Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Iron Sheik

Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri is better known as the Iron Sheik, a retired professional wrestler. As Khosrow, he was the 1971 AAU Greco-Roman wrestling champion at 180.5 pounds. As the Iron Sheik, he played a vital role in the onset of the hugely successful era of the 80's in pro wrestling.
After wrestling in several organizations, the Iron Sheik resurfaced in the WWF (now the WWE) in early 1983. He won the WWF title from Bob Backlund, who had held the title for nearly 6 years. Four weeks later, he lost the belt to Hulk Hogan.
The story behind the story is that WWF owner Vince McMahon wanted to take the WWF national and he needed a big star to lead the way. Backlund was a 'good' guy and (back then) good guys didn't wrestle other good guys very often. Hogan was going to be the big star, and he was the perfect good guy. So, a transitional champ was needed.
The Iron Sheik was the perfect wrestler for the transition. Backlund was beaten and 'injured' by the ultimate un-American Iron Sheik. Four weeks later, Hogan avenged that defeat by winning the title from the Iron Sheik. An owner of a rival wrestling organization was rumored to have offered $100,000 to the Iron Sheik to break Hogan's leg in that title match.
This is the origin of Hulkamania. Of course, anyone who knows me knows I will now interject Roddy Piper's name into the equation. Piper was the charismatic 'bad' guy equivalent of Hogan. Hogan and Piper started the great successful run of the WWF in the 80's.
The Iron Sheik quickly was relegated to tagteams, mostly with Nikolai Volkoff. He stayed in the WWF for a few years, before bouncing around in a few organizations before he retired.
The Iron Sheik has seen a recent resurgence in his popularity due to his outspoken nature at conventions and his appearances on Howard Stern's radio show.
I met the Iron Sheik at Wizard World in Chicago. One-on-one, he was a quiet, pleasant man. When the crowds appeared, his more vocal, outgoing self started to appear.
The Iron Sheik and me at Wizard World in Rosemont, IL-June 2008.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why is there a picture of The Rock on the table? I don't recall the Iron Sheik having any connection to the Rock.