Most sequels still exist as standalone entries in the continuing adventures of their heroes. Sure, some Marvel movies and Star Wars build on the history of the franchise, and may reference events of recent sequels, but it’s very rare for a spin-off series to make a direct sequel to a decades-old entry from its base series. That’s just strange.

That’s what Creed II is, though. Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is the son of Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), and the first Creed was the story of Adonis carving his own path with the help of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). But Creed II is a direct sequel to the events of Rocky IV, with Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) returning with his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) to challenge Adonis.

Some fans of Creed may not have even been born when Rocky IV came out, and even die-hard Rocky fans might not remember every detail of the 1985 entry. And maybe you just don’t have time to give it a watch! So here is everything you need to remember from Rocky IV before you see Creed II.

Ivan Drago was Russia’s entree into the boxing world

In the ‘80s, Russia wasn’t just a competitor to the U.S. politically. The nuclear arms race was neck and neck, and there was still great fear of the Soviet Union taking over the world (see also Red Dawn). At the height of Cold War paranoia, Drago represented the fear that Russia could invade not just politics, but society with a breed of superhuman athletes using chemicals and high tech training.

Ludmilla was Ivan’s wife who did the speaking for him

Brigitte Nielsen played Ludmilla Drago. She suggested Ivan was entering U.S. boxing as an ambassador of good will (just wait until he kills a man in the ring). At the time, Nielsen was was involved with Stallone and they married at the end of 1995. They also made Cobra together and ultimately divorced. You’ll find out Ivan and Viktor have not seen her for some time when Creed II begins.

Russia wanted to challenge Rocky 

Ivan Drago really came to the U.S. to challenge heavyweight champion Rocky Balboa. The idea was if he could beat the best America had to offer, it would prove Russia was superior. Before Rocky could even consider the challenge, Drago got Apollo Creed’s attention.

Apollo Creed came out of retirement to fight Drago in an exhibition

Five years into retirement, having trained Rocky to defeat Clubber Lang in Rocky III, settling down wasn’t really working for Apollo. Apollo felt somebody needed to teach the Russians that Americans were still the best, although Rocky was believed this was really about Apollo. By his own admission, Apollo couldn’t live without the killer instinct (and also the fame that came with it).

Rocky tried to talk Apollo out of it

At home reviewing footage of their classic bout, Rocky tried to convince Apollo that they’re not those young guys in the ring anymore. He said that can’t last forever. The night of the fight, Rocky suggested they postpone it a few months to give them time to really find out about Drago. Apollo was worried some other challenger might knock him out first, so he went ahead with it.

Rocky was in Apollo’s corner

We didn’t get to see Apollo train for the fight, but Rocky was in his corner ringside and presumably helped him get back into shape. Rocky was ready to call the fight after round one, but Apollo told him not to stop the fight no matter what. Rocky was ready to throw in the towel during round two, but Apollo shook his head and said no. That was his last word.

Ivan Drago killed Apollo in the exhibition fight

Apollo seriously underestimated Ivan Drago. He seemed to spend more time choreographing a dance routine with James Brown for “Living In America” to mock Drago before the fight.  He died in the ring after sustaining numerous powerful blows from Drago, who simply said “If he dies, he dies.”

Rocky went to Russia to fight Drago

Rocky finally accepted Drago’s challenge (even against Adrian’s wishes), but now had to fly to Russia for the fight. Drago’s life was threatened in the U.S., so both the training and the bout had to happen on Drago’s home turf. The Balboas had chaperones (possibly KGB), but Rocky outran them during his cardio training up the mountains.

High Tech vs. Old School Training

Drago trained with the most high tech equipment and chemicals, engineered to be the ultimate fighter. Rocky trained old school in a shed and running up the mountains. Montages set to Vince DiCola’s synth score contrasted the two approaches as Rocky used wood and rocks as weight and the snow as resistance. Adrian ultimately joined him in Russia.

“I Must Break You.”

At the beginning of his fight with Rocky, Drago said, “I must break you.” There was to be no sportsmanship or honorable competition. Russia was out to destroy America, and had Drago defeated two American fighters they might have. “I must break you” became Lundgren’s catchphrase for decades. They even got him to say it again on Chuck.

Rocky won over the Russians.

The Moscow audience booed Rocky as he entered the ring. By round 12, the crowd turned to Rocky’s favor. With the Russian Premier and Politburo in attendance, this looked bad for Russia. Rocky defeated Drago by knockout in round 15 with the Russian audience on his side.

Healing the Nations

In his victory speech, Rocky said if he can change and the Russians could change than we can all change. Even the Premier applauded his speech. Stallone ended on a hopeful message: that we could all be friends, hopefully without sacrificing any more Apollo Creeds in the process.

Where is Drago?

Drago has not been seen in the Rocky movies since 1985. Rocky V, Rocky Balboa and Creed made no mention of him. Years ago, in a fan Q&A, Stallone said that he thought Drago committed suicide after the events of Rocky IV. He must have changed his mind since Stallone is a co-writer of the Creed II screenplay.

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