Nikita: A Tale of the Ring and Redemption

Nikita: A Tale of the Ring and Redemption

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NIKITA: A Tale of the Ring and Redemption
Nikita Koloff, better known as the "Russian Nightmare," stormed the wrestling world as few others have in the history of the sport.  Imposing, immovable, and unbeatable, Nikita left a trail of fallen opponents as he brought the Cold War that loomed over the globe into the ring.

From a hard-scrabble beginning to rings around the world, Nikita Koloff filled arenas, thrilled fans, and captured five world titles in the process.  And then, when he was at the top of his game, he walked away from the sport.

This is not just the story of Nikita Koloff, the wrestler.  It is the story of Nikita Koloff, the man.  It is the story of a remarkable and unique journey.  It is a story that, in many ways, is common to all of us.

"A Tale of the Ring and Redemption" captures a time of upheaval and change in the wrestling business that lay witness to the end of the age-old territories and the dawn of a new global era that made wrestling the most-watched sport and entertainment venue of all time.

Most importantly, "A Tale of the Ring and Redemption" is just that: a story of the career of one of the most prominent wrestlers who has ever stepped into the ring.  It is the story of a man who has touched hundreds of thousands of lives with his own narrative.  Nikita’s story is a story for everyone.


Excerpt from Chapter 2
  Copyright © Nikita Koloff and Bill Murdock
  As you know, my given name is Scott Simpson, but what I didn’t tell you is that my full name is Nelson Scott Simpson.  Scott was alright with me, but I hated Nelson.  I did everything I could while I was in school to make sure no one called me "Nelson."  I would go to any length to make sure as few people as possible learned my first name.  Each year when school started, I would make sure I was one of the first students to arrive on the first day of class.  I would make a bee-line to the teacher to tell her I preferred to be called by my middle name, and not that "other name."
  Much to my credit, I was pretty successful with my plan.  That is, until I went to junior high, where I had more than one teacher.  So on the first day, I did my utmost to be the first one in each class and inform the teacher that I was Scott, not Nelson.  Try as I might, I wasn’t able to reach each teacher before the roll was called, and when I heard the name "Nelson Simpson" called, I would put my head down on my desk, groan, timidly raise one finger in the air, and quietly answer "here."  I still wince when I recall hearing that name in class.


Excerpt from Chapter 3
  Copyright © Nikita Koloff and Bill Murdock   Rick Rood, Barry Darsow, numerous "muscleheads," and I were watching the battle begin when Rick got into it with the Edina goalie, still in uniform.  In fact, both teams were still in full gear as the schools were close by and it was much easier to shower back at our respective schools.  Rick, who had quite a reputation as a boxer and street fighter, would give no quarter nor ask for any.  His father, who had been a Golden Gloves boxer, was known to have been pretty rough on Rick, all of which added to his reputation and pugilistic skills.
  I don’t remember what prompted the fight between Rick and the goalie, but I do remember Rick taking him down and sitting on top of him, and then throwing round-house punches to a prone, albeit well-padded, adversary.  The funniest thing about the scene was the goalie held onto his hockey stick and kept trying to hit Rick with it.  His efforts to fend off Rick’s punches were of little or no avail.


Excerpt from Chapter 5
  Copyright © Nikita Koloff and Bill Murdock   When I arrived, Joe (Laurinaitis) was living with Jake Roberts, who later became "Jake the Snake" Roberts in the World Wrestling Federation.  Talk about living the life of Riley.  As soon as I got there, that is exactly what I did.  I had nothing to do and all day to do it.  My day consisted of sleeping until I wanted to get up, which was usually no earlier than noon, eating, laying around for a few more hours, going to the pool, and then heading to Bill Blanton’s gym to work out.  After working out, I would get something to eat, ride with Joe to whatever town he was wrestling in, and just hang out backstage with the boys.  The next day, I would do it all over again.
  It’s funny that with the world of wrestling surrounding me, and so many of my friends heading in that direction, I never gave it much credence as far as making it a profession.  I do remember one night in the Omni, as I was sitting in the VIP section (thanks to Joe Laurinaitis) and watching the matches, I thought, "You know, I could do this," but it left my thoughts almost as quickly as it came.  Besides, pro football was still my dream and I was having a great time just hanging out and taking it easy.


