Pro Wrestling
Pro Wrestling

Nikita Koloff (born Nelson Scott Simpson on March 9, 1959) is an American retired professional wrestler, actor, and minister. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, he wrestled as "The Russian Nightmare" Nikita Koloff, which was a play on the nickname of fan favorite "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes (in fact, it was Rhodes who gave him the nickname).

Nikita was brought into the National Wrestling Alliance by his "Uncle" Ivan to prove Soviet superiority. Their ultimate goal was to dethrone NWA World champion Ric Flair. A physical marvel, Koloff was also hailed as the Russian Road Warrior. He was billed from Moscow in the Soviet Union, and then from Lithuania after the fall of the Soviet Union.


He grew up without knowing his father and aspired to play professional football. He started lifting weights in junior high school and built up a massive body, weighing 275 lbs (125 kg) with a 6 ft 2 in (188 cm) frame.

He was a 1977 graduate of Robbinsdale High School where he was an all-conference receiver. Simpson played college football at Golden Valley Lutheran College before transferring to Moorhead State. Simpson suffered an injury playing football but rehabbed to play for Moorhead State University where he suffered another injury.

Jim Crockett Promotions/World Championship Wrestling (1984–1989)

In 1984, Simpson was going to try out for the USFL when Road Warrior Animal, a professional wrestler from the Minnesota area, called him to ask him to become a professional wrestler. Simpson decided to go with wrestling and was told to shave his head bald and to show up. Jim Crockett, Jr., the promoter of the NWA's Jim Crockett Promotions, renamed him Nikita Koloff, the Russian Nightmare, and teamed him with "uncle" Ivan Koloff and Don Kernodle, a turncoat American. Koloff debuted in 1984 with barely any training at the time and won his first match in 13 seconds, with the only edict from Crockett being that should Koloff trip on the ropes, he would be fired on the spot.

Koloff wrestled briefly in Puerto Rico for WWC and engaged in some bouts with Hercules Ayala. He returned with Ivan Koloff in 1986 and faced The Invaders 1 and 3 at a big house show at Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium in Bayamon.

While he learned more about the sport on the road with Ivan and Kernodle, Koloff was booked in very short matches until his skills developed. During television promos, Nikita stood behind Ivan and Kernodle with his arms folded while they took interviews. As his wrestling ability and speaking skills grew, so, too, did the length of his matches and interviews. His improvement negated the need for Kernodle to continue teaming with Ivan and, shortly thereafter, the Russians turned on the American turncoat. Koloff went to great lengths to keep the "Evil Russian" gimmick as realistic as possible. He learned Russian and refused to come out of character, even when away from the ring.

With Kernodle out of the picture, Uncle Ivan Koloff introduced a new comrade named Krusher Khruschev. In December 1984, Jim Crockett rewarded the Russians with NWA World Six-Man Tag Team Championship. Three months later, on March 18, 1985, Koloff and Ivan defeated Dusty Rhodes and Manny Fernandez to win the NWA World tag team title. Ivan invoked the Freebird rule which dictated that any two of the three could defend the titles. Ivan and Krusher lost the titles to The Rock 'n' Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) on July 9.

Prior to committing themselves with Jim Crocket Promotions, The Koloffs feuded with then AWA World tag team champions the Road Warriors in both the AWA and the NWA in a brutal series during 1985. One of their encounters was voted Match of the Year runner-up by the readers of Pro Wrestling Illustrated. The feud was often fought in steel cage Russia chain matches, with lights-out stipulations. The Russian 'chain match', using thicker chains than normal chain matches, was considered a Nikita Koloff specialty.

Continuing to improve, Koloff became a big enough heel to get a match against NWA World Champion Ric Flair at The Great American Bash 1985 on July 6. Koloff lost to Flair and was even attacked by a fan during the match, but he established himself as a superstar in the wrestling business. According to Koloff, it was his favourite match of his career.

