Born as Lawrence J. Simon, Boris Malenko was known as Dr. Malenko, Professor Malenko, Great Malenko and The King of the Russian Chain Match. He was among the main Russian heels in the business in the 1960s.
Besides participating in American wrestling, Boris traveled to Japan, where he toured with All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
He was one of the most hated wrestlers ever: Nikolay Volkoff liked to insist that the audience rose to their feet out of respect before he delivered the Soviet National Anthem.
The “evil Russian,” whose career peaked in the 1970-1980s, was actually from Yugoslavia where he was born Josip Hrvoje Peruzović.
Volkoff is best known for his duo with The Iron Sheik, with whom he won the World Tag Team Championship at the first WrestleMania. To form the team with the extraordinary name The Bolsheviks, he joined forces with another “Russian” - Boris Zhukov, who in real life was American-born James Kirk Harrell.
At first, Canadian wrestler Oreal Donald Perras played the role of an evil Irishman, but then he was glorified in the business as the Russian Bear Ivan Koloff.
On Jan. 18, 1971, he defeated Bruno Sammartino, ending Bruno’s record setting seven-year title reign in WWE. Until now Sammartino’s fans can’t forgive him for this.
Koloff founded the most evil team in the 1980s - The Russians, where he joined forces with Krusher Kruschev and his “nephew” - Nikita Koloff.
Nelson Scott Simpson from Minneapolis, Minnesota, was better known in the ring as The Russian Nightmare, Nikita Koloff. He was often associated with his “uncle” and co-member in The Russians Ivan Koloff. This didn't, however, prevent them splitting once and becoming opponents.
Despite the Cold War’s tensions, Nikita was one of the most popular and beloved “Russian” competitors in American wrestling.
Despite winning several AWA and NWA Championships Boris Zhukov (James Kirk Harrell) never set the world on fire. Even participation in The Bolsheviks with famous Nikolay Volkoff brought him little success.
Boris was often ridiculed by Vince McMahon and other WWF commentators for his large head but was still warmly greeted by the audience.
Zhukov retired in 1991, the year the Soviet Union collapsed. But this, of course, was a coincidence.
Ukrainian giant Oleg Prudius (6 ft 8 in and 302 lb), known as Vladimir Kozlov in the ring, terrorized competitors in the 2000s. The Moscow Mauler was trained in several different fighting styles — including Sambo, judo, and kickboxing.
A brutal, no-nonsense assassin, Kozlov spent five years in WWE, battling top stars like Jeff Hardy, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, and Triple H.
The first and only Bulgarian in the WWE, Miroslav Barnyashev, simply known as Rusev, is challenging under the Bulgarian flag now. Several years ago, however, his story was different. Rusev was known by the audience as an anti-American Russophile, who permanently resided in the Russian Federation, was a fan of Putin’s, and the main defender of Mother Russia’s honor in American wrestling.
Especially remarkable was Rusev’s entrance at the Wrestlemania 31 in 2015. He was brought to the arena by a Soviet tank, accompanied by an artillery cannonade, the Russian anthem, as well as by “Russian soldiers,” who were carrying a huge Russian flag.
One of the few true Russian wrestlers in the WWE, Viktor Romanoff (real name - Pavel Kozlov) was born and raised in Moscow. After seeing American wrestling on TV he found the love of his life. At the age of 21, Pavel moved to the U.S. to start a long and hard way in the American Professional Wrestling.
The dream finally came true, and recently Viktor Romanoff, known as the Siberian Fighting Spirit, held his first fights in the rings of Smackdown and RAW.
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