In the mid-1980s, one of wrestling’s most reviled heels was the Russian Nightmare, Nikita Koloff. This foreign menace came to the National Wrestling Alliance as a genetic masterpiece, built in a lab and trained by his Uncle Ivan. In the midst of the Cold War, this red invader was out to crush his supposedly inferior American opponents.
NWA Legend Nikita Koloff: A Champion in Faith
The happy conclusion to this storyline saw the Nikita Koloff character become a ‘good guy’
This occurred shortly after his former rival, Magnum TA was injured in a career-ending automobile accident. He would now dedicate his career to his fallen foe. Soon, he was teaming Dusty Rhodes and other babyfaces in their battles with The Four Horsemen. He and Rhodes would go on to capture the 1987 Crockett Cup along the way.
But the man behind the character was not actually a Russian ‘defector’. His name wasn’t even really Nikita Koloff.
He was Scott Simpson, born right here in the U.S.A. in Minnesota. However, he played the character so convincingly by keeping kayfabe in public (even learning Russian phrases to use in public and promos), that he became Nikita almost instantly and overnight.
Success came quickly for Koloff, who admits that he had little training when he stepped through the ropes for the first time
Ironically, that was one of the only requirements for the job. Jim Crockett, Jr., the Mid-Atlantic promoter, simply stated that if Koloff tripped on the ropes when entering the ring, he would be fired immediately.
Koloff was height the height of his career in the mid-late 80s. He was considered one of the top contenders for Ric Flair‘s NWA World Heavyweight Championship. They would clash in several main events, but Koloff never ascended to the top of the mountain.
He would take a lot off when his wife, Mandy, was stricken with Hodgkin’s Disease. Nikita left behind wrestling to care for her. Sadly, she passed away on June 14, 1985. Needless to say, it left a huge void in the big man’s soul, one that would eventually be filled by faith.
After another run in the ring, now with Crockett spinoff World Championship Wrestling, he would leave wrestling to pursue a much higher calling.
In 1993, he became a born-again Christian
He had received a loud and clear message, so he responded. According to Nikita Koloff, it’s the greatest awakening that anyone can experience.
With show business out of the way, it was time to find out God’s plan for him. He found it his ability to discuss the highs and lows of his own fame. How self-destructive it can be, and that his only peace was found through his beliefs.
Then, he decided to share his story of salvation with anyone willing to listen. He began to go on the road, hoping to touch as many lives as he could, in honor of his Savior.
The Bible defines a champion as: ‘One who has gone through the battles of life and has prevailed. Champions are men whose spiritual armor are blood-stained and battle-tested. They are men who have faced failures, defeats, and success in life’s struggles and are still standing in Christ.’
He’s even been joined by fellow wrestling contemporaries who found a new life. Both Sting and Lex Luger have been involved, and many people within the industry respect what Koloff is doing now. He’s trying to open their eyes and change lives. one person at a time, if need be.
To know the man he is today, and can remember him as a heel in the 80s, it’s almost like night and day
Today, Nikita still makes the rounds, speaking at several churches a year, all around the country. He wrote a memoir, Wrestling with Success, and has his own podcast. So, obviously, he’s dedicated his time and effort wholeheartedly.
His story seems to teach us a very important lesson: “You can have all the money, fame, and power in the world. But if you don’t have Faith in something bigger than you? Then, you’ve got nothing at all.”
That faith is what carries Koloff every day and what led him from the ring to righteousness. And he doesn’t mind sharing his story, particularly if it may help others find their true selves and their inner light.
Nikita Koloff will always be remembered as a professional wrestling phenom, a star of epic proportions that blazed so brightly, years can’t erase its luster. But the measure of a man doesn’t come under the bright bulbs of those shiny arenas. It comes from the low times when he is trapped in the shadows.
That’s the time when a man finds his true light. Nikita Koloff, the man, has found that light. Now, he is sharing it with others. And that’s something we can all admire.