The Iron Sheik, Wrestling Superstar, Dead At 81

The Iron Sheik, former WWE Champion, passed away today at 81.

By Charlene Badasie | Published

WWE Hall of Famer, the Iron Sheik, has died at the age of 81. The passing of the former heavyweight champion, real name Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, was confirmed by his family on social media. “Today, we gather with heavy hearts to bid farewell to a true legend, a force of nature, and an iconic figure who left an incredible mark on the world of professional wrestling,” the statement said.

“But we also take solace in knowing that he departed this world peacefully, leaving behind a legacy that will endure for generations to come,” the statement continued. According to Variety, the details surrounding his death have not been disclosed. Born in Iran in 1942, the Iron Sheik embarked on his wrestling journey with a successful amateur career in the Olympics.

He later joined the American Wrestling Association (AWA) in 1972 under the guidance of Billy Robinson. Initially portrayed as a heroic character (babyface), the AWA transformed him into a villain (heel) as the Sheik. During his time in the AWA, the Iron Sheik established his trademark appearance, featuring a bald head, distinctive buffo mustache, and unique toe-curled wrestling boots.

In 1979, the Iron Sheik joined the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), where he made an immediate impact by winning the inaugural battle royal held at Madison Square Garden. During his time with the company, he engaged in memorable rivalries with wrestling legends like Bob Backlund, Bruno Sammartino, and Chief Jay Strongbow.

After leaving the WWF in 1980, the Iron Sheik ventured through various wrestling territories, including Jim Crockett Promotions and Mid-South Wrestling. However, on December 26, 1983, he made a triumphant return to the WWF by defeating Bob Backlund at Madison Square Garden. The Sheik secured the victory with his signature submission maneuver, the Camel Clutch, to win the WWF Championship.

The Iron Sheik humbling Hulk Hogan with the camel clutch

Unfortunately, his reign was short-lived as the newly signed Hulk Hogan dethroned him a month later, ushering in the explosive Rock ‘‘N’’ Wrestling era of the 1980s. Still, the Iron Sheik’s prominence as a high-profile villain in the WWF contributed significantly to the promotion’s growing popularity, and his character became immortalized through action figures.

The Iron Sheik even appeared in the animated series Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘‘N’’ Wrestling in 1985. His heyday in the WWF has been depicted in the NBC series Young Rock, showcasing his impact on wrestling history. In 1991, he returned to the WWF as Colonel Mustafa, becoming a part of Sgt Slaughter’s Iraq sympathizer faction.

Following his retirement from active competition, the Iron Sheik received a well-deserved honor when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2005. In the later years of his life, Vaziri gained widespread recognition beyond the wrestling world. His appearances on The Howard Stern Show and his active presence on social media turned him into a pop culture sensation.

The Iron Sheik is survived by his wife, Caryl, and his children, Tanya, Nikki, Marissa, and son-in-law, Eddie. Since the news of his passing, tributes have been pouring in from WWE superstars of today and yesteryear.