Nikolai Volkoff, real name Josip Nikolai Peruzovic, passed away Sunday morning at age 70, WWE has confirmed.
Born in Croatia, Volkoff first worked for the New York territory -- then known as the World Wide Wrestling Federation -- under the direction of Vince McMahon Sr. beginning in 1968 under the moniker of Bepo Mongol. He departed the promotion in 1971 and returned in 1974 to feud with some of the territory's biggest stars such as Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund.
Volkoff made his way back to the then-WWF in 1984, and this stint would see him gain the most notoriety he experienced in his career. Teaming with The Iron Sheik under the management of the legendary "Classy" Freddie Blassie, the duo captured the tag team championship from the U.S. Express tandem of Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham at the first WrestleMania event inside Madison Square Garden in 1985. In the late 1980s heading into the 1990s, Volkoff formed a team with Boris Zukhov, dubbed The Bolsheviks, a pair of Soviet antagonists.
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What made Volkoff stand out the most as a heel during this time period, and what many fans will remember about his stellar work, was the amount of heat he would draw prior to his matches where he would command respect while he recited the Soviet national anthem.
Following the conclusion of the Cold War, Volkoff would eventually take on the rare responsibility of a babyface in the early '90s, proclaiming that he was now a Lithuanian resident. The last notable storyline Volkoff was involved in as a full-time WWE superstar in 1994 saw him forced to join Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Corporation. The storyline saw Volkoff having fallen on hard times, thus being forced to take on the role of DiBiase's servant as he was constantly humiliated.
After leaving WWE for good in 1995, Volkoff made sporadic appearances for McMahon throughout the years, including taking part as an entrant into the infamous gimmick battle royal that took place at WrestleMania X-Seven in Houston.
Volkoff was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2005.