Sunday was a sad day for fans of World Wrestling Entertainment as two of its former superstars, Nikolai Volkoff and Brian Lawler, died.
WWE Hall of Famer Nikolai Volkoff, real name Josip Nikolai Peruzovic, died at his home in Maryland. His wife, Lynn, said that he had been in the hospital with heart problems, had been released recently and that when she went to give him medicine he was not responsive.
As Volkoff, Peruzovic was best known as a former tag team champion with The Iron Sheik during the height of the Cold War. Volkoff was billed as being from Russia (Peruzovic was actually born in Yugoslavia), but drew some of the loudest boos and catcalls of the era when he would tell the ring announcer to make this announcement: “Mr. Volkoff asks that you please rise as he sings the Soviet national anthem.” His partner, The Iron Sheik, was billed from Iran.
Late in his WWE career, Volkoff became a good guy and teamed with Hacksaw Jim Duggan.
“As one of the greatest villains sports-entertainment had ever seen, Volkoff’s infamous rendition of the Soviet National Anthem before his matches made him an instant icon in the eyes of the WWE Universe as a Superstar they truly loved to hate,” WWE said in a statement. “Volkoff will go down in history as one of the greatest villains of all time. Although Volkoff’s actions can be imitated, they will never be duplicated.”
Lawler apparently attempted to commit suicide late Saturday night in a jail cell outside Memphis. He was rushed to the hospital where he died Sunday.
Lawler was the son of WWE Hall of Famer Jerry “the King” Lawler. As Brian Christopher and also as Grandmaster Sexay, he was part of the “Too Cool” tag-team with Rikishi and Scotty 2 Hotty.
He had been arrested earlier this month and charged with DUI and evading arrest. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released a statement Sunday saying, “Corrections officers administered CPR until paramedics arrived. Lawler was transported to Regional One Medical Center in Memphis where he died Sunday afternoon.”