Pro-Wrestling Legend Ivan Koloff: I Thought André the Giant Was Gonna Break My Ribs

Even world-heavyweight wrestling champions get spooked in the ring.

Just ask Ivan “The Russian Bear” Koloff, who snagged the WWWF title in 1971.

CAPTION: "He was a good man," Ivan (above) tells us of André. "He turned out to be a good friend."

"He was a good man," Ivan (above) tells us of André. "And in the end, he turned out to be a good friend."

Unfortunately, that was also the era when André the Giant —who’d go on to win the WWF title in 1988 and, five years later, become the first wrestler to be inducted into the WWF’s Hall of Fame—was coming into his own.

Interviewed on Lord Elevation, Ivan recalls doing battle with the man known as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

“André—seven feet tall, 550 pounds, size 26 shoe. I mean, the guy was intimidating. I was definitely in awe,” Ivan, himself just 5-foot-10, tells host John Kline.

“I got to wrestle him three times in single matches, and once in a tag-team situation.

“One time there were three of us. We were supposed to tag in and out—only one at a time—but we all jumped in and, of course, got André a little upset. But he still won the match.

“I definitely knew my place when I was in the ring with André. Because the first time I got in there, I was like 300 pounds,” continues Ivan, whose new memoir is titled Is That Wrestling Fake? The Bare Facts.

CAPTION: The gentle giant in action.

The gentle giant in action.

“And you’re thinking to yourself, I’m not a big guy. More than average, maybe. But I tried to do a little stunt. I tried to pull him around fast.

“But I found out pretty quickly, you don’t do that with André. He backed into the corner and leaned on me—just a little bit. He was letting me know he wasn’t applying a lot of pressure.

“Still, I thought my ribs were gonna break!”

André, who passed away in 1993 at age 46, captured the hearts of moviegoers as Fezzik the Gentle Giant in 1987’s The Princess Bride.

To hear Ivan’s full interview, click here.

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