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Wrestling / The Iron Sheik

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Insane. Completely, utterly and wonderfully insane. That's the only way we can describe the Iron Sheik, who in recent years has gone from forgotten Cold War wrestling villain to the nutty Iranian grandpa we all wish we had.
RD Reynolds, The WrestleCrap Book Of Lists!, "The 6 Wrestlers Who Must Have a Reality Show"

If there was ever any wrestler who best exemplified the Foreign Wrestling Heel character in Professional Wrestling, especially in WWE's "Federation years," The Iron Sheik was it.

Born Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri (March 15, 1943 — June 7, 2023), this Iranian-born Olympic wrestling competitor and coach made a name for himself in early-'80s WWF, where he won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from Bob Backlund, breaking the former champion's six-year title reign...only to drop it the next month to Hulk Hogan, kicking off the Hulkamania craze. His appearances would be sporadic for many years after that, seemingly fading into obscurity in the pro wrestling scene.

And then, in the 2000s, RF Video decided to do a shoot interview with him...

He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.

Not to be confused with The Iron Chef, or with his arguable predecessor The Sheik.

The Iron Sheik passed away on June 7, 2023, at the age of 81.


  • Angrish: Let's just say he focuses far more on the subject itself than how he actually conveys it.
  • Arch-Enemy: Hulk Hogan, both from the WWF and in Real Life, it seems. And of course, the Facking Brian Blair!!!
    • Gary Bettman as well, since Sheikie's a huge NHL fan.
    • Sheik seems to hate almost every wrestler in the business. Ironically, his Kayfabe Arch-Enemy "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan seems to be one of the few wrestlers he genuinely likes and respects.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In May of 1987, Sheik was riding with Arch-Enemy "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan when the two were pulled over by New Jersey police, who found that both of them were doped and coked out of their minds. Duggan was given a conditional release and Sheik was put on probation. The hilarity of the two "bitter enemies" sharing a ride home ensured the story made the major news outlets, putting the WWF in a major stink. The WWF would begin drug testing after this incident, and both men were fired (Duggan returned in six months; Sheik returned four years later).
    • In his now legendary tirade on The Howard Stern Show, he ran through every profane thing you could think of to B. Brian Blair...and paused to apologize to Robin Quivers about his abrasive language.
  • Badass Teacher: Was an assistant coach to the USA team for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
  • Bash Brothers: Nikolai Volkoff, most prominently, though in his days in the Mid-Atlantic, he also teamed with the then-Heel Jimmy Snuka.
    • With Bruno Sammartino IRL, the two once beat the crap out of five pro football players who made the mistake of calling the then 51-year old Sammartino a "washed up old man" and tried to push him around. Sammartino was holding his own until the Sheik, who was in the showers, heard the commotion, and the two proceeded to curbstomp the morons.
  • Berserk Button: Mention anyone that he believes didn't measure up to his standard of "respect" for the business (B. Brian Blair, Hulk Hogan, Warrior...)
  • Biggus Dickus: Once threatened to introduce Ultimate Warrior's daughter to his "...10-inch Iranian cock!"
  • Boisterous Bruiser: The Iron Sheik was a lot meaner than most examples but nonetheless was loud, strong and always up for a contest.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: In his in-ring promo before his match with Izzy High on Juggalo Championshxt Wrestling Volume 1:
  • Catchphrase: "Iran number-one! USA hack-phooey!" He would also often end promos with "Cameraman, zoom it!" and start flexing in front of the camera.
    • In recent years:
    "I put you in the Camel Clutch/I suplex you, Break your Back, and make you humble!"
    "Everybody knows I'm the legend!"
    "You're a no-good motherfucker!"
    (about people he dislikes) "Fuck the X!"
    (about people he likes) "X is Iron Sheik class."
    "Buy my (advertised merchandise) or go fuck yourself."
    • Calling "Gene Mean" or anybody who agreed with him an "Intelligent American."
  • Cheap Heat: As a Foreign Wrestling Heel, this came with the character for Sheikie Baby. However, he took cheap heat up to eleven sometime in the late 90s when working an NWA show with a majority Jewish crowd. There is no footage of the insane promo he cut, but here it is as retold by Steve Corino.
  • Character Filibuster: His promos, even by professional wrestling standards. "Gene Mean" Okerlund would frequently have to cut him off...or try to, only to get a quick "don't interrupt!"
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Especially around the Turn of the Millennium. It is difficult to determine just how much of Sheiks behavior is genuine and how much is a case of Becoming the Mask.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Unless he is speaking with younger fans or is working a clean script, anything goes, especially in his interviews.
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: He ended Bob Backlund's 6-year title run, capturing the world championship in the process.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: If this interview on Howard Stern is anything to go by, Sheik's idea of Cheap Heat is to threaten a wrestler's family members, both male and female, with sexual assault.
