Ivan "The Russian Bear" Koloff, Professional Wrestler, Dies at 74

Ivan Koloff

The bearded grappler became a notorious villain, and fan favorite, in the wrestling world during the 1970s and 1980s.

Ivan Koloff, who rose to fame as the villainous "Russian Bear" in the WWWF during the 1970s and 1980s, has died of liver cancer, according to a statement from World Wrestling Entertainment. He was 74. 

Though Koloff's wrestling persona reigned from the Ukraine, the wrestler was actually born and raised in Canada.

Beginning in the late '60s, Koloff cultivated his "Russian Bear" alter-ego in the International Wrestling Association before moving to the WWWF in 1969. In 1971, Koloff defeated WWWF World Heavyweight Champion Bruno Sammartino for the belt.

In the 1980s, under a Reagan presidency and at the height of the Cold War, Koloff rose to stardom as villain in the NWA as part of the tag team duo, "The Russians." 

The news of Koloff's death comes just a day after the death of fellow '80s wrestling icon George "The Animal" Steele. 

Koloff was an ordained minister and also an author, who wrote the 2007 autobiography, Is That Wrestling Fake? The Bear Facts