Every once in a while I like to take a trip down memory lane as I look back on how long I have been a wrestling fan. Whenever I feel nostalgic, I'm going to look at superstars and moments in time that had a profound impact on me as a fan and write about them.
I recently came across an article on former WWE Superstar and champion The Iron Sheik regarding his personal struggles. The article, entitled “The Cruel Tragedy of The Iron Sheik,” by Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, takes you through the roller coaster ride that his life and career have been throughout the years. Although it is a sad commentary on the legend's life, Iole’s article is a great read in general and in particular for fans of The Iron Sheik and old school wrestling. I recommend that you check it out.
My take on The Iron Sheik is not so much about how tragic his life has turned out, but rather how remarkable his WWE career has been from my perspective as a fan growing up during the height of professional wrestling’s popularity in the 1980's thanks to the Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection.
As a kid, I found myself passionate about a number of things, with professional wrestling being the biggest. Growing up in New York City, I only had access to World Wrestling Federation (as the company was known then) action. That being said, I was awe struck by superstars like WWF Champion Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Big John Studd, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. There was one superstar in particular that really stood out for me, Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, known to the world as The Iron Sheik.
Iron Sheik was a vile, reprehensible foreign thug who hated Americans and looked down on our country. He was the worst of the worst, a threat that could only be stopped by the likes of patriots like Hulk Hogan, or better yet, Sgt. Slaughter.
This was what he was supposed to be on paper, but to me he was so much more; simply put he was great. From the handlebar mustache to the pointy wrestling boots and colorful cut off pants, Sheik was just phenomenal in my mind. He could do no wrong. Even his name was cool. It sounds bad ass even by today's standards!
Being a Hulk-a-Manic I certainly found myself at odds. Sheik represented everything wrong with the world and was also mortal enemies with Hulk Hogan, but I couldn't help myself. Sheik had that intangible quality that many superstars have used as a stepping stone to success, charisma.
This was in addition to being a great in-ring performer. I think the WWE dropped the ball by not allowing Sheik to take the title from Bob Backlund a lot sooner. Imagine if he had won the title at least a year earlier than he actually did. His run would have been epic.
Although his reign as champion was brief, The Iron Sheik defended the title against greats like Pat Patterson, Chief Jay Strongbow, Tito Santana and last but not least, Hulk Hogan. We all know the outcome of the match with Hogan. It remains a footnote of WWE history. Sheik deserves better than that by the way, but I digress.
Sheik also had a brief run as one half of the WWE tag team champions, teaming with the equally hated Nikolai Volkoff to defeat the U.S. Express, Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo, at the first WrestleMania. Paired with "Classy" Freddie Blassie as their manager, Sheik and Volkoff incited hatred among American fans with their anti-American rhetoric.
The Iron Sheik will always remain a favorite, whether as a singles performer or as a tag team wrestler. His career is the stuff that fans look back on with respect and honor. I can't imagine the wrestling world without this legend, can you?
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