The Koloffs went on to regain the NWA World Tag Team title from the Rock 'N Roll Express three months later, on October 13, but lost it to the same opponents on November 28 at StarrCade 1985 in a steel cage match.

In spring of 1986, Koloff started one of the biggest, most anticipated feuds in the history of Jim Crockett Promotions when he attacked NWA United States Heavyweight Champion Magnum T.A.. Following an incident where Magnum hit on-screen NWA President Bob Geigel for demanding an apology after T.A. started a brawl with Nikita during a contract signing (which started when the Koloffs berated Magnum's mother, who was present), T.A. was stripped of his title. The two were then booked to in a best-of-seven series, which took place during The Great American Bash 1986 tour. The winner of the series would be declared champion. Koloff and T.A. wrestled all summer, ending up tied after six matches with one no contest. The final match took place on August 17 and featured run-ins by Kruschev and Ivan and several false-finishes. Nikita defeated T.A. to win the title.

The following month, Koloff defeated Wahoo McDaniel to unify his US Title with Wahoo's NWA National Heavyweight Championship on September 28. He was readying to embark on a feud with Ron Garvin that would last through the upcoming Starrcade 1986. The idea of head booker Dusty Rhodes was for Koloff to reignite his feud with Magnum T.A. the following year. The plan called for T.A. to defeat Ric Flair for the NWA World Championship at Starrcade 86; after a short program of rematches with Flair, T.A. would begin a long program with Koloff that ran through The Great American Bash Tour of 1987. As of the beginning of October, Rhodes had not decided whether to give Koloff the title at some point during the feud.

In October 1986, Magnum T.A. was involved in a career-ending car accident. Dusty Rhodes saw an alternate opportunity. The Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev had been growing in popularity throughout the country with his political reform of Glasnost and Perestroika. The era of evil Russian heels was coming to an end. Rhodes decided to strike while the iron was hot, booking Koloff to become a face and his greatest ally against the Four Horsemen. The historic moment took place on October 24 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Rhodes needed a partner to take on Ole Anderson and James J. Dillon in a cage match. The fans in Charlotte erupted when Koloff entered the cage to help Rhodes. This evening established Koloff as one of the top faces in the NWA.

Immediately after his face turn, Koloff resumed his quest for Ric Flair's NWA World Title and came very close to winning it on several occasions. Flair's Four Horsemen comrades bailed him out almost every time. The two fought to a double disqualification at Starrcade '86 on November 26. After StarrCade, Koloff was firmly established as one of the NWA's most popular stars. On 1987, Krusher, who left WCW for World Wrestling Federation, asked Koloff to join him. However, Koloff declined the offer because he felt loyalty to the promotion and he didn't want to start a new gimmick.

Throughout the early months of 1987, Koloff continued to defend the United States title against members of the Four Horsemen and Paul Jones' Army, which now included "Uncle" Ivan. In March, as part of his ongoing feud with Ivan and Dick Murdoch, Koloff's neck was "injured" by a Murdoch brainbuster on the concrete floor (of course this was a work). On April 11, Koloff and Dusty Rhodes won the second-annual Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament, defeating the Four Horsemen team of Tully Blanchard and Lex Luger in the finals.

As the 1987 Great American Bash tour got under way, the feud between Koloff, Rhodes, The Road Warriors, and Paul Ellering versus The Four Horsemen and J.J. Dillon was booked as the centerpiece. The tour began and ended with two revolutionary matches created by Rhodes, known as WarGames: The Match Beyond. The team of The Super Powers and The Legion of Doom emerged victorious in both contests.

Also during The War Games, Flair and Blanchard reaggravated Koloff's neck injury by delivering two spike piledrivers. The worked injury set up the pretext for dropping the US Title to Lex Luger. On July 11, 1987 Koloff faced Luger in a steel cage match and was defeated after being hit with a chair. This ended Koloff's reign of nearly 11 months, which still stands today as the fifth longest U.S. title reign in the more than 33-year history of the title. Dusty Rhodes booked Koloff to rebound quickly, winning the NWA World Television Championship from Tully Blanchard on August 27.

