Nikolai Zigulinoff the "Vulgar Bulgar"

New Zealand Sports Digest, June 1963, Pages 62-63,95

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Weir.“ @ June, 1963 NZ. SPORTS DIGEST Page 63 NIKOLAI ZIGULINOFF. the Vulgar Buigar. shook a ham fist at the audience. ran a hand Jrhrough his shoulder- iength black matting, glared a t a w o m a n ringsider. smoothed his great black moustache —— and turned bare-footed on the referee. The Wellington crowd roared, hooted, stamped and catcalled. car- ried away by nothing so much as the sound, once again, of their own voices. It was razzlin’ time once more in a New Zealand town hall and the traditional format of a so itary duo was creaking the ropes and thumping the canvas as if the tag-team craze had never disturbed a ring hght. For his role as master of cere- monies in this revival of the ancient art, surly Nikolai had credentials. Round the thumperies of Europe and Asia he had been variously billed as “The Hangman,” “The Gorilla,” “The Wild Man from the Mountains." The skee skin in which he swathed himself as e climbed the classic steps to the ring was a pleasant change from the kimonas, the red capes, the leopard-skins and the plain old bath— robes of some of the others who trod those steps before him. “A sort of latter-day Ja et Singh,” someone reminisced Wistfu 1y as dark and stocky Nikolai spread his massive legs in a corner. “Sort of the way Jaget would look today,” the fan added, a little rue— fully now, as Nikolai took away the sheep skin to reveal a Himalayan- proportioned stomach. Nikolai made it plain that he didn’t speak the language. The crowd could see .this from the gesticulations. Veteran second Len Drew took a back seat while a New Zealand- domiciled Pole came to the corner be- tween rounds to discuss the turns of the combat with Nikolai in neutral Russian. Nikolai was understood least of all by the referee, and by his do-good opponent in this openin bout, Steve Rickard, billed With a ack of con- viction as New Zealand champion. But the Bulgarian had something to show beside the sheep-skin drape. Whenever his op orient applied pressure that was-su cientto crack an egg—shell,.ma551ve Nikolai emitted a groan that was almost a perfect impersonation of the fog horn on Wellington Heads. The crowd under- stood that. His first bout was short—lived. Nikolai conceded a fall to feather- duster drop-kicks, hurled his opponent into the_ rin corner a couple of times, grippe him in the hug that bears are supposed to use, and bore him to the. mat. It was a solemn sort of business. The referee patted a count of three and gave Nikolai the fall. When Master Rickard declined to come out for another round, the official made it a big night for crime by raising the villain’s arm. - Later, a local Bulgarian provided a 'verbal bridge for me to converse With "The Hangman," who snilplped open a brief case initialled “ .Z.” (for Nikolai Zigulinoff), trotted out a 12-page book on himself, exquisitely written in French .(separate edition in English) and illustrated. by a French artist with line draWings. It traced the story of Nikolai, from his birth in the sheep town of Ter- nova, in the Bulgarian highlands, to the starry-eyed day he got the mes- sage from Bulgarian wrestling hero and world traveller Dan Koloff that there’s more offering in life than the Bulgarian hills and the flocks of sheep. .But on the title page Nikolai called himself f‘The Bulgarian Shepherd,” and by his noddings and gruntings he made it clear that in his heart this was preferable to “The Gorilla,” “The Abominable Snowman," or any of the other public images. The book cleared up a few points. The dressing-gown skin, for instance, wasn’t any old skin at all. As a. young shepherd Nikolai had a ram that won all the prizes for fighting. That ram won all his bouts, right to the end; but after a final encounter against shocking odds the ram nuzzled up to its masterand died on his bosom. His hide is the one cover- ing Nikolai as he pads to the ring. There was also some folk lore from the mountains. A thrilling_tale of a great stone called the “DeVil’s Rock," which lured travellers to their deaths and was suspected of being respon- 1siblde for a drought which assailed the an . After a community prayer_meet- ing the massive young_Nikolai went to the rock, wrapped his arms round it, flexed his great legs for leverage— and sent the bad-luck omen tilting and then crashing down the hillSide. The rain which followed is remember- eddto this day. Well, that’s what it 53.1 . . . . Nikolai was proud of the book. But it left some gaps. Through the inter- Breter he passed back the word that e was not married. Had he ever considered this means of subduing a raucous female fan_?——had he ever come close to marrying? For the- first time in the interview, “The Hangman" laughed. The inter- preter passed‘on the reply: “He leaves it to you—different towns,_ different women, you know how it is.” (Page 95, please) June, 1963 “THE VULGAR BULGAR" (Continued from page 63) Nikolai was staring vacantly ahead, chuckling amiably. His worst moment in the ring also. turned out to be the most poignant. In a _ wild affray in Hamburg, a fraulein hit him over the head with an umbrella, then was so shocked by: her brutality that she fainted. Nikolai was mainly concerned with hls bruise till he saw the turn of events. The crowd was already in con— vulsions as the Wild Man from Bul- garia. picked up the lady in his black, sweating arms, surveyed the shout- ing mob for a, giddy moment, then quietly strode from the hall with his patient and handed her over to the first-aid attendants. NZ. SPORTS DIGEST Page 95 Nikolai nodded at the memory. :1‘11e black hair that has gone uncut smce the Bul arian Army last got at It in Worl War 11 (I’m sure itlwas the second war) spilled over his worn, lined face. He took off the glasses he wears when reading, and put them away. The crowd had cheered, he said, that once; That was one night he was not “The Hangman,” or ‘The Gorilla,” or anything like that. And the very memory moved Nikolai Zigulmofi. Next night he was back strangling an opponent, shaking his fist at the frauleins in the rin side, and being heated from the sta ium. _._.———-——-._ >4