Pro Wrestling Legend and WWE Hall of Famer The Iron Sheik Dead at 81

The Iron Sheik is widely considered to be one of professional wrestling's greatest heels and helped establish Hulk Hogan as a global phenomenon

Courtesy of @WWE on Twitter

Professional wrestling legend ‘The Iron Sheik’ passed away on Wednesday according to a post on the WWE Hall of Famer’s Twitter account. He was 81.

Sheik, whose real name was Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, was one of professional wrestling’s quintessential heels, playing the bad-guy role against many of the biggest names in the history of sports entertainment, including none other than ‘The Immortal’ Hulk Hogan. A native of Iran, Sheik captured the WWF title in the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, in December 1983 by defeating Bob Backlund.

A month later, Sheik would surrender the title to Hulk Hogan in front of 20,000 fans, sparking the global phenomenon known as Hulkamania. A year later, Sheik’s contributions to the industry would be immortalized with the WWF’s first-ever WrestleMania event. 

“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,” a statement on social media said. “It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of The Iron Sheik, but we also take solace in knowing that he departed this world peacefully, leaving behind a legacy that will endure for generations to come.”

Sheik worked with the WWF on and off through the late 90s, operating as a manager for The Sultan, a wrestler who would eventually come to be known by fans as Rikishi. In 2001, Sheik participated in the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania X-Seven, a free-for-all featuring some of the more outlandish characters in the promotion’s history. 

“With his larger-than-life persona, incredible charisma, and unparalleled in-ring skills, he captivated audiences around the globe,” the Twitter statement continued. “He was a trailblazer, breaking barriers and paving the way for a diverse range of wrestlers who followed in his footsteps.”

Four years removed from his last in-ring appearance, Sheik was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame ahead of WrestleMania 21 in Los Angeles. 

Though he had not been heavily involved in wrestling for more than 20 years, Sheik was still beloved by many and even developed a cult following after his career came to an end thanks to his often hilarious social media posts that regularly poked fun at his greatest rival inside the ring.

Published on June 7, 2023 at 8:13 pm
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