The Iron Sheik (Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri) passes away at 81

Photo Courtesy: WWE

Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, better known as ‘The Iron Shiek’ has died at the age of 81.

The announcement was made through his official Twitter account.


Vaziri was originally from Damghan, which is just outside of Tehran, Iran (where he was billed throughout his career), and left the country and uprooted to St. Paul, Minnesota.

Vaziri was a renowned Greco-Roman wrestler that became AAU National Champion in 1971 at 180.5 pounds and served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic team in 1972 in Munich.

Verne Gagne was a sponsor of the Olympic team and would train Vaziri among his long list of stars that he broke into the business with Vaziri’s class including Ric Flair and Ken Patera.

Beyond the AWA, Vaziri wrestled throughout the U.S. with stops in Mid-Atlantic, Florida, Mid-South, and Georgia while also getting a look in New York by Vince McMahon Sr.

The political fallout from the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979 spurred an anti-Iranian sentiment in the U.S, which propelled Vaziri to find the heel persona that guided the rest of his career as the Iranian sympathizer

He returned to the WWF in November 1983 defeating Tony Garea and was catapulted to a title shot against Bob Backlund the next month where he won the championship and ended Backlund’s five-year run (with some interruptions).

Sheik was only a transitional champion, dropping the belt to the heir apparent Hulk Hogan on January 23, 1984, and kicking off the WWF’s national expansion blueprint with Hogan as the leader.

Iron Sheik would be a constant for years with an easy-to-hate character that drew heat and worked in the heavily stereotypical era of the WWF. With Nikolai Volkoff, the pair won the WWF tag titles at the first WrestleMania in 1985.

He was released in 1987 shortly after being pulled over in a car with on-screen rival Jim Duggan and drugs being found in the vehicle and was a major black eye for the company and easy fodder for the media with the enemies caught traveling together.

Iron Sheik had many stints with the WWF over the years with failed comeback attempts and various roles to fill. In 1991, he was re-branded as “Colonel Mustafa” during the Gulf War angle teaming with Sgt. Slaughter and General Adnan and headlined that year’s SummerSlam against Hulk Hogan & Ultimate Warrior.

In 1996, he returned as a manager for The Sultan alongside his former rival Bob Backlund.

In 2001, he participated in and won the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania X-Seven at the Astrodome in Houston, which was his last match of note at the age of 59.

He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in April 2005 with a legendary speech that went off the rails but was one of the most memorable from any of the ceremonies. This amplified persona extended to social media and caught the attention of various media outlets that would have him on to rant about topics and including Sheik appearing on Howard Stern.

His world was struck by tragedy in 2003 when his daughter Marissa was murdered by her boyfriend and all accounts were it shattered him personally.

A&E recently produced a WWE Legends Biography on Vaziri.

We will have a lengthier story on The Iron Sheik in the coming days.

Our condolences are extended to his family members and friends.

About John Pollock 5065 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.