Former pro-wrestler The Iron Sheik dies at 81
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The Iron Sheik, a former pro-wrestler who relished playing a burly, bombastic villain in battles with some of the sport’s biggest stars, died Wednesday. He was 81.
The Iron Sheik, whose real name was Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, grew up in a small village in Iran where he embraced wrestling in his youth.
A statement posted on his Twitter statement on Thursday morning said The Iron Sheik “transcended the realm of sports entertainment”; and called him “a man of immense passion and dedication.” No cause of death has been confirmed.
“With his larger-than-life persona, incredible charisma, and unparalleled in-ring skills, he captivated audiences around the globe,” the statement said.
“He was a trailblazer, breaking barriers and paving the way for a diverse range of wrestlers who followed in his footsteps.”
During his career, he donned curled boots and used the “Camel Clutch” as his finishing move during individual and tag team clashes in which he played the role of an anti-American villain for the WWF, which later became WWE.
The Iron Sheik during his competitive days.Credit: World Wrestling Entertainment
The mustachioed, barrel-chested brawler often riled up crowds with his anti-American persona and rhetoric, often alongside tag team partner Nikolai Volkoff, who played the part of a Soviet-era villain.
They won the WWF World Tag Team Championship in 1985 at the first WrestleMania, according to the biography posted on the WWE’s internet page.
The Iron Sheik won the WWE championship in 1983 by defeating Bob Backlund, before losing it later to Hulk Hogan. He also built a long-running rivalry with Sgt. Slaughter, who played the role of an American hero. His last appearance in the ring was at WrestleMania 17.
The Iron Sheik had an early foundation in competitive Greco-Roman wrestling, competing in the Amateur Athletic Union and becoming a gold medalist in 1971, WWE said.
The Iron Sheik in 2009.Credit: AP
In a documentary about his life called “The Sheik,” he said he became attracted to wrestling as a teen and as a grappler in the Iranian Army.
“I was married to the wrestling mat because I was so much … in love with the sport,” he said in the film.
The Iron Sheik’s influence extended to the sport’s biggest stars. Wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who used the term “jabroni” to insult his ring opponents, has credited The Iron Sheik with making it famous in wrestling circles.
In a tweet, professional wrestler Triple H called The Iron Sheik a legend.
“An all-time great performer and WWE Hall of Famer who brought his character to life and transcended our business,” he said.
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