The Iron Sheik, a Hall of Fame wrestler who turned a villainous star within the Eighties, dealing with off in opposition to Hulk Hogan and teaming up with a wrestler who claimed to symbolize the Soviet Union, died in his sleep early Wednesday morning at his house in Fayetteville, Ga. He was both 81 (in keeping with his passport) or 80 (in keeping with him).
The demise was confirmed by his managers, Page and Jian Magen, who mentioned they didn’t know the trigger.
Foreign-style heels are a time-honored custom in skilled wrestling, and the Iron Sheik, whose authorized identify was Khosrow Vaziri, turned some of the recognizable of all of them.
The Sheik drew loosely on his Iranian heritage to construct a caricature of a Middle Eastern villain. He wore a thick mustache, boots with curled toes, and kaffiyeh, Middle Eastern head scarves — which aren’t usually worn in Iran.
At the peak of the Sheik’s infamy, and within the wake of the Iran hostage disaster in 1979, he typically stomped into the ring waving an Iranian flag emblazoned with the face of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Iran’s supreme chief, to tackle stereotypically American wrestlers.
The Sheik’s signature transfer was the camel clutch, through which he sat on an opponent’s again, locked his fingers beneath the opposite wrestler’s chin and pulled up. His unlucky opponent’s backbone appeared to bend like a drawn bow.
In 1983 the Sheik defeated Bob Backlund to win the World Wrestling Federation championship. But his time with the title was quick.
About a month later, on Jan. 23, 1984, the Sheik defended his title in opposition to Hulk Hogan, then a comparatively new face within the World Wrestling Federation (now generally known as WWE), in entrance of a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden.
The match gave the impression to be going the Sheik’s method, and he trapped Hogan in a camel clutch. But Hogan stood up with the Sheik on his again and slammed him right into a nook pylon.
The Sheik flopped to the mat. Hogan launched off the ropes, leaped right into a leg drop on the Sheik after which pinned him. It was the primary of Hogan’s six WWE championships and the start of Hulkamania.
The defeat continued to sting even a long time later, the Sheik, very a lot in character, instructed WWE in an interview in 2014.
“Hulk Hogan, only thing he had was luck,” he mentioned. “I have one bad night, I lost my belt.”
Sgt. Slaughter was a daily opponent for the Sheik, who misplaced a serious match to him at Madison Square Garden later in 1984.
The subsequent yr the Sheik teamed up with Nikolai Volkoff, a heel supposedly wrestling for the Soviet Union (he was really from Croatia), and went on to win the World Tag Team Championship on the inaugural Wrestlemania.
The Sheik additionally dialed up his character’s anti-American rhetoric. He typically snatched the microphone from an announcer and shouted “Iran No. 1! Russia No. 1!”
Then he would glare on the viewers, shout “U.S.A.!” and spit on the bottom.
The viewers response might be so vicious that regardless of his ferociousness within the ring, the Sheik typically feared for his security.
Keith Elliot Greenberg, a wrestling historian and author, mentioned in a telephone interview that he thought followers typically believed the Sheik’s character an excessive amount of.
“The reality was he was actually a very loyal American, and was grateful to the United States for the opportunities it afforded him,” Mr. Greenberg mentioned.
Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri was born in Damghan, a city about 200 miles east of Tehran. His start date appeared as March 15, 1942, on his passport, however he was not sure that it was correct and celebrated his birthday on Sept. 9. His mother and father, Ghassem and Maryam Vaziri, owned a farm that grew pistachios, grapes and different crops.
When he was a boy, his household moved to Tehran and opened a wrestling gymnasium the place a few of Iran’s foremost wrestlers educated. He grew up immersed within the sport.
Vaziri turned a gifted wrestler, and his prominence helped him safe a job as a bodyguard for the household of the shah of Iran. But after the Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler Gholamreza Takhti died beneath mysterious circumstances in 1968, maybe for displeasing the shah, Vaziri left Iran for the United States and settled in Minneapolis.
He wrestled with an beginner membership in Minnesota, successful an Amateur Athletic Union Greco-Roman wrestling event in 1971, and served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic workforce in 1972 and 1976 earlier than making the transition to full-time skilled wrestling.
Vaziri educated beneath Verne Gagne, the promoter of the American Wrestling Association. The thought for the Iron Sheik got here from Mary Gagne, Verne’s spouse, Mr. Greenberg mentioned, although Vaziri experimented with different variations of the character through the years.
In 1975 he married Caryl Peterson, who survives him. He can also be survived by their daughters, Nicole and Tanya; a sister; and 5 grandchildren.
During the Eighties the Sheik began utilizing medicine and ingesting closely. In 1987 he and Hacksaw Jim Duggan — a babyface, as good-guy wrestlers are recognized — had been arrested on the New Jersey Turnpike after cops discovered cocaine and marijuana of their automotive.
The Sheik appeared in a match as an ally of Sgt. Slaughter’s in 1991, and in 1997 he managed one other wrestler, the Sultan. But his skilled profession principally dried up as his drug use accelerated within the Nineteen Nineties. He struggled with substance abuse for a very long time, however in keeping with an article Mr. Greenberg wrote for Bleacher Report in 2013, he had extra lately been in a position to keep off medicine, aside from an occasional beer.
In 2003 his daughter Marissa, 27, was killed by her boyfriend, Charles Reynolds. Vaziri mentioned that he contemplated attacking Mr. Reynolds with a razor blade in courtroom, Mr. Greenberg wrote, however that his household saved him from doing it. Mr. Reynolds was sentenced to life in jail. He died in 2016.
In 2005 the Iron Sheik was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Beginning within the early 2000s, the Sheik introduced a much less inhibited model of his character to Howard Stern’s radio present to rant about totally different wrestlers. He threatened to sodomize rivals like Hogan and used homophobic slurs to explain the Ultimate Warrior.
In newer years the Sheik’s diatribes appeared on social media. His managers typically posted profanity-laced messages in all capital letters on a Twitter account that has practically 650,000 followers. A current one simply mentioned “HOGAN,” preceded by an expletive.
But, the Sheik allowed in 2014, issues had been extra civil when he met Hogan exterior the ring.
“Nobody talk bad about the past,” he mentioned. “I get along with him.”
Alain Delaquérière contributed analysis.
Source web site: www.nytimes.com