Josip Peruzovic, pro-wrestler known for playing Russian villain, has died

Anyone who grew up in the 1970s and 80s that was a fan of wrestling is going to be heartbroken today.

Josip Peruzovic, more commonly known as Nikolai Volkoff, passed away on Sunday.

His wife stated she went to give him his medication and found him unresponsive.

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Peruzovic burst onto the wrestling scene in the late ‘60s.

While first wrestling for some much smaller organizations, he finally found his way to the NWA towards the end of the decade.

He hit it big, though, when he startled wrestling for the WWWF in 1968.

Initially, he was wrestling under the name of Bepo Mongol.

After losing the tag team championship in 1970, he would change his name to Nikolai Volkoff and concentrate on singles matches.

He left the WWWF for a brief period but returned again in 1974.

For the remainder of the decade, he was one of the major superstars in both singles and tag team matches.

After yet another departure, Perusovic would return the newly named WWF in the mid-‘80s.

At the time, there was considerable tension between the Russians and the United States, and Vince McMahon used this to his advantage.

Volkoff would square off against several “American” themed characters, including Corporal Kirchner and Hulk Hogan…

Heel to Hero

For most of his career, Peruzovik was the villain in the ring, but that would change in 1990.

Now, his Volkoff character was being played as a Russian defector, which opened up a slew of rivalries, including some epic battles with Sgt. Slaughter.

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While Volkoff continued to have a role in the company through 2016, he had been more or less retired since the early 2000s.

The 70-year-old wrestler is survived by his wife, Lynn, and two children.

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