Wrestling legend, Former WWE Champion Iron Sheik, and the LAST NWA WWF World Heavyweight Champion have passed away, as reported by senior wrestling journalist Bill Apter.
The Hall of Famer was one of the greatest ever to lace a pair of wrestling boots. He won the World Heavyweight Championship in late 1983 after defeating Bob Backland. The Iron Shiek went on to have a high-profile match against Hulk Hogan in January 1984 at Madison Square Garden for the gold.
At the show, Hogan defeated Sheik, which is considered the beginning of “Hulkamania,” the greatest babyface run in wrestling history. Apart from that, The Iron Sheik also won the WWE Tag Team Championships alongside Nikolai Volkaff…
The infamous Twitter Account, ran by perhaps the man himself, had this statement;
The “Iron Sheik” is one of the most iconic villains in WWE history – – but the arduous journey of the man, Hossein Khosrow Vaziri has never been told. This one-time bodyguard for the Shah of Iran, escaped his country in fear for his life. Without the ability to speak any English at all, he somehow transformed himself into one of the most hated and beloved characters of all time. As the “Iron Sheik” he represented the ultimate threat but Khosrow was living the American Dream along with his beautiful wife and daughters. But, despite the fame and fortune, struggles with addiction and family tragedy all played a part in his incredible story.
As Lew Freedman’s Pro Wrestling: A Comprehensive Reference Guide tells us, the 1980s was not a good time to be a famous foreign villain. The Iron Sheik was able to draw heat and become successful, but it reflected pretty badly on his personal life. The Sheik was such a successful baddie that, as Yahoo! Sports notes, he earned up to $500,000 a year in his heyday — somewhere between $1.2 and $1.6 million in today’s money, adjusted for inflation and depending on the year. Unfortunately, this money came at a cost that was far higher than getting booed on a nightly basis. Multiple wrestling fans attempted to beat the Sheik up or even stab him. In an interview with Vice, he recalled one instance when he had to leave a venue hiding in an ambulance, terrified of the mobs outside. Things got so bad that he started to fear for the safety of his family and stopped taking them on the road.
A big reason why the Sheik was such a good villain — and why people sometimes wanted a piece of him — is the simple fact that he hails from Iran. In 1979, the country’s revolutionaries held 52 American citizens, hostage, for no less than 444 days, which didn’t do any favours for Iran’s reputation in the U.S.