In the fall of 1987, Jim Crockett Promotions acquired Bill Watts' Universal Wrestling Federation. Dusty Rhodes decided which members of the UWF roster to retain and how best to use the infusion of new talent that he now had access to on an exclusive basis, beginning with a cross-promotional program between NWA Television Champion Koloff and UWF Television Champion, Terry Taylor. The feud began when Taylor, alongside his fellow members of Hot Stuff International, Inc. - Eddie Gilbert and Rick Steiner- attacked Koloff and stole his championship belt. Koloff and Taylor were booked to face each other in a unification bout at StarrCade '87, but Koloff vowed to get his TV belt back before the match. During a TBS World Championship Wrestling broadcast leading up to what would be Jim Crockett's first foray into pay-per-view, Taylor and Gilbert jumped Koloff again, beating him unconscious, and draping his version of the TV title across his limp body. On November 26, Koloff and Taylor battled in what would be the only NWA/UWF unification bout at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. In front of his first pay-per-view audience, Nikita became the undisputed Television Champion by defeating Taylor on November 26. He still has the UWF belt as a trophy from that night.

Koloff lost the NWA TV Title to Mike Rotunda of The Varsity Club on January 30, 1988. During this period, Koloff had altered his appearance somewhat, dropping some muscle mass (Koloff used anabolic steroids during the early part of his career but stopped when he saw where they were leading - he lost his muscle mass due to taking time off to take care of his wife, Mandy) and growing his hair out into a crewcut. He was given the singles main event when he wrestled NWA World Champion Ric Flair at the final Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament. Koloff defeated Flair by disqualification so the title was retained by Flair. He then lost to Barry Windham in the finals of the tournament for the vacant NWA United States Championship, before beginning a feud with Al Perez and teaming with Sting to feud with the Four Horsemen. During the year, he legally changed his name to 'Nikita S. Koloff'.

In the fall of 1988, Koloff was quickly losing interest in professional wrestling due to personal reasons. His wife Mandy was suffering from [Hodgkin's disease and died in the summer of 1989. After Ivan himself turned face when manager Paul Jones went against him, Koloff helped Ivan briefly against Jones' henchmen, the masked Russian Assassins, and then he took a sabbatical on November 27. A booked showdown at Starrcade '88 in December was to pit Ivan and Koloff against the Russian Assassins. Koloff's departure resulted in the Junkyard Dog substituting for him as Ivan's partner. The Russian Assassins were victorious.

Eventually, Koloff eased back into the business part-time. He returned to WCW/NWA as a special guest referee at WrestleWar '89 in match for the NWA World Tag Team Championship between The Road Warriors and Mike Rotunda and "Dr. Death" Steve Williams. Rotunda & Williams were disqualified for attacking Koloff, and later stripped of the titles.

Despite some people's beliefs, Nikita was never offered any sort of contract with WWF. He met Vince McMahon only twice: first time while working out in a gym in Las Vegas (they shook hands and said "hello") and again at Road Warrior Hawk's funeral.

American Wrestling Association and Universal Wrestling Federation (1989–1990)

In late 1989, Koloff wrestling with Verne Gagne's AWA (as a part of a talent share with the NWA) in his native Minnesota. The promotion was in its twilight and given Nikita's stature, Gagne positioned Nikita to challenge then AWA World Heavyweight Champion Larry Zbyszko almost immediately. Koloff wrestled continued in the NWA and the AWA for the remainder of the year and the first half of 1990, headlining numerous television broadcasts and Twin Wars '90, the last major event with the AWA under Gagne. Koloff also wrestled briefly in Herb Abrams' Universal Wrestling Federation, where he reignited a feud with 'Uncle' Ivan.

