Legendary Professional Wrestler ‘The Iron Sheik’ Dead at 81

Iron Sheik
Ben Rose/Getty Images for Clear Channel

One of the most iconic personalities in professional wrestling and social media history has died.

Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, aka “The Iron Sheik,” passed away Wednesday at the age of 81.

News of his death was shared on his very own Twitter account.

Born in Iran in 1942, Vaziri trained as an amateur wrestler in his home country before moving to the United States in the 1960s. He served as a coach on the U.S. wrestling team in 1972 and 1976.

Vaziri got involved with the world of professional wrestling before the sports entertainment circuit had its explosion of popularity in the early-to-mid-80s. Initially, he was recruited into the AWA by Verne Gagne and did not yet possess his “Iron Sheik” persona. However, amid the growing troubles with his native Iran, Gagne’s wife had the idea of Vaziri adopting a heel personality centered on his Iranian descent.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

The Iron Sheik attends Supercon 2010 on June 19, 2010 in Miami, Florida.

The Iron Sheik attends Supercon 2010 on June 19, 2010, in Miami, Florida. (Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)

The “Iron Sheik” became one of WWF’s most instantly recognizable faces as millions tuned in to watch the growing entertainment sport. At one point, the “sheik” joined forces with Soviet heel Nikolai Volkoff to form the ultimate heel tag team.

Incredibly, Vaziri would wrestle until 2010, when he was 68 years old.

The wear and tear of a generation’s worth of professional wrestling wore on him, however. For a large part of his career, he suffered from substance abuse: mainly crack, cocaine, and alcohol. After an arrest and eventually a heart attack, Vaziri kicked the habit and got clean.

Vaziri is a two-time inductee to professional wrestling Halls of Fame. He entered the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 and the NWA Hall of Fame in 2008.

He is survived by his wife, Caryl, and children, Tanya and Nikki. He also had five grandchildren.


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