Excerpt from Chapter 6
  Copyright © Nikita Koloff and Bill Murdock   I remembered the night in the Omni when I had that fleeting thought of being able to do what Joe was doing.  The more (Road Warrior) Animal tried to persuade me, the more the opportunity intrigued me.
  My next question to Joe was, "Do they know that I don’t have any experience?  I’ve never wrestled in my life.  I’ve never been on a mat in high school or college and I certainly have never been in a ring before.  Are you sure they wouldn’t want someone who has experience?"
  "Don’t worry about that, Scott.  There is no problem with that.  Come on down."
  "Okay, Joe.  I’ll give it a try.  What do I need to do?"
  "Just call this number in Charlotte.  Ask for Jim Crockett and he will tell you the rest."
  "Okay, Joe.  I’ll call him right now.  I’ll let you know how it goes."
  As soon as I hung up the phone, I dialed Jim Crockett Promotions in Charlotte.  When Jim came onto the line at his end, I explained who I was.  I felt compelled to tell him, "I told Joe I had no experience in the ring. He said it wouldn’t be a problem."
  "What?" Jim replied, "I was told you had all kinds of experience.  I thought you had wrestled for Gagne.  Are you kidding me?  I need someone who knows what he’s doing.  I can’t believe you would call me and waste your time and mine."


Excerpt from Chapter 7
  Copyright © Nikita Koloff and Bill Murdock   The dressing room was a "who’s who" of wrestling: Harley Race, Ric Flair, Stan Hansen, Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, Buddy Roberts, Ricky Steamboat, Wahoo McDaniel, Tully Blanchard, King Kong Bundy, and the Road Warriors, among others.  They were all sitting around like it was just another day at the office.  To them, I’m sure it was, but to me, it was as if I was entering a parallel universe.  I wasn’t so much in awe because I recognized only a few of the names, but never having really being a fan, I was more impressed with their looks and size than with their reputations.
  I began to question my decision about my new profession.  I had the size, but I lacked the confidence and the look that seemed to fill the room from every wrestler, from the guys in the opening match (known to the boys as the curtain-jerkers) to the main-event stars.  Just the way they carried themselves, laced up their boots, and taped their wrists, reflected the fact that those men were professionals and were serious about why they were in Dorton Arena that night.


Excerpt from Chapter 8
  Copyright © Nikita Koloff and Bill Murdock   Our five minutes of practice in the ring did nothing more than infuriate Jim (Crockett) all the more.  He certainly had a reason to be livid.  He was taking a huge chance with me and had already spent most of the previous day establishing my image and building me up to the fans.  Now he was faced with the possibility of me completely blowing it in a matter of seconds after I entered the ring.
  "That’s it," Jim shouted.  "He’s out.  He doesn’t wrestle tonight."
  Ivan went to Jim and did his best to calm him and to try to change his mind, but Jim was adamant about his decision.  There was no way he was going to let me in the ring, only to see me fall flat on my face, embarrassing not only myself, but Jim Crockett Promotions in the process.  To this day, I have no idea what Ivan said to Jim, but whatever he said, it eventually worked.  That is just another of the countless things for which I have to thank "Uncle" Ivan.
  After meeting with Jim, Ivan came back to the dressing room and said, "Nikita, it’s okay. We’re all set, so get ready to go.  Just one more thing; be careful getting into the ring.  Crockett said if you trip over the ropes getting into the ring, you’re finished."
  Great, as if I wasn’t worried enough about what I was going to do when I got into the ring, now all I could think about was how I was going to get into the ring.


