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Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri (March 15, 1942) is a retired Iranian-American professional wrestler better known by his ring name The Iron Sheik. He is perhaps best known for ending the near six year World Wrestling Federation Championship reign of Bob Backlund.
Although he was billed as having been a 1968 Olympic medalist, Sheik was actually eliminated during his country’s trials.
WWF/World Wrestling Federation: The First Stint (1979-1987)
After moving to other territories, Vaziri was turned into a heel and would do a few things that would complete his signature look. First, he grew a handlebar mustache, added wrestling boots with the toe curled up (a nod to his ethnic background), and shaved his head bald. In addition to adding the Persian clubs and challenging wrestlers to do as many or more swings than him as part of his gimmick (a sport in his native Iran), he would also change his ring name. Now known as The Great Hossein Arab, he won his first title, the Canadian Tag Team Championship, with partner the Texas Outlaw. He caught the eye of the WWF where he debuted in 1979 and won the first-ever Battle Royal in Madison Square Garden, earning him a title shot at then-champion Bob Backlund, who pinned him later that night in a 30-minute battle. He later feuded with Chief Jay Strongbow and Bruno Sammartino before leaving in 1980.
He would resurface as The Iron Sheik, and in the NWA territories. Playing off of real-life political matters (notably the Iran hostage crisis) and the animosity Americans had for the country of Iran, he moved on to the Mid-South and Mid-Atlantic territories, capturing the Mid-Atlantic title from Jim Brunzell before moving to Georgia Championship Wrestling where he had notable matches with Dusty Rhodes, Dick Murdoch and Tommy Rich, and traded the National TV title with Ron Garvin.
Vaziri would return to the WWF in 1983 as the Iron Sheik and challenged Backlund once again, defeating him on December 26, 1983 for the World Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Championship; Sheik also injured Bob Backlund during a Persian club challenge prior to this title match.
During his title reign, Vaziri held memorable bouts against Backlund, Chief Jay Strongbow, Pat Patterson, and Tito Santana before dropping the belt just four weeks later to Hulk Hogan. The WWF's owner Vince McMahon, Jr. had wanted to take the WWF in a different direction as part of his plan to turn the WWF from a regional promotion into a national one. Part of his plan involved taking the title off of Backlund and put it on the charismatic Hogan, who had left the AWA to wrestle for McMahon, in the process making an enemy of the AWA's owner Verne Gagne. After engaging in a bitter feud with Sgt. Slaughter, to whom he would eventually lose a "Boot Camp Rules" match, the Iron Sheik would go on to team with Nikolai Volkoff as the "Foreign Legion", and under the management of "Classy" Freddie Blassie, won the WWF Tag Team Championship defeating the US Express at WrestleMania I.
WCCW, AWA, and WWC (1987-1988)
In 1987, the Iron Sheik competed in Dallas' World Class Championship Wrestling. He stayed with that organization for only a few months, followed by brief stints with the AWA, where he attacked Sgt. Slaughter during a match and Puerto Rico's World Wrestling Council. In addition to re-igniting his feud with Slaughter and teaming with Col. Debeers, his main opponent during this time period was Tony Atlas, who he feuded with in both WCCW and WWC.
NWA & WCW (1989-1990)
In 1989, he had a short stint in the National Wrestling Alliance, when he feuded with Sting over the NWA World Television Championship. About half a year into his stint with the company, he was sent home.
World Wresting Federation: The Second Stint (1991-1992)
He returned to the WWF again in 1991 as Col. Mustafa and was aligned with former enemy Sgt. Slaughter. Along with General Adnan, the three played Iraqis (or, in Slaughter's case, an Iraqi sympathizer) during the first Gulf War and feuded with Hulk Hogan. Following Slaughter's face turn after SummerSlam 1991, he teamed with General Adnan until the middle of 1992, when he left the promotion again.
Wrestling Tours (1994)
The Iron Sheik wrestled independently afterwards, and went on a wrestling tour to Nigeria in 1994, promoted by Chris Adams and co-sponsored by Pepsi, and featuring former WWF stars Jimmy Snuka, Greg Valentine, Demolition Ax and World Class wrestler/owner Kevin Von Erich.
In 1994, the Sheik tried his hand at strong style professional wrestling in the UWFi in Japan. He lost by tap-out to Yoji Anjoh in about 5:30 (the in-ring action of the UWFi, though tailored to resemble an actual competitive bout, was in fact made up of predetermined outcomes).
Independent Promotions (97-03), Brief WWF Return (2001), & Retirement (2003)
In 2001, at WrestleMania X-Seven The Iron Sheik was the victor of the Gimmick Battle Royal a match between several other popular wrestlers from the 1980s and 90s. Rather than being booed for winning, he was cheered as a fan favorite. He went on to wrestle in various independent promotions to age 60.
On May 5, 2003 Iron Sheik's daughter, Marissa Jeanne Vaziri age 27, was found strangled to death, in her apartment. Marissa's live-in boyfriend, Charles Warren Reynolds, 38, confessed to the crime and was charged with murder.
- Finishing and signature moves
- Camel Clutch
- Tag teams and stables
- Wrestlers managed
- Wrestlers trained
Championships and accomplishments
- CWA Heavyweight Champion (1 time)