Return to WCW (1991–1992)

Koloff returned to WCW on February 24 at WrestleWar 1991 to attack Lex Luger. He claimed that Luger stole the title from him in 1987 and he wanted it back. Luger had stolen the title (he was a heel then), but now Koloff was the heel. He went after Luger for the next couple of months, and at SuperBrawl 1991 on May 19, accidentally hit Sting with a chain during a tag team match between Luger-Sting and the Steiner Brothers, starting his next feud. Koloff defeated Sting in a Russian Chain match at The Great American Bash on July 14. The feud continued through August, but before the program was finished, Koloff disappeared again to run his gym, "Nikita's Fortress of Fitness," in Concord, North Carolina.

Koloff returned to WCW in February 1992, this time as a babyface to save Sting from an attack by the Dangerous Alliance. He explained on WCW's syndicated shows that he saw the error of attacking Sting. He was going after Lex Luger, and Sting accidentally got in the way. Because of the explanation, the fans were happy to see him return. Koloff joined Sting and his team (including Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham, and Dustin Rhodes) against Rick Rude, Steve Austin, Arn Anderson, Larry Zbyszko, and Bobby Eaton in the WarGames at WrestleWar '92 on May 17. Koloff was booked in a program with Rick Rude for the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship. Late 1992 found him feuding with another big man, Big Van Vader, who at Halloween Havoc, ended Koloff's in-ring career with a stiff clothesline to the head. The blow resulted in a herniated disk in Nikita's neck. In addition to the neck injury, Koloff suffered a hernia while attempting to slam Vader.


Koloff became a born-again Christian in 1993. He now runs a ministry. He also runs his own small wrestling promotion, the Universal Wrestling Alliance UWA as an outreach of his ministry.

He made a few appearances for NWA-TNA in 2003 as a masked man called "Mr. Wrestling IV" who attacked Dusty Rhodes. He finally unmasked but ended up helping Rhodes against the Sports Entertainment Xtreme stable.

On July 15, 2006, Koloff received the Frank Gotch Award from the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame at the International Wrestling Institute and Museum in Waterloo, Iowa for contributing to the positive public image of wrestling.

Other media

Koloff has written two books: Breaking the Chains in 2000, which is a Christian Living guide and Wrestling with Success in 2004 along with Jeffrey Gitomer, which is a guide to positive thinking in life situations. He also wrote a book about Christian Wrestlers: Wrestling with God, 2001, by Chad Bonham. Koloff also appeared on an episode of America's Funniest People in which his daughter won the $10,000 grand prize. Koloff is also an actor. This is his filmography:

Year Film Role Notes
2007 Stuck in the Past Bartender
2009 C Me Dance Biker
2013 Preacher's Daughters Himself Reality series

Personal life

Nikita married his first wife, Mandy Smithson, on September 20, 1988. Mandy died from Hodgkin's disease on June 14, 1989. At her funeral he met Mandy's longtime friend and his future wife, Victoria. They married on August 17, 1990. The couple had two daughters together, Kendra, who was born in June 1992, and Kolby, who was born in May 1996, while Victoria had two daughters (Teryn and Tawni) from her previous relationship. Nikita and Victoria were divorced on April 23, 2007.

Koloff legally changed his name to Nikita Koloff in 1988.

Nikita is a member of a religious group called Fellowship of the Sword and serves as an East Coast representative.

In wrestling

Championships and accomplishments

  • Legends Pro Wrestling
    • Inducted into the LPW Hall of Fame (4/24/10)

1Koloff defeated Wahoo McDaniel to unify the title with the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship. The title was also won after Georgia Championship Wrestling was purchased by Jim Crockett Promotions.
2Koloff defeated Terry Taylor to unify the title with the NWA World Television Championship. The title was also won after Bill Watts' Universal Wrestling Federation promotion was purchased by Jim Crockett Promotions.

External links

1991 PWI Top 500 Wrestlers
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