Excerpt from Chapter 10
  Copyright © Nikita Koloff and Bill Murdock   Eventually, Roger (at Gold's Gym) mustered enough courage to approach me and said, "Nik-i-ta."  He stopped and scratched his head as if he was thinking, "How do I say this," and continued: "We need mon-ey.  Mon-ey, mem-ber-ship."  As he was speaking, he kept rubbing his thumb over the tips of his four fingers, like it was some international sign for money.
  That would happen to me frequently when people tried to communicate with me.  I never understood why people think that if they spoke slowly, and broke up the English words into as many syllables as possible, that those they were speaking to could somehow understand the foreign language that they couldn’t comprehend before.  What a brilliant breakthrough.  If only Berlitz had thought of this when he opened his first language school in 1878.
  All through Roger’s effort of trying to bridge the language gap, I just kept giving him a quizzical look.  I would tilt my head from side to side, like a puppy trying to understand its’ master’s instructions.  I would carry on this charade for a long as I could without a smile creeping across my face, which was about ten minutes or so.  I would then walk away, stifling my laughter as I left Roger wading knee deep in frustration.


Excerpt from Chapter 12
  Copyright © Nikita Koloff and Bill Murdock   As I was beating Magnum, I caught the guy out of the corner of my eye.  He was getting up and coming at us again.  I was thinking, "Who is this guy?  He’s nuts!"  It’s one thing to be in the ring with another wrestler, but to be in the ring with a crazy guy is a different matter altogether.  I booted him in the stomach again and he hit the mat for a second time, only this time, as soon as he hit the canvas, he immediately got back to his feet.  I nailed him a third time and yelled for Ivan and the Baron to hold him down while I got my chain.  Ivan and the Baron held him while I hit him with the chain, in the hope that it would end the matter.  Finally, the police at ringside realized the guy wasn’t part of the match and pulled him out of the ring.
  As the three of us turned back to finish the match, the babyface dressing room cleared out and Magnum’s friends all came to the ring to help him, running us out of the ring and back to the dressing room.  I got on the floor and began looking around for my chain, but I couldn’t find it anywhere.
  One of the policemen working ringside came up to me with the chain and said they were pressing charges against me.  I know I must have looked at him as if he had lost his mind.  The police escorted us to the dressing room and I started to speak to Ivan in "Russian" while pointing to the policeman.  Even in the middle of all this craziness, I never broke character.


Excerpt from Chapter 16
  Copyright © Nikita Koloff and Bill Murdock   It was high drama as the seventh match became our "High Noon."  Crockett gave us the week to build up the final match of the series and Terry (Magnum TA) and I played it to the hilt.  The match was held on August 17 at the Charlotte Coliseum with the “best-of-seven” series and the U.S. title hanging in the balance.  That actually was our second "seventh match."  We had wrestled the night before in Philadelphia with both of us being disqualified.  That was planned, of course, to finish the series in front of the “home crowd” in Charlotte.  At the time of the series, our match held such importance that, the following week, Crockett dedicated the entire television broadcast to the match.  He had his television crew there to tape it and they aired the match on TV in its entirety, which was rare for wrestling at the time.
  I think it was the best match of the series with the advantage see-sawing back and forth.  At the end of the match, Magnum had victory in his grasp, as he did numerous times during the match, and was well on his way to what the fans thought would be impossible — coming from three matches down to winning four in a row and taking the series.
  Each of us garnered several near falls during the 45 minutes we wrestled and we had the fans standing up and sitting down for the duration of the match.  Towards the end of the match, Magnum left the ring and gave "Uncle" Ivan a piledriver to render him unable to assist me, a tactic we used often to give me an advantage and help me win my matches.  With Ivan down, Magnum dropped me with his signature move: the belly-to-belly suplex.  Meanwhile, Krusher had made his way to the ring and distracted referee Tommy Young.  Magnum had me covered for a lot longer that the required three-count; reminiscent of the Tunney-Dempsey infamous "long count" as they battled for the world heavyweight boxing championship in Chicago in 1927.  The fans counted out loud 1-2-3-4-5-6-7, but Tommy was too busy with Krusher to pay attention.  As the crowd counted seven, Magnum stood up and walked over to get Tommy’s attention.  As he turned his back and walked away, I wrapped my chain around my arm.  When Magnum turned back around, I lunged and nailed him in the forehead.  When Tommy turned around, he saw me holding Magnum’s shoulders to the mat.  As Tommy made the fatal 1-2-3 count, the fans’ worst nightmare came true.  I became the U.S. heavyweight champion.


