Throwback Thursday: The Iron Sheik

The Iron Sheik was (and arguably still is) the greatest heel in professional wrestling.

Born Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, in Tehran, Iran; the man’s early years consisted of amateur wrestling before he had served in the Iranian Army and would then become bodyguard to the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi for several years. After this he would move to America and become assistant coach of two Olympic wrestling squads and the assistant coach for team USA in the 1972 Olympic Games.

Vaziri would then become introduced to the business that became his legacy in 1972 by invitation from Verne Gagne, wrestling for his American Wrestling Association. His initial ring name was “The Great Hossein Arab,” but that would change in 1979 when he became “The Iron Sheik;” playing off of real-life politics (the Iranian Hostage Crisis and the portrayal/views of Arabs in America) to become the greatest villain who ever lived.

In 1983, The Shiek achieved greatness, defeating Bob Backlund for the (then) WWF Championship in Madison Square Garden. This of course was the set-up for Hulk Hogan to go on the roll that he did, putting professional wrestling on the map and beginning the “Hulkamania” era that defined 1980’s wrestling.

The Sheik would team with the Russian Nikolai Volkoff (with whom he  would hold the Tag Team Championship Titles) and eventually a freshly turned heel in Sargent Slaughter, feuding with every and any baby-faced (good guy) wrestler in the locker room until his retirement in the 2000’s. His weapon of choice: the dreaded Camel Clutch. In a time where professional wrestling storyline was thought to be reality, The Sheik was the most hated man in the world – and he loved every minute of it. In 2005, WWE would fully recognize his achievements when they inducted The Iron Sheik into their Hall of Fame.

As immortal as The Sheik was, Vaziri would suffer the actions of his character, enduring a long battle with drugs and alcohol that only got worse after the murder of one of his three daughters . Eventually he would clean up his act and is now living a healthy, sober life with his wife, two surviving daughters and grandchildren.

In recent years,  The Iron Sheik has taken to social media, where he rants and raves about anything and everything. No one is safe from the wrathful Tweets of The Sheik.

This newfound popularity has gotten The Sheik appearances on various television shows (Comedy Central’s “Kenny vs. Spenny”) and acting roles independent films such as “The Tale of the 3 Mohammadsand “Operation Belvis Bash.”

In August 2013, The Sheik’s managers crowd funded over $40,000 to produce a documentary and provide double knee surgery for the legend. “The Sheik” was released in 2014 and is available for streaming on Netflix.

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