In the early 1980’s I was still a young kid, and one of my most favorite things in the world was Saturday.
Not because it was the weekend and there was no school, but Saturday was the day my grandparents would come into town from the farm and after they were done their errands, they would take me out to the farm to spend the day with them.
My grandfather and I had a ritual, one that went back a couple of years. We’d get back to the farm early in the afternoon and take care of the chores. We made sure all the work was done before 5 PM, because that’s when the fun would start. Grandma would start cooking supper as Grandpa and I went into the living room and fired up the TV.
At 5 PM every Saturday, Grandpa would sit down in his favorite chair and I’d lie on the floor in the middle of the room and we would watch the AWA – the American Wrestling Association. I would marvel at these giant men beating the ever-loving hell out of each other, and Grandpa would laugh his big laugh at the antics of some the wrestlers. In addition to the AWA, we also watched WWF programming. My grandfather had turned me into a life-long wrestling fan.
But it was real to me. There was no internet, no online rumor or spoiler sites, and the dirt sheets hadn’t yet risen to widespread popularity. What I saw on the TV was really happening. I was cheering for the good guys and booing for the bad guys. When a bad guy raked another wrestlers’ eyes, I got mad. When evil managers cheated and got their wrestler a win, I was livid. Every kid at that time had bought into Hulkamania, and when Andre The Giant defeated Hulk Hogan for the World Title even though Hogan had kicked out at two because of a dirty referee, it was enough to send me into a tirade.
It takes two to tango. Every great wrestling story needs a hero and a villain. For every top good guy out there, there has to be a top bad guy for him to battle against. One of the absolute best bad guys in the business has been The Iron Sheik.
The Iron Sheik, Iranian-born Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, began wrestling in the early 1970’s and was initially a good guy before becoming a villain and recreating himself into the Iron Sheik we know today with that signature look: shaved head and epic boffo mustache, the Iranian headdress and the wrestling boots with the curled horn on the toes along with the desert camel on his trunks.
Iron Sheik would also carry an Iranian flag and became one of the most hated men of all time as he played to ongoing political issues of the time between the USA and Iran, culminating with one of the most legendary feuds in professional wrestling against Sergeant Slaughter, a beloved American patriot.
In addition to his successful feuds, becoming the Master of the Suplex and of his devastating finishing maneuver “The Camel Clutch”, The Iron Sheik has a list of titles and accomplishments from all over North America the length of your arm, most notably the WWF (now rebranded as WWE) World Championship in 1983, and is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.
But not everything was always bright for Vaziri. This is a man who has endured a great deal of adversity to be able to obtain that success. His small village near Tehran did not have most of the basic of amenities, including running water. He fled Iran when his friend died; Vaziri believed he was executed by the Iranian goverment, and because of his association with him, Vaziri felt he may have been next.
With no english under his belt, Vaziri left for the USA and new opportunities. He became involved in amateur wrestling, competing at the highest of levels.
But professional wrestling is a grueling business. Working up to 300 days a year over the course of a couple decades with all the traveling, bumps, bruises, and blood takes a horrible toll on the human body. The stories are many; wrestlers becoming addicted to drugs, both recreational and medicinal to kill the pain and allow them to compete just one more night, to take one more bump, to collect one more paycheck. The show must go on, and if you’re not part of the show, you’re not making money.
So many wrestlers have died well before their time because of these addictions. They over do it, and finally their bodies give out on them due to all the physical and chemical stress.
Vaziri is no different. Fortunately, the addiction has not cost him his life, but he became addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine and this did cause him to have a heart attack but was able to receive medical attention in time.
In addition to the death of his friend, Vaziri’s wife left him. His daughter was murdered. He fell into a deep depression.
Fortunately for Vaziri, his wife leaving triggered something in him. He has straightened out, and with the exception of a beer here and there, he has been clean for a few years.
Vaziri has faced – and conquered – a lot of adversity for his love of his craft.
“Being a wrestler is not an easy life,” he says. “It’s very hard on the body. I loved it, but it is a hard life to live.”
The physical toll one takes as part of a decades-long professional wrestling career claims a lot of victims. Wrestling icon Hulk Hogan has been through numerous back surgeries and has a hard time walking these days after being a near-300 pound man impacting his spine with his finishing leg drop move.