Excerpt from Chapter 17
  Copyright © Nikita Koloff and Bill Murdock   Upon my arrival (in Kuwait), the Russian Embassy contacted the promoter and informed him that if a Russian athlete was in Kuwait, either to visit or to compete, he had an obligation to stay at the embassy as long as he was in the country.  The promoter politely declined and suggested it would be better all around if I remained with the other wrestlers.  As much as it made sense to us, it had the opposite effect to the Soviet ambassador.  The ambassador replied with indignation to the promoter’s declining of his offer.  His refusal, and mine as it was inferred, was an insult to him, the Russian Embassy, and to the Soviet Union and its people.  The only answer the ambassador would accept would be a grateful and humble "yes" — and the sooner the better.  As funny as this sounds today, at the time, it had some serious implications.  The "Cold War," even though weakening, was still going on and nothing could have been seen as more of an affront to the Russian officials than to be snubbed by an American wrestling promoter and a Soviet athlete.
  The promoter sent a message to the Soviet ambassador and asked if the two might be able to meet to work something out before things got out of hand.  The Kuwaiti government seemed to be somewhat sympathetic to the Soviet Union.  They certainly didn’t want to upset the emissary assigned to the country and cause hard feelings between the two countries over a wrestler of whom they knew nothing about.  When the ambassador and the promoter met, the promoter explained that I really wasn’t a Russian and that I actually was from Minnesota in the United States.  At first, the ambassador didn’t believe him, but the more he insisted that Nikita Koloff was just a gimmick, the more incredulous the ambassador became.  "If he is, indeed, a Russian, he must stay at the embassy," the envoy demanded, "and if he is not, as you say, then why is he wearing CCCP on his headband and singlet?"


Excerpt from Chapter 18
  Copyright © Nikita Koloff and Bill Murdock   The matches in the Charlotte Coliseum began at eight o’clock.  I always tried to arrive as early as possible, but on that particular night, under the orders of Jim Crockett, I didn’t get there until nine o’clock.  I parked a block away and went in through the back door.  I wasn’t booked on the card, so I entered after the matches had begun when the fans would be in their seats watching the action in the ring and the boys would be in their dressing rooms getting warmed up for their bouts.  I put a towel over my head, tucked it into the collar of my jacket, kept my head down, and tried to keep as close to the wall and in the shadows as possible.
  Normally, I would have headed to the heels’ dressing room, but this time, I made a beeline for the babyface dressing room.  There were strict rules about keeping the babyfaces and heels separate in those days.  If heels and faces were ever seen socializing together in public, they would be severely reprimanded or fired.
  The dressing rooms at the Coliseum were on opposite sides of the building.  That kept the wrestlers apart and allowed them to enter the ring from different sides of the arena.  When I entered the dressing room, the boys all looked at me and said, "Niki, you’re in the wrong dressing room."  I told them I wasn’t, but they didn’t seem to catch on to what was going down.  Some of them began to argue with me.  "No, I really am supposed to be here."


