Going national and in need of well-known heels for 1983, the WWF brought back Ivan Koloff for one final campaign. He had been away for three years working for other promotions. And this run was wedged between one with Georgia Championship Wrestling and what would be a long-term arrangement with the Crockett/Mid-Atlantic contingent. Managed by Fred Blassie, Koloff appeared at four TV tapings beginning in late January, and compiled about 20 wins to re-establish himself as a title contender. In what seemed to be the prevailing practice, he was immediately booked in matches against champion Bob Backlund. They were programmed for months. Koloff got numerous (28) opportunities in the burgeoning WWF territory, with Backlund retaining the belt.
They initially kept Koloff strong; he got multiple singles’ victories over both Jay and Jules Strongbow. But, as the months progressed, he was shifted into rivalries against Rocky Johnson, Tito Santana, Jimmy Snuka and Ivan Putski. Koloff couldn’t notch a win, except in matchups vs. Tony Garea and Sal Bellomo. There was an angle in the fall done for a feud with Pat Patterson, and Pat came out on top in their encounters. This climatic 1983 “homecoming” was sort of bittersweet, but Koloff brought heel credibility to each battle. Ivan did the ritual final job in MSG to Santana in late December. Overall, his singles’ record was 76-69, and there were 39 non-conclusive finishes, clearly a very busy schedule over his 11 months.
Given the total of clean losses, I don’t see anything in that schedule to suggest Koloff may have been considered as transitional champ from Backlund to Hogan, though he certainly knew the duty well. There likely was more heat for an Iranian wrestler to serve in that capacity than a Russian then. Plus, though in good shape, he was 41 in '83. (Ironically, The Iron Sheik was the same age, and they were both younger than Brock Lesnar is today.)
- Kenneth Mihalik