How does this happen? You beat the “Living Legend” Bruno Samartino for the world wrestling championship, you receive the highest honour in the wrestling business from the Cauliflower Alley Club, and you get inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and yet you can’t get inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Why? It doesn’t make sense. How can you justify Koko B. Ware being honoured by the WWE and not Ivan Koloff?
Look at the list of main eventers, icons of the wrestling business, who have not been given their due by the WWE while they are still alive. A few greats come to mind such as The Destroyer, The Dynamite Kid, The Great Muta, Vader, Jim Cornette, Ole Anderson, Demolition, Danny Hodge, and obviously Ivan Koloff.
Koloff drew money everywhere he went. He was big, rugged and believable. Koloff lived his Russian gimmick even though he was Canadian. Heck, he was the third ever WWE champion back when the title meant something, that should have been enough to put him in the WWE Hall of Fame. He was a white-hot heatseeker during the Cold War. He had the power to wrestle other heels and turn them babyface for the night. That was how reviled Koloff was and his heat even made the Four Horsemen good guys. Ivan also made younger wrestlers such as Barry Darsow and Nikita Koloff when he took them under his wing.
What are the criteria for entering the WWE Hall of Fame? Do they have some rubric to judge the value of the candidate? Just for fun I thought I would look at Koko B. Ware and Ivan Koloff. I do want to point out that I have always thought Koko was a lot of fun to watch.
World Titles?: Koko none, Ivan yup.
Drew Fans?: Koko not likely, Ivan affirmative.
Name recognition?: Koko, because of the WWE machine he is still a name bandied about, Koloff yes.
Sang own ring entrance music?: Koko wins this one, even though he couldn’t properly pronounce the word “argument.”
Was relevant in multiple decades?: Ivan wins this, hands down. He stayed at or near the top of the card from 1969 to the end of the 1980s. Koko tried.
I can’t fathom how the WWE has ignored Koloff for so long. I can only imagine a Hall of Fame committee meeting at Titan Towers.
“Hey Koloff would be great in our Hall,” states a staffer.
“Heck, he didn’t have a bird on his arm or wear a bright-coloured clothes,” says another.
“He was the world champ!” exclaims another.
Enter Vince McMahon to the meeting. “I don’t feel like putting in Koloff this year. It just isn’t his time,” the chairman might say. Who knows how it goes, but the fact is Koloff and others are consistently looked over while other head scratchers get in.
Cauliflower Alley Club president Brian Blair had his first match in Tampa, Florida, with his partner Skip Young against Pat Patterson and Ivan Koloff. “Ivan was an A+, all around good guy,” said an emotional Blair. “He was a great friend. I can’t think of anyone who had a bad word to say about him.”
Blair pointed out that he understood how the fans could be so upset about Koloff not being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. “In the WWE Vince calls the shots about who goes into the Hall,” said Blair, who is not in the WWF HOF either. “The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Cauliflower Alley Club is where the fans call the shots. Fans vote on who is honoured.”
“I don’t know why Ivan has been passed over by the WWE,” said Blair. “He made Vince Sr. a lot of money.”
Reeling from the deaths of his friends, George Steele and Ivan Koloff, Blair recalled his last conversation with the Russian Bear. “I talked to Ivan ten days ago just before he went in to hospice,” said Blair. “His voice was a little weak, but he still sounded the same. I figured he would last a few months from the way he sounded but he didn’t.”
When this reporter talked to Ivan two years ago about him possibly getting into the WWE Hall of Fame he was upbeat about his prospects. “I talked to Vince last year,” said Koloff. “I was a guest at the Hall of Fame event last year. I just hope and keep my fingers crossed.”
Koloff can’t hope anymore. We lost another great wrestler and the WWE missed honouring his legacy. He wanted that and I believe fans the world over wanted that as well. Koloff should take solace in knowing that his peers loved him and recognized his greatness through the Cauliflower Alley Club and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Caleb Smith loved it when Ivan Koloff called his house for the first time. He couldn’t believe it was Koloff on the other end of the line and asked him to do his Russian voice just to make sure it was him. Caleb smiled through that entire interview. It sure is nice when you meet one of your childhood heroes and he exceeds your expectations!