Chris Markoff has died. He was 85 years old.

The “Macedonian Madman” was known for his personality and his many successful tag team runs.

Born Risto Zelevarov on March 1, 1938, the 6-foot-2 athlete wrestled from the early 1960s to the early 1980s.

Throughout his career, Markoff used various aliases, including Harry Madison, Franz Von Enrich, Chris Jelevarou, and Chris Zeleurov (and a few different spellings of his real name).

It appears he started his career in Melbourne, Australia, under the name Chris Jelevarou, turning pro shortly after wrestling amateur.

He would change nationalities quite frequently, and at various times was Yugoslavian, Russian, Slovenian, Greek, and Macedonian.

Markoff was a tag team champion in many promotions, winning the NWA World Tag Team Titles with Dominic DeNucci, the NWA American Tag Team Championship with Bronco Lubich, the AWA Tag Team Championship with Harley Race, and the WWA World Tag Team Championship with Angelo Poffo as “The Devil’s Duo,” and the NWA Mid-Atlantic tag title with Nikolai Volkoff. Markoff has even won a six-man tag team championship with Mike Riker and The Alaskan.

On the singles side, Markoff had runs with the NWA Brass Knuckles Championship, the NWA Pacific Coast Heavyweight Championship, the NWA Beat The Champ Television Championship and the Pacific Coast Heavyweight Championship.

“I have proved myself in all parts of the world. My records in all these countries show that I buried more men than a grave-digger and an undertaker ever could. I put them away fast and I get the job done right the first time. I have what many wrestlers dream of having. Power and Truth,” Markoff said in Body Press Magazine. My power is able to do away with all these wrestlers and that is my Truth. Many men boast of trying these feats but they never achieve them. I have and will continue to do so.”

Many wrestlers had mixed feelings about Markoff but a few of them offered high praise.

“Chris Markoff is the best wrestler to come from the Midwest,” said Crazy Brooks in a Big Time Wrestling program out of Detroit. “He’s as rough and tough as they come, and I’m proud to call him friend.”

Outside the ring, there is not a lot known about Markoff, but a few had noted that he was financially comfortable. He got into real estate but was said to be a “pretty frugal guy” according to Reggie Parks.

“Chris Markoff holds the world’s record for 1,700 consecutive free meals. He had a guy that he stayed with in Indianapolis who fed him and gave him a place to sleep. Chris loved that,” Parks once said.

Mick Karch and Chris Markoff in 2016.

Mick Karch and Chris Markoff in 2016.

Markoff was not a regular on the national fan fest circuit, rarely making appearances outside of his Minnesota home.

It was long-time Minnesota announcer Mick Karch who announced that Markoff had died, posting on February 10, 2024:

I am so sad to report the passing of a dear friend, a great veteran of the wrestling world, Chris Markoff. I knew Chris for almost 60 years and worked with him so many times. It wasn’t totally unexpected but still is devastating. I can hear his booming voice: “Well, let me tell you… the Russians is coming!” God bless him. Now all three of the trio that The Crusher referred to as the “Dolly Sisters” (Chris, Larry Hennig and Harley Race) are reunited.

In January 2024, Markoff suffered a stroke.

He is survived by his wife, Brygida, and sons Michael and Matthew and three grandchildren.

Funeral information is not known at this time.


EDITOR’S NOTE: His age was corrected to 85 post-publication, as was the addition of his wife and family, and his real name.