Retired NWA and WCW superstar Nikita Koloff was a recent guest on the Wrestling Inc. Daily to discuss a number of different topics, most notably how he once wrestled over 450 matches in 1986. Highlights from the interview are below.
Says he wrestled nearly 500 matches in 1986:
“1986, 454 matches. I’m pretty sure they don’t do that anymore. Hard to wrap your head around that, right? There’s only 365 days in a year, how does that work? I don’t even know how many shows they do nowadays, but I can’t imagine the guys wrestle more than a hundred times a year now. There was [a schedule]. We were handed a booking sheet every week telling you what town you were in, who you were working against, so you could kind of mentally prepare. And of course, back in those days, it was typically programs. So, I might’ve wrestled Ric Flair for six months and it was just a question of what town I was in, and then what was the outcome, what were we trying to accomplish in that town? You could potentially wrestle back in those days’ night, after night, after night, and even two or three times on a weekend. House shows in the afternoon and evenings and TV tapings in the mornings. The weekends were the most grueling because we went on a superstation, and we’d have to be at that studio at 8 a.m. and ready to go and tape three hours of shows for Saturday night and Sunday night. Then we’d probably have a house show that afternoon, an evening show somewhere else, another house show Sunday afternoon, another evening show Sunday night, all in different towns. So, you’re booking it to get to one place from the next. You just got in a groove, you got in a groove and get it.”
How much the business has changed and how medical wasn’t as easy to come by:
“The business has changed. In those days you were an independent contractor. Nobody had insurance because we were considered very high-risk, so you just pay as you go. If you get injured and have to go to the hospital, it comes out of your pocket. So, there were no doctors on call, no doctors on-sight. You were, at least for me, groomed to keep yourself in shape and eat right, exercise, and workout every day. I fortunately never had any major injuries, or career-ending injuries, although I had my share of injuries. My lower back right now, my sacroiliac, gives me trouble sometimes. My neck, the base of my neck, there’s deteriorating discs, bone spurring, arthritis. I’ve got aches and pains. We’re human crash dummies, [so] you’re going to.”
When he decided to retire after wrestling Big Van Vader:
“In my very last match against Big Van Vader, he had a reputation of being a bit reckless. And he actually did injure my neck that night. And I didn’t know until the next day I had a pain in my lower abdomen, and he’s a legit 450-to-500 pound guy, and I got a hernia picking him up for a body slam and had hernia surgery. It was over that timeframe from Thanksgiving to Christmas recovering from the hernia surgery, rehabilitating my neck, that I made the ultimate decision, ‘I’m done. I’m done. I’m walking away as a main event wrestler, I’m done.’”