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By William Hatfield on 1/11/2009 2:06 PM

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"Is That Wrestling Fake?" The Bear Facts by Ivan Koloff with Scott Teal, available from Crowbar Press at  or  

Review by William Hatfield Host of The Wrestling Hotseat on  

Is that wrestling fake? As fans, we've all heard that question. As performers, I'm sure every single individual even remotely connected with wrestling has heard it as well. The Bear Facts, as presented by Mr. Ivan Koloff, can conclusively answer that question definitively and forevermore. The answer? A resounding, NO. Mr. Koloff's foray into the literary world with his debut autobiography, "Is That Wrestling Fake?" The Bear Facts, is a fascinating and captivating look inside the life and times of one of the greatest performers of wrestling or any other entertainment genre. It is a story of the sins of the flesh, mind, and laws of man. It is a story of the greatest spiritual redemption and also the tale of a great man attempting to share his salvation with the people who meant so much to him, even though so many hated him (or at least the character he portrayed).

I was reminded of the great literary books of yesterday with the opening chapters of this book. The life on the farm, growing up in a crowded family, it almost made like a Canadian version of an old Southern novel. We learn of the solid stock and background that Ivan came from, and in doing so, we can develop an appreciation for this man heretofore unseen. Anyone who was raised in a rural setting (and I was) can surely empathize with Ivan and the tribulations of growing up poor, and also how hardships shape a man, oft times in ways that outsiders cannot understand. Ivan is a survivor, pure and simple. He is a man who will do anything and everything to survive and exist.

I think sometimes that Ivan is self deprecating and absorbs too much guilt over his past, because ultimately, he either had the best of intentions for himself and his family or he was acting in self preservation. So if you are looking for some crazy stories, this book is chocked full of the stories of wild nights, wild fights, and crazy situations. From the jailhouse, to bar fights, drug abuse, drunken brawls, this book literally has it all, But, don't let those things steer you away from the positive message of this book. Ivan Koloff, is a wonderful man, and much like many of us who raised alot of hell as younger men, lives to see the error of his ways.

A person cannot truly absorb the message of this book without examining God and their own relationship to God. I think that's a big part of the appeal of the book. Whether Ivan realizes this or not, he speaks as though he always knew that God was guiding his life and destiny. Alot of the books of this genre want to pass blame or speak ill of others, but Ivan Koloff owns up to everything, and in some cases I think he blames himself for things out of his control. Ivan always appears humble and gracious. I believe that writing the book was therapeutic for him, kind of a confession of sorts, on paper, for the world to see.

Wrestling fans of all ages would enjoy this book, not just because Ivan's career spanned such a monumental time period in wrestling, but also because Ivan Koloff is so engaging. Even as a heel he had this magnetism that made people want to see him, and for so long we never heard him, the real him, the man behind the character. It's part documentary and part drama, with not only a great history of the different territories of the wrestling industry, but also a look at Ivan's fellow wrestlers. Ivan gives such insight into the sport. This book has alot of love in it and you can tell how much Ivan genuinely cares about his family, the wrestling business, and his colleagues. From stories about beginning in earnest, to teaming with Superstar Billy Graham, to his matches with Bruno Sammartino, all the way to his days alongside Nikita and beyond, Ivan weaves a wonderful story. It's also an easy read, not too long and not too short. The book can be read from cover to cover easily and then re read at a pace to absorb the stories. This book really is the bare facts, the facts of a man who struggled with the same things that we all do. A man, who despite his self professed criminal mind, was able to overcome the obstacles of life and embrace the love of a forgiving God. And perhaps, that is what the bare facts really are, a man who despite his flaws, entertained millions, became an icon in the industry he loved, and was forgiven his transgressions. Is that wrestling fake? Definitely not, and Ivan Koloff is living proof of that.

You can order your copy of "Is That Wrestling Fake?" The Bear Facts by Ivan Koloff with Scott Teal, for $19.95 from Crowbar Press at  or  

Listen to My interview with "The Russian Bear" Ivan Koloff, where we discuss his book as well as many other topics about his one of a kind career at  on the Newest Audio Interviews Page.