Vaziri, now 73, today faces his own physical dilemma. He lives with constant, agonizing pain. He requires double knee and ankle surgery that he just can’t afford. He had surgery about a decade ago, but that surgery was not completely successful, and he needs more surgery to try and relieve him of the pain. He requires a cane to walk, but even then, he is slow and unsure on his feet, a vast change from the image of the big and strong Iron Sheik we all know and remember.
For the past half-decade plus, Jian Magen and Page Magen have been documenting the life of The Iron Sheik, and are trying to raise funds to cover production costs for the DVD – and to fund Vaziri’s much-needed surgery. The Magens are life-long fans of Vaziri – who is a childhood friend of their father, so this is a dream project for them. They get to document the life of their hero, as well as help provide funding for his needs. The twins have launched a funding project on Indiegogo where you can donate to help fund the cause.
I contacted Page Magen about possibly interviewing Iron Sheik for our wrestling podcast here on A1. Iron Sheik lives with so much pain that he rarely does live interviews, but Page was gracious enough to offer that we submit some questions to the Sheik via email that would be answered.
We sent a six-pack of questions, and the Sheik answered. The questions and answers are below. We chose not to censor anything; the Sheik is a proud and outspoken man, and we believe everyone should be able to speak their mind. I will disclaim that there is strong language, so if that is the sort of thing that offends you, then you’ve been warned.
Our questions are below, with Sheik’s answers in CAPS.
1. You are credited with starting the term “Jabroni”. Where did that come from? Did it just happen or is there a story to it?
JABRONI COME FROM MY #1 MANAGER FRED BLASSIE. HE TEACH ME ABOUT THE JABRONI AND VERY QUICKLY YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE JABRONI YOU DESERVE TO BE HUMBLED AND PUT IN CAMEL CLUTCH.
2. Did you have an opponent that you preferred getting in the ring with? Any favorite tag partner?
NIKOLAI MY ONLY #1 PARTNER. WE WIN GOLD TOGETHER AND HE LOVE ME STILL HE A CHEAP SON OF A BITCH. I LOVE IN THE RING BRUNO SAMARTINO, CURT HENNING, BOB BACKLUND.
3. Who did you respect the most as a wrestler during your career? Who is your favorite wrestler of today?
THE BRUNO I LOVE. THE JYD MY BROTHER FOREVER, ALSO THE BOB BACKLUND I RESPECT HIM. TODAY, I LOVE THE UNDERTAKER, THE ROCK, CM PUNK AND THE BROCK LESNAR. THEY ALL IMPRESS THE LEGEND.
4. Your opinion of Hulk Hogan is well documented. Do you have anything to say about another rival, and one-time comrade Sgt. Slaughter? SLAUGHTER HOTTEST THING IN THE USA BACK THEN. HE MAKE ME BECOME BIGGEST HEEL IN THE BUSINESS. HE KNOW THAT I WAS REAL SHOOTER AND HE NEVER FUCK WITH ME. HE KNOW WE DO GOOD BUSINES TOGETHER AND HE RESPECT ME FOREVER.
5. Do you have any advice for the young and upcoming wrestlers?
DON’T BE FUCKING JABRONI, YOU HAVE TO PRACTICE, YOU HAVE TO LIVE IN THE RING, YOUR HEART YOUR TRAINING YOUR LIFE FOR THE BUSINESS. WRESTLING TOUGHEST SPORT YOU DON’T FUCK IT UP YOU HAVE TO WORK VERY VERY HARD TO BECOME LEGEND.
6. Is there a period of time you could point to for history, that you would tell people “This is The Iron Sheik”? Winning the WWE World Title perhaps? Or the Tag Title Run with Volkoff? ALWAYS I AM THE LEGEND. PEOPLE SEE MY MOVIE AND SUPPORT MY DOCUMENTARY THAN THEY SEE THAT I AM LEGEND FOREVER. THEY KNOW I ALWAYS BE IN THE HISTORY AS THE #1. YOU SUPPORT MY MOVIE I LOVE YOU FOREVER OTHERWISE GO FUCK YOURSELF.
We here at A1 would like to thank the Iron Sheik for taking the time to answer our questions, and to Page Magen for helping us with this! We always respect the legend!
If you would like to support the Iron Sheik’s documentary and his surgery, please visit the Indiegogo page here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/iranian-legend-the-iron-sheik-story.