The subject of today’s old school profile is none other than The Iron Sheik. The Sheik is one of the most popular heels of all time. His birth name is Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri and prior to becoming a superstar professional wrestler he was a world class amateur competitor and was a bodyguard for Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi for his homeland of Iran.
Khosrow was member of the 1968 Olympic wrestling team that competed in the Mexico City games. After that he moved to the United States and was the assistant coach of two US Olympic teams in the 1970s. Most notably being an assistant on the 1972 Munich Olympic team.
Later in 1972 Khosrow received an invite from AWA owner and promoter Verne Gagne to train as a professional wrestler. Gagne loved to work guys who had strong amateur backgrounds. This was Gagne’s first camp that was lead by legendary Billy Robinson and included Gagne’s son Greg, Ken Patera, Jim Brunzell and a young unknown Ric Flair. During that time Sheik also helped train the other wrestlers most notably a young Ricky Steamboat.
Khosrow made is is professional debut later in 1972 and went of to perform as a babyface early on in his career. After a little coaching he quickly adopted the persona as a heel which he stayed with for the rest of his career. During this time he brought the Persian clubs, a sport in his native Iran, and challenged wrestlers to do as many swings as him. Being an Iranian bad guy caught on quick because of the of the Iranian revolution. He took on the name of The Great Hossein Arab and by 1979 caught the attention of the WWF where he moved to in 1979.
His first stint in the WWF only lasted for about a year, which was common in the territory days. During the 1980’s he adopted the actual Iron Sheik name in the NWA territories. Which drew him a lot of real life heat because of the Iranian Hostage crisis that was going on. Despite the danger Sheik thrived with the character. He had memorable matches with the likes of Dusty Rhodes, Dick Murdoch, and Tommy Rich, and traded the National TV title with Ronny Garvin. Taking down his opponents with his signature “Camel Clutch” during this time.
In December of 1983 The Sheik returned to the WWF to challenge then Champion Bob Backlund who was in the middle of a 5 year title run. It was a return match that was won by Backlund in 1980. The Sheik won the title this time which set off major point in wrestling history. Four weeks later The Iron Sheik lost the title to the man now known as Hulk Hogan. This the start of Hulk’s first title reign that lasted 4 years and kicked off the Wrestlemania era. The All American superstar taking out the Iranian villain was instant money in the beginning of the cable era of professional wrestling.
The legend has it that Sheik was offered 100,000 thousand dollars by Gagne to break Hogan’s leg and bring the belt to the AWA. Which due to his background a lot people believe that he could have done it but The Sheik stated in many interviews that he is a Muslim and he would not bite the hand that fed him.
After facing Hogan he then had a feud with another American Icon Sgt Slaughter. Continuing the America vs Iran theme they fought in a series of matches that ultimately ended with Slaughter defeating him a Boot Camp Rules match. He then went on to have a successful international theme tag team run with Nikolai Volkoff from Russia. They were known as the Foreign Legion and faced teams like the US Express (Mike Rotunda and Barry Windham) whom they faced at the 1st Wrestlemania.
After this The Sheik had run a singles heel in the WWF until he was released due to an incident with him and Hacksaw Jim Duggan. He and Duggan were pulled over during a New Jersey traffic stop and it was discovered that Hacksaw was high on weed and Khosrow had been doing cocaine. This was troubling for the WWF because these two were on screen rivals when kayfabe was alive and should have not been seen hanging out together. At this time wrestling was still perceived to be real life and not revolve around storylines. Not to mention two prominent superstars to be known to be using illegal drugs was not helpful for the companies image.
He returned to the WWF shortly in 1988 but then left again. He then bounced around to various organizations based on his previous popularity. In 1989, there was a run in the NWA, where he feuded with Sting over the NWA World Television Championship. Due to some of his substance abuse troubles he did not stay in places a long time.
In the early 90s he returned to the WWF as Colonel Mustafa and Iraqi who helped back Sgt Slaughter who was doing a angle as an American traitor. Once again providing some real life heat on the performers. For most of the 1990’s Sheik toured various indy promotions but was mostly unseen from the national spotlight.
In the 2000’s The Sheik was seen in a lot of WWF special appearances such as gimmick battle royals and various legends segments. He has had some recent popularity appearing on national radio shows shooting on other legends like Hulk Hogan and Jim Brunzell.
WWF World Heavyweight Champion
WWF World Tag Team Champion (with Nikolai Volkoff)
NWA Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion
NWA Canadian Tag Team Champion (with Texas Outlaw)
NWA PNW Tag Team Champion (with Bull Ramos)
NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion
NWA Canadian Heavyweight Champion
CWA Heavyweight Champion
NWA National Television Champion
NWA Southern Heavyweight Champion\
Twin Wrestling Entertainment Champion