Excerpt from Chapter 21
  Copyright © Nikita Koloff and Bill Murdock   All in all, I was pretty fortunate to do as much driving as I did without having an accident or getting a ticket.  There are more than a few of the boys who could easily wallpaper their entire house with the tickets they received on the road.  In fact, some of the boys had pleading their way out of a ticket down to an art.  The master of this was Don Kernodle.  Ivan, Don, and I got stopped for speeding late at night after a show in Columbia, South Carolina, on July 3, 1984.  We were on our way to the next day’s show in Myrtle Beach.  Don was driving, so the officer asked him to get out of the car and told Ivan and I to remain seated.  Don began talking to the officer and used every trick in the book to avoid getting a ticket, but to no avail.  My jaw dropped to the floor when Don got down on one knee, right there on the interstate, to plead with the policeman.  Don said he couldn’t believe the officer would give a ticket to the "Pride of the USA" (Don’s ring nickname) on the eve of the birthday of our great nation.
  Ivan and I howled at the scene of Don on one knee invoking the patriotic spirit of the officer.  When Don finished his stellar performance, the policeman said, "I won’t write you a ticket, but I would like to see your championship belts."  He turned out to be an avid wrestling fan, as many of the law enforcement officers throughout the South were.  By the time he finished looking at the belts, we had four other state trooper cars parked behind us as "South Carolina’s Finest" sought a look the belts and asked us for autographs.  It was one of the rare occasions, and one of the very few exceptions, in which I broke my heel character, and for good reason.  It never hurts to have state troopers on your side.  It was definitely an Independence Day I will never forget.


Excerpt from Chapter 24
  Copyright © Nikita Koloff and Bill Murdock   I had been in a six-man tag-team match in Norfolk, Virginia, and when I opened my pay envelope the following week, it was $1,000 short.  I found Bill (Watts) in his office and asked him why my payoff was missing $1,000.  Bill accused us of slacking off during the match and that he wasn’t going to stand for it, and to make sure we understood how serious he was, he was levying a $1,000 fine on everyone in the match.  I’m not sure where the money went, but I had a feeling it didn’t go to charity.  It probably went back to the bottom line.
  I was stunned by the accusation.  That was the first time I had ever been accused of not giving one-hundred percent of my effort in the ring, so I took it as more of a personal affront than a professional critique.  If there was one thing I was proud of above anything else, it was my work ethic in the ring, or what the boys call our workrate.  I demanded to know why we were being accused of having a poor match.  When I asked Bill if he had seen the match and why he thought we did less than our utmost, he said he didn’t see the match himself, but Grizzly Smith, the road agent, had told him of our infractions and for him to hand us the reprimand and the fine.  I asked Bill for us to get together with Griz right away and have him tell me to my face that I did less than my best.  Bill agreed and, in short order, found Grizzly, and asked him to come meet with us.


Excerpt from Chapter 26
  Copyright © Nikita Koloff and Bill Murdock   Ric (Flair) called me one day and asked me to come to his home for lunch.  He said he had an offer for me, one he believed I would be interested in hearing.  I had known Ric for a long time and knew he had something up his sleeve, but I liked Ric and trusted him, so I figured I had nothing to lose.  I agreed to meet him for lunch.
  We sat by his pool and, as we ate, I kept thinking about what the fans would make of our meeting if they knew these two bitter rivals were eating together poolside and discussing business.  After some small talk, Ric got to the point.  "Nik, you know they want you to come back.  The fans want it and everyone in the company wants it, too.  What do you say?"   I told him I was considering it, but I didn’t know if I wanted to come back.  My life had changed since I left and I wasn’t sure if coming back was the right thing for me to do at the time.
  Then Ric put an offer on the table that nearly knocked me off of my chair.  "Nik," he said, "if you agree to come back, I will give you the title."
  "The title," I thought.  "He’s offering me the title."  I knew he wasn’t talking about the U.S. belt or any one of the regional titles.  He was talking about his title, the NWA world heavyweight title.  He was willing to hand over the most prestigious title in our sport … the same title held by Frank Gotch, Joe Stecher, Strangler Lewis, Lou Thesz, Buddy Rogers, Gene Kiniski, Dory and Terry Funk, Jack Brisco, Harley Race, and Dusty Rhodes.  Anyone in their right mind would have jumped at the chance.  Anyone, that is, but me.


