Wrestling's Iron Sheik Became Flippant Social Media Voice

Hall of Famer embraced his villainous identity
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 7, 2023 4:08 PM CDT
Wrestling Star Embraced Identity as the Iron Sheik
The Iron Sheik appears during 140: The Twitter Conference LA in Los Angeles in on Sept. 22, 2009. The Iron Sheik, born Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, died Wednesday, June 7, 2023, at age 81.   (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)

The professional wrestling star known as the Iron Sheik, who built on his villainous character to develop a following as a scathing commentator on social media, has died. Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri was 81. His family announced his death, providing no details, NBC News reports. Calling him "a loving and dedicated father," the statement, posted on Twitter, said Vaziri left "a legacy that will endure for generations to come." His final tweet to his 640,000 followers was a profane response to the Canadian wildfires that have made the air dangerously unhealthy in much of the US.

Vaziri was a Greco-Roman wrestler in Iran and at one time a bodyguard for the shah before moving to the US, per ESPN. He became an assistant coach for the US wrestling team in time for the 1972 Olympics. Vaziri started in professional wrestling, assigned a character inspired by the Iranian Revolution. He embraced his identity as the anti-American Iron Sheik by shaving his head, growing a handlebar mustache, and donning shoes curled at the toes. Then came the Iranian hostage crisis. "It was just the right time to establish my character or my gimmick to be the real baddest, baddest wrestler on the Earth," he said in a 2014 documentary, The Sheik.

A WWE and WCW presence from 1979 to 2010, the Sheik's rivals included Sgt. Slaughter and Hulk Hogan. A "Camel Clutch" submission hold was his signature move, per the Hollywood Reporter. He held the world heavyweight belt for a month after beating Bob Backlund at Madison Square Garden in a disputed outcome in 1983, and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Vaziri battled substance abuse, per Yahoo Sports, getting clean after having a heart attack. "He represented how there is no success without struggle," said Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. In 2013, Vaziri said: "I love wrestling and I would do it all again. But it is a very, very hard business." (More obituary stories.)

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