Former WWF champion Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, known worldwide as “The Iron Sheik,” passed away at the age of 81. The sad news of Khosrow’s demise was shared through an announcement on his official Twitter page on Wednesday, leaving the wrestling community and fans mourning the loss of a legendary figure.
Hailing from Iran, Khosrow initially showcased his skills as an amateur wrestler, vying for a spot on Iran’s 1968 Olympic Greco-Roman team. Despite falling short of securing a position, he embarked on a new chapter by relocating to the United States, where he continued to pursue his passion for wrestling. Alongside competing, Khosrow also devoted himself to coaching the U.S. Olympic team, thereby nurturing the next generation of wrestling talent.
Under the tutelage of accomplished wrestler Verne Gagne, Khosrow transitioned into the realm of professional wrestling. He embarked on a remarkable journey, wrestling for various prominent territories across the United States. Notably, he embraced the persona of an Iranian antagonist, complete with his distinctive curled-toe boots, and became a formidable presence in the squared circle.
In a monumental return to the WWF in 1983, Khosrow engaged in a riveting program with Bob Backlund, who held the WWF championship for a record-breaking 1,470 days. On December 26, 1983, Khosrow clinched the championship when Backlund’s corner threw in the towel while Khosrow had his signature finishing move, the camel clutch, tightly locked in. His reign as champion served as a pivotal transition, enabling the title to be passed on to the charismatic Hulk Hogan, who defeated Khosrow 28 days later to claim the championship.
Even after his reign as champion, Khosrow continued to thrive in the WWF, forming a memorable tag team partnership with Nikolai Volkoff and eventually capturing the WWF tag team championships.
However, Khosrow’s career was not without its challenges. In 1987, he faced legal troubles due to a drug-related arrest while traveling with his on-screen rival, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. This incident ultimately led to Khosrow’s departure from the WWF. Although he made brief returns to the promotion in 1988 and 1991, it was his comeback in 1991 that attracted significant attention. Adopting the new character of Colonel Mustafa, Khosrow aligned himself with Sgt. Slaughter, a former all-American wrestler turned Iraqi sympathizer, during a controversial angle that took place amidst the Gulf War.
Beyond the realm of wrestling, Khosrow battled with drug addiction for an extended period, often making headlines for his use of profanity, homophobic remarks, and racist language during media appearances. However, he eventually embarked on a path to sobriety, undergoing personal transformation and becoming a beloved figure on Twitter. It is worth noting that the majority of his tweets were crafted by a dedicated management team, allowing him to connect with fans and engage in social media discourse.
The legacy of Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, the Iron Sheik, extends far beyond his in-ring achievements. While he faced personal hardships, his contributions to professional wrestling and his enduring impact on the industry will be remembered by fans and fellow wrestlers alike for generations to come. His passing marks the end of an era, leaving behind a remarkable tale of triumphs, struggles, and redemption.
RESPECT THE LEGEND FOREVER 😢 pic.twitter.com/Cr6CC9pXSO
— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) June 7, 2023