Excerpt from Chapter 27
  Copyright © Nikita Koloff and Bill Murdock   As my program with Sting came to a close, I began negotiating with WCW for a new contract.  I had decided to negotiate a short-term contract when I first returned because I still wasn’t sure if going back to the ring was the right thing for me to do.  I had been gone for more than two years and I didn’t know if I would like being back on the road or if I would feel comfortable in the ring.
  As the anniversary date of my initial six-month contract drew near, I went to Jim Herd (the pizza man).  As you probably remember, Jim was the person I went to speak with when I decided to leave the business during Mandy’s illness.  I reminded him and other management people that my contract was about to expire, but I was willing to renew it as the company had wanted.  I also told them I wasn’t comfortable working without a contract.  The business had changed so much in my absence, and I knew enough about the business side of wrestling that, without a contract, there was a good possibility I wouldn’t have gotten a fair deal.
  Management kept telling me, "We know, Nik, we know.  It will be taken care of."  But it never was.  For more than a month, I kept asking them to put together a contract.  When they did produce one, we couldn’t agree on terms, and they dragged their feet during negotiations.


Excerpt from Chapter 29
  Copyright © Nikita Koloff and Bill Murdock   Working with Joe (Laurinaitis) was like a walk in the park compared to wrestling Vader.  His size and strength were unbelievable.  Combine those attributes with his total abandon in the ring and Leon White became a very dangerous man in the ring, as I would learn that night in Winston-Salem.
  Vader and I were scheduled as the semi-final match on the card.  We had the customary Vader match: a lot of power moves, clubbing forearms, kicks, and a great deal of pushing.  It wasn’t difficult to sell Vader’s onslaught because, on that particular night, he seemed rougher than usual.  He threw me through the ropes and followed me out to the floor.  As we fought outside of the ring, I knocked him down and was walking back to get into the ring.
  Unbeknownst to me, Vader took about a ten-yard charge and clotheslined me from behind, smashing me in the back of my head.  I dropped to the floor with my head spinning.  As I struggled to stand up, I realized I didn’t have any feeling in my left arm.  It was limp and just hanging at my side.  After he nailed me, he rolled back into the ring to beat referee Tommy Young’s twenty count.  I wasn’t sure what to do, but instinctively, I rolled into the ring after Vader to finish the match.

