night, all in different towns. So, you’re booking it to get to one place from the next. You just got in a groove, you got in a groove and get it.”
Koloff also spoke about the quality of medical care and treatment that were available to wrestlers when he wrestled. He revealed that wrestlers paid out of pocket for their own medical care when they got injured. Koloff also recalled his last match in WCW against Vader, where he suffered multiple injuries that eventually convinced Koloff to retire.
“The business has changed,” observed Koloff. “In those days you were an independent contractor. Nobody had insurance because we were considered very high-risk, so you just pay as you go. If you get injured and have to go to the hospital, it comes out of your pocket. So, there were no doctors on call, no doctors on-sight.
“You were, at least for me, groomed to keep yourself in shape and eat right, exercise, and workout every day. I fortunately never had any major injuries, or career-ending injuries, although I had my share of injuries. My lower back right now, my sacroiliac, gives me trouble sometimes. My neck, the base of my neck, there’s deteriorating discs, bone spurring, arthritis. I’ve got aches and pains. We’re human crash dummies, [so] you’re going to.
“In my very last match against Big Van Vader, he had a reputation of being a bit reckless. And he actually did injure my neck that night. And I didn’t know until the next day I had a pain in my lower abdomen, and he’s a legit 450-to-500 pound guy, and I got a hernia picking him up for a body slam and had hernia surgery. It was over that timeframe from Thanksgiving to Christmas recovering from the hernia surgery, rehabilitating my neck, that I made the ultimate decision, ‘I’m done. I’m done. I’m walking away as a main event wrestler, I’m done.’”
You can follow Nikita Koloff on Twitter @NikitaKoloff1. You can find the full audio and video from part two of Drew’s interview with Nikita below.
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