THE IRON SHEIK & NIKOLAI VOLKOFF
WWF World Tag Team Champions
Written by Canadian Bulldog
One of my very first memories as a wrestling fan was watching a videotape (on Betamax, no less!) of the first WrestleMania.
While everything was new to me as a fan, one of the stand-out moments (of an admittedly sub-par show) was when The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff captured the WWF Tag Team Championship from Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo (The U.S. Express). With the referee distracted, Sheikie Baby took manager Classy Freddie Blassie's cane and walloped Windham in the head, allowing Volkoff to get the pinfall victory.
After the match, interviewer Mean Gene Okerlund asked Blassie about the whereabouts of his now-broken cane, to which The Hollywood Fashion Plate hilariously responded that he didn't have a cane with him that night. This was my introduction to The Shiek and Volkoff.
The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff worked so well as a tag team because they proudly and unapologetically represented the evil foreigners to a tee. Right from the moment they entered the ring, Nikolai assaulted the crowd with his butchering of the Russian national anthem, while Sheik extolled the virtues of their homelands ("Russia, number one. Iran, number one. U.S.A. - Hock, ptooey!"). That went a LONG way to create the kind of heel heat that would be very difficult to recreate today. Sure, Rusev and Lana attempted it a few years ago, but it didn't carry the same "real" heat as this.
Add Freddie Blassie to the mix as the ultimate "American who sides with foreign wrestlers" heel manager, and you had a really impressive combination that went to war with everyone from the aforementioned U.S. Express to Sgt. Slaughter and Corporal Kirschner.
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Granted, their run as tag team champions was fairly unremarkable, lasting only three months until they dropped the titles back to Windham and Rotundo. But even when they weren't tag champions, they were involved with some of the biggest teams of the era, such as The British Bulldogs (no relation) and The Killer Bees -- and they even faced The Dream Team of Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake in a rare heel vs. heel tag team match. They were as solid a heel tag team combination as one could ask for during that star-studded early WrestleMania era.
The act began faltering over time and had pretty much jumped the shark by mid-1986, when Blassie sold half his ownership in The Sheik and Volkoff's contracts (as well as that of Hercules Hernandez) to Slick. As much as I loved The Slickster, he really didn't belong as the voice of such a menacing heel team. By 1987, The Sheik had been replaced by Boris Zhukov (hardly a fair trade) and The Bolsheviks were born into mediocrity.
Still, The Shiek and Volkoff teamed up after both left the WWF, including a match on the ill-fated Heroes Of Wrestling pay-per-view. They ended up being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in the same year (2005) and teased one final go-round in 2008 on Monday Night Raw against their WrestleMania 1 opponents Windham and Rotunda. The match, of course, never took place, but you have to love the promo they cut backstage with Mike Adamle...