Acknowledgements by Nikita Koloff
Foreword by Lex Luger
Preface by Ted DiBiase
Introduction by Bill Murdock
1. The Truth
An admission ... The Russian from Minnesota ... Low-income housing
2. Etwin
Surrogate father ... Etwin ... "Nelson" ... The entrepreneur
3. "Hockey is life …"
Sports ... Future wrestling stars ... The Robbinsdale Robins ... Muscleheads ... Rick Rude takes out the goalie ... Foreign object
4. Clarence Darrow
Junior college ... Goody-goody boys ... A trip to the hospital ... Red-shirted ... A bad decision ... Reevaluation
5. Animal
The Legion of Doom ... Joe Laurinaitis ... Football training camp ... Jesse Ventura's Gym ... The Road Warrior ... The sleeper ... Georgia Championship Wrestling ... Gordon Solie
6. Ivan Koloff’s Nephew
Disc jockey ... The phone call ... Jim Crockett Promotions ... Ivan Koloff and Don Kernodle ... Nikita Koloff is born ... Cutting interviews ... Fleabag motel
7. Jesse the Body
Soviet Union invasion ... Sgt. Slaughter disappears ... Jesse Ventura ... The "Who's Who"' of wrestling ... TV taping
8. On-the-Job Training
Five minutes of practice ... Jim Crockett's warning ... Squash match ... On-the-job training ... Critiqued by Uncle Ivan ... Invincible
9. La Machine
World tag team title(s) ... World heavyweight title ... Bob Roop tries to stretch Don Kernodle ... The Canadian Russian ... A study in contrasts
10. The Language Barrier
Good vs. evil ... The dungeon ... Challenge to Ric Flair ... Developing a character ... Learning to speak "Russian" ... The language barrier ... The shooter
11. Rocky Balboa
Sylvester Stallone ... Screen test ... Kayfabe
12. Death Threats
Police escorts ... Winning the world tag team title ... The Rock 'n' Roll Express ... Ricky Morton teaches Nikita a lesson ... Fan reactions and threats ... Unscheduled opponents ... Courtroom battle ... Road Warrior Animal defends himself
13. Dressing Room Heat
Peer acceptance ... Snubs and critical remarks ... The financial plan
14. The Nature Boy
Showdown with Ric Flair ... The set-up ... David Crockett ... The Great American Bash ... The booker ... Responsibility of the champion ... The Nature Boy ... Nikita's first major singles program
15. The Mama’s Boy
The U.S. title ... The rebirth of the Charlotte territory ... Magnum T.A. ... "World Series of Wrestlng"
16. High Noon
"Best of Seven" series ... Foreign heels ... Wrestlers' egos
17. The Soviet Ambassador
Trip to Kuwait ... An order from the Russian Embassy ... Press conference ... Superstar Billy Graham mobbed by fans ... Rikidôzan ... Touring Japan ... Refusing a request from Giant Baba ... Babysitting Terry Gordy ... Wrestling as a heel in Puerto Rico ... Rocks and bottles
18. The Secret
Return to the U.S.A. ... The skill of Terry Funk ... Secret meeting with Jim Crockett and Dusty Rhodes ... Magnum T.A.'s accident ... Kayfabing the boys ... Mystery partner ... The wrong dressing room ... Popcorn matches ... The Superpowers ... Kissing babies and signing autographs
19. The Four Horsemen
The Four Horsemen ... Interaction with Arn Anderson ... Invading Vince McMahon's territory ... Pro Wrestling USA ... Hot tag
20. Leaving on a Jet Plane
Jim Crockett Promotions ... Sports entertainment ... The jet set ... Pecking order ... Dusty Rhodes ... The Crockett Cup ... "WarGames" ... "The Match Beyond" ... Friendship with the boss
21. Cockroaches
Lost in downtown Chicago ... Don Kernodle's stellar performance ... Speeding tickets ... $1,000 guarantee ... Neck injury ... Traveling with Lex Luger
22. David Copperfield
Territory expansion ... Universal Wrestling Federation ... Dealing with Bill Watts ... Terry Taylor and the TV title
23. Sports Entertainment
Corporate raid ... Loyalty to the NWA ... Roots of the WWF
24. The James Boys
Behind-the-scenes power brokers ... $1,000 fine ... Local promoters ... "High Pockets" ... The James Boys ... Skimming from the box office ... An envelope for Dusty ... Double shot on Christmas ... Lower back pain ... Cauliflower ears ... The "price" paid by wrestlers
25. Mandy
Meeting Mandy Smithson ... Hodgkin's disease ... The pizza man ... Taking time off ... Cancer's onslaught ... Trip to Greece ... Helpless
26. Deal Breaker
Meeting with Ric Flair ... NWA world championship ... Return to Minneapolis ... A fresh start with Victoria ... "What's wrong with Daddy's voice?"
27. Return to the Dark Side
Program with Lex Luger ... The "babyface" heel ... Course correction ... Working with Sting ... Contract negotiations ... Resignation
28. The Little Stinger
Return to WCW ... Differences with Bill Watts ... Finally, a contract! ... The beginning of the end for WCW ... Stomach ache ... Koloff Airlines
29. Trust and Responsibility
Steroids ... The two Billy Grahams ... Superman ... Nikita's last match ... Inured by Vader (surprise)
30. Maalox and Rolaids
Visit to the doctor ... Revealing MRI ... Taking time off to heal ... WCW's "concern" for his well-being ... Lloyd's of London ... Career end with no fanfare
31. A Stroke of the Pen
Nikita's Fitness Center ... Multi-level marketing business ... The People's Network ... Lump-sum payment
32. Nikita Meets Nikita
Life in the "real" world ... Legal name change ... Phasing out the Russian accent ... Those wonderful wrestling fans ... A waitress named Nikita
33. The Conversation
Belief in God ... The road to salvation ... Interruptions ... The offering plate ... Altar call ... Missions work in Angola ... Entering the ministry ... Koloff for Christ Ministries
34. Changing Times
A look back ... Retirement


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