WWE Wrestling Legend The Iron Sheik Has Died at 81
One of the true legends of wrestling, The Iron Sheik, has died at the age of 81.
The news was confirmed via the wrestler's social media accounts, with a lengthy tribute speaking to the warmth for his family and pop culture status attained by the notorious wresting villain throughout the years.
"Today, we gather with heavy hearts to bid farewell to a true legend, a force of nature, and an iconic figure who left an indelible mark on the world of professional wrestling. It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of The Iron Sheik, be we also take solace in knowing that he departed this world peacefully, leaving behind a legacy that will endure for generations to come," begins the statement that can be read in full below.
Born Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri in 1942, the former wrestler leaves behind his wife Carly of 47 years, children Tanya, Nikki and Marissa and son-in-law Eddie as well as many grandchildren.
His wrestling career began in 1972 when he was invited to become a wrestler by promoter Vern Gagne. After training, he then joined Gagne's American Wrestling Association, both working as a wrestler and a trainer for other wrestlers. Eventually deciding to adopt a gimmick, he took on the persona of the Sheik.
Wrestling under the moniker The Great Hossein Arab, he won his first title as part of the Canadian Tag Team Championship with partner The Texas Outlaw. By 1979, he made the transition to the World Wrestling Federation (later renamed the WWE), garnering a title shot against Bob Backlund that he eventually lost. He exited the WWF in 1980, taking part in Jim Crockett Promotions, Mid-South Wrestling, Championship Wrestling From Florida and Georgia Championship Wrestling before eventually returning to the WWF in 1983. A rematch with Backlund this time resulted in The Iron Sheik winning by forfeit after his competitor suffered an injury.
Matches with Hulk Hogan and Tito Santana helped raise his profile, and he partnered with Nikolai Volkoff to win the World Tag Team Championship at the very first Wrestlemania event.
After a 1987 drug arrest, The Iron Sheik once again left the WWF, only to make brief returns in the years that followed. Between 1987-1989, he continued his wrestling career with World Class Championship Wrestling, the AWA and Puerto Rico's World Wrestling Council before finding steady work with World Championship Wrestling. A third run with the WWF started in 1991 before a 1992 exit, and he continued to wrestle in his latter years all the way through a final match in 2010.
After retirement, The Iron Sheik remained a presence in the pop culture world, becoming one of the more popular personalities on Twitter. He also ventured outside the ring to appear in several film ventures, including The Tale of the 3 Mohammads in 2005, Operation Belvis Bash with Corey Feldman and Daniel Baldwin in 2011 and appearances on Robot Chicken and The Eric Andre Show on TV. He also appeared in a documentary about his life, aptly titled The Sheik.
He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by his longtime rival and former wrestling partner Sgt. Slaughter in 2005. See some of the tributes to the legendary Iron Sheik below.