I was home over the holiday with my mom, my brother, and my then-girlfriend, when we came upon Rocky IV playing. I immediately reacted with great pleasure, as it is easily the most entertaining movie of all time. My mom reacted with horror, proclaiming that there would be no Rocky movies airing in her home. Naturally I looked at her like she was a communist, thinking that well, she was. It then became apparent that no one in the house was aware that Rocky had ended the Cold War. So since I had to share the story with them, I’ll share it with the 4 people who read this blog.
See, back in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev was visiting Ronald Reagan on one of their peace talks. Well it wasn’t all work, and one night Gorby and Reagan were chilling over some drinks when Reagan suggested a movie. What movie, Gorbachev asked?
“Have you seen the trailers for Rocky IV?”
“Oh, yes, I see that. Big Russian. Rocky no chance.”
Reagan said, “You don’t know how Rocky works, do you?”
Gorbachev responded, “Ronnie, he is huge. I know how Russian sports system work. Lots of ster…uh, government money for sport. Man that big cannot lose to American midget.”
“We’ll see,” Reagan said.
So they settled in for the movie. By the time Ivan Drago killed Apollo Creed in the ring, Gorbachev was beaming with Soviet pride.
“See…American, no chance. All that dance and American propaganda…Russia will crush.”
“We’ll see,” Reagan said.
But Gorbachev’s mood changed during the telltale ’80s montage. For one, he was more than a little perturbed that this American movie had implied that Russians were juiced up cheaters (especially since he knew it was true). For another thing, he was a little worried about the plucky American had trained by running up that massive mountain and being able to evade his KGB bodyguards.
But once the fight started it was clear that Gorbachev had nothing to worry about, as Drago was absolutely destroying Rocky.
“See?” Gorbachev said. “American no chance. Russian too strong.”
Just as he said that, Rocky started his barrage, and Reagan got a subtle smile on his face. When the Russian fans started rooting for Rocky, Gorbachev looked terrified. At the point where the Russian premiere sent his sports minister down to yell at Drago between rounds, Gorbachev was seething.
“I no do this. If my people want Rocky, I let them root for Rocky. I never send lackey down to yell at athlete during match.”
Sure enough, Rocky came back do defeat Drago and gave a speech that only a washed up punch-drunk boxer could come up with. Luckily, after 100 minutes of movie time at the White House, Gorbachev was a bit hit with some of the finer scotch on earth (screw the vodka, he figured, I get that out of tap at home).
“Ronnie,” Gorbachev said, “I see light. You Americans not so bad. I make it my life’s work to end Communism.”
The problem was that the Soviet Union had problems getting bread, let alone a first-run Hollywood movie. He couldn’t just come home and tell people he was ending Communism. He’d be thrown out of office and probably executed.
So while Gorbachev worked his best to get the movie for his people, he needed to play it cool. But once the Berlin Wall came down, he knew he had his chance, so he did everything he could to get a copy of the movie to his people. And as we all know, it worked. Oh sure, they’ll tell you it was a coup d’etat that did it, but Gorbachev stepped down on Christmas Day.
Remember, Rocky beat Ivan Drago on Christmas Day.
There was one unintended consequence. See, the Russians really took to Paulie, the Rocky’s drunkard brother-in-law who complained the whole way. Liked the guy so much that they decided they wanted someone like that to run their country.
And that’s how the Russians wound up with Boris Yeltsin.
So next time you find Rocky IV on the TV, turn off your phone, turn off the computer, and tell anyone who was expecting you before the end of the movie that you’ll be a little late. Because Rocky might’ve been a fictional boxer, but he ended the biggest threat to the United States since slavery. And if someone like Vladimir Putin had gotten to run the USSR, he would’ve nuked us all.