Nikolai Volkoff's Final Pittsburgh Appearance Was As Remarkable As Bepo Mongol Was Tough
July 31, 2018
By Trapper Tom, Editor, KSWA Digest
“I love Pittsburgh,” said Nikolai Volkoff at Brawl Under the Bridge 2 on Saturday, July 23, 2016. Volkoff had traveled from his home in Maryland along with Paul Jordane. Volkoff had long been on the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) “short list” for featured attractions matches. Opportunities just never lined up until the second Brawl Under the Bridge event.
It would ultimately be remarkable, and Volkoff’s last in a city he truly adored.
Josip Nikolai Peruzović left his native Croatia in 1967 and immigrated to Canada. There he trained to be a wrestler under the legendary Stu Hart and Stampede Wrestling. That’s where he also met Newton Tattrie and together (beginning in 1969) they would become “The Mongols,” one of the most memorable tag team combinations of the era. Peruzovic was Bepo, the 6’4,” 315-pound monster of the group.
The Mongols, together and in single’s competition, traveled throughout the east and eastern Pennsylvania in 1970. On May 21, 1970, Bepo wrestled Bruno Sammartino for the first time. That time-limit draw in the National Arena, Washington, D.C.
In the early 1970’s, Peruzovic moved to Pittsburgh and settled in Green Tree Borough. The Mongols won the WWWF’s International tag team championship in June, 1970 in New York City and left that region in 1971 to wrestle exclusively in the Pittsburgh region. They held the WWWF tag team belts for 368 days. They had won them from Bruno Sammartino and Tony Marino. They lost them to Sammartino and Dominic DeNucci in Pittsburgh.
Bepo Mongol wrestled just about every name in Pittsburgh wrestling at the time. Frank Holtz, John L. Sullivan, Johnny DeFazio and Bobby “Hurricane” Hunt were just a few of the Studio Wrestling alum that Bepo took on.
The Mongols won the belts back on July 2, 1971 and held them until November 12 of the same year. Not long after that, Bepo moved on and Nikolai Volkoff was born. Volkoff too physically moved from Pittsburgh.
In 1974, Volkoff wrestled Bruno Sammartino, and in fact, he became a frequent foe for the WWWF champion’s second reign.
Later, Volkoff would become a premier wrestler in the WWF during the mid-1980’s. There he would take on Hulk Hogan and other top stars of the day and team with the Iron Sheik. The duo would become one of the most recognizable teams of the generation.
After his run with the WWF was over, Volkoff would wrestle on the independent circuit and unsuccessfully run for public office in his adopted hometown in Maryland.
When Volkoff arrived for Brawl Under the Bridge 2 he wrestled in a 6-man tag team match Volkoff teamed with his long-time friend Lord Zoltan and Doink the Clown to take on the Mercenaries—Nick Crane and Sniper—along with Mayor Mystery. Volkoff talked to anyone that day, and he often remarked about how he enjoyed his time in the Steel City and he considered it a home.
Throughout his career as a bad guy, Volkoff was world-renown for singing the Russian National Anthem before matches. When he became a fan favorite, he also changed his tune. He excited accepted the role of singing “Gold Bless America” and his rendition reverberated well off of the steel that makes up the Homestead Grays Bridge.
But back to the match, recapped here: “The shenanigans start early as Doink hits his opponents with a squirt gun. The bell rings when the Mercenaries attack Doink. Volkoff comes in and lays waste to the foreigners. Lord Zoltan is tagged in and he goes to work on Sniper’s wrist. Doink is tagged in and he does more of the same to the South African. Zoltan is tagged back in again and he continues the high-pressure assault on Sniper. Crane is tagged in and he goes to work on Zoltan. Crane feeds Zoltan’s arm to Mystery, who pump handles it. More of the same ensues as he does it to Zoltan again. Zoltan then reverses the measure and puts Crane into the pump handle. That soon breaks up but not before Zoltan can tag in Doink the Clown. Doink gets Crane down on the mat and into a submission move. Crane is able to get to the ropes to break the hold. Zoltan has Crane down and Sniper comes in. He is knocked down. Volkoff comes in and they row boat the Mercenaries’ legs. Volkoff kicks Crane in the midsection and tosses him into the ropes. Volkoff tosses Crane into the corner and tags in Doink, who then is assaulted by Sniper. Crane comes back in and they attack Doink. Doink is tossed down and chocked. Patrick breaks it up at four. Doink is then attacked by Mayor Mystery on the apron. Two-count on Doink by Crane. The Mercenaries miss a double clothesline on Doink but the prankster hits him with his own. Both Volkoff and Zoltan make their way into the ring. Now six men are in. The Mercenaries and Mystery are tossed in together. Volkoff rolls over Mystery and gets the pin! 8:32.”
The match found its way on to ABC television when Michael Koenigs, a producer for ABC news, was traveling through Pittsburgh on a bicycle and interviewed several people—including Volkoff. Koenigs was gauging the political climate as he traveled through Ohio and Pennsylvania between the major party’s National Conventions. The attention garnered through the eight-minute piece helped Volkoff, as well as the Brawl Under the Bridge event.
In addition to that match, Jordane wrestled Jay Flash. Not long after intermission, Volkoff and Jordane were on their way back to Maryland.
Since that last appearance in Pittsburgh, Volkoff had been very busy. He wrestled frequently. His last match was held in May of this year in the Keystone State. He tagged with Hacksaw Jim Duggan against two independent wrestlers from eastern Pennsylvania. Duggan and Volkoff got the win.
Josip Nikolai Peruzović died on July 29 after suffering heart issues. He was 70.