    • On the other side of the spectrum, fans in the 80s hated his heel character so much that there were several instances of Sheik's car being keyed or him getting attacked after shows. That's why he refused to bring his wife and kids with him on tour, because he feared someone would hurt them.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: He was quite slim and had hair on his head without the mustache in his amateur wrestling days and when he took up pro wrestling he worked as a face.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Called out Warrior, who stated in his blog that Heath Ledger deserved to die for portraying a positive gay character in Brokeback Mountain.
    • He stated that at Wrestlemania III, he wanted to humble Brian Blair, but didn't "because for the God and Jesus, and Mr. McMahon."
  • Exact Words: He once stated in an interview that he doesn't type his own twitter. The internet assumed he merely shouts what he wants to say from another room...not exactly a far-fetched assumption given that the tweets are usually (but not always) in ALL CAPS and feature the type of broken English you would expect from a native Farsi speaker who is just talking without trying to properly translate what they're saying into English (which was something the Sheik was infamous for even in his heyday; he does speak fairly good English, but during his promos he would become so agitated that his mouth got ahead of his brain, leading to some...unusual choices of words and phrasing). After a Forbes(!) interview, it was indicated that, yes, this is indeed how his twitter is managed: his agent tweets based on conversations he has with The Iron Sheik.
  • Expansion Pack Past: Before emigrating and becoming a wrestler, worked as a bodyguard for the Shah of Iran.
  • The Fighting Narcissist: "There is a lot of jealousy in this country. But look at me, look at me. Cameraman, zoom it!".
  • Finishing Move
    • The Camel Clutch. Outside of Latin America, he's better known for the move than its innovator, Gori Guerrero. He's not even a close second in Latin America though, that honor going to El Santo and his successors.
    • So Last Season: It rarely qualifies as finishing move anymore unless a wrestler adds a particular variation to it or has some West Asian heritage or element to their gimmick. Not even Gori's son Eddie nor granddaughter Shaul can draw a submission with it.
    • Brought back by Rusev, another Foreign Wrestling Heel.
  • Flanderization: Has become something of a cartoon, even more than in the 1980s, due to his Fountain of Memes status.
  • Foreign Wrestling Heel: Boy, is he ever. Arguably downgraded to Funny Foreigner in his Twitter years.
  • Hating on Monday: Nary a Monday will pass without at least one "FUCK THE MONDAY" on his Twitter feed. Usually several.
  • Hero-Worshipper: Like many Iranians of his generation, he regards the late Iranian Olympic gold medalist Gholamreza Takhti highly and one of his reasons for wrestling.
  • Hidden Depths
  • I Have Many Names: Great Hossein Arab, Ali Vaziri, the Iron Sheik, Shasta Mustafa, Col. Mustafa.
  • I Know Greco-Roman Wrestling: Was an Iranian high school champion, an Amateur Athletic Union Greco-Roman wrestling champion at 180.5 pounds in 1971 and tried out for the Iranian 1968 Olympic wrestling team (there is some confusion and debate over this, one side says he didn’t get in, another side says he competed in the Olympics, and yet another side says that he was there as an alternate).
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: "More beer, please."
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Everyone knows him for the look he's sported since the early 80's, so it may come as a surprise to some that he was once quite handsome with a physique that rivalled that of Finn Bálor.
  • Is This Thing Still On?: Jim Cornette tells a story from back in the territory days, he and the Sheik were working for Memphis, a promotion which had a state athletic commissioner who was not "smart" (aware of kayfabe), and therefore imposed a number of limitations on the show. For instance, anyone who was not a licensed announcer was not allowed on the mic. Christine Jarrett warned Cornette, who was working as the announcer, not to let anyone have the mic, and the Sheik tried to take the mic off him. As they struggled over the mic, Cornette reminded him about the commissioner. However, the Sheik grabbed Jim's arm, pulled the mic up, then screamed "OH, FACK DEH KOMEESHUNUR!" at the top of his lungs into the mic.
  • Kayfabe: How much he actually hates the wrestlers he's famous for running down in shoot interviews and on twitter may fall under this. While he apparently really doesn't like B. Brian Blair (for still mostly unknown reasons), other wrestlers that he's run down, when face to face with, he often blubbers, breaks down and cries and calls them "my brother." Roddy Piper and even Hulk Hogan have both implied it's an act, and say they get along with him just fine in real life.
    • Sheikie Baby gave touching tributes to both Warrior and Randy Savage upon their deaths on twitter and in videos, despite years of talking trash about them.
    • There’s also the fact that despite using homophobic slang all the time in his Cloudcuckoolander tirades, he tweeted in support of fellow wrestler DarrenYoung when he came out as gay.
  • Large Ham: "FACKIN' BOOLSHEET!" And that's only the beginning.
  • Legacy Character: Crossed with One-Steve Limit. While Shawn Daivari was in WWE's developmental program, he was renamed "Khosrow", although the first name only lasted a few weeks on WWE TV, as both a tribute to the Iron Sheik and to avoid the possibility that anyone might somehow confuse Daivari with Shawn Michaels.
    • During John Cena's feud with Kurt Angle in late 2005, when Angle had Daivari as his ally, Cena referred to Daivari on the December 12th episode of Raw as a "bootleg Iron Sheik."
    • In All Japan Pro Wrestling in 2002, they had a tag team of Kasey Geyer and Shawn Hernandez as "The Double Iron Sheiks", #1 and #2.
  • Legion of Doom: Part of wrestling's original legion of doom alongside the Original Sheik until the group was reduced to just The Road Warriors Hawk and Animal.
  • Lives in a Van: In this review of a shoot interview he once did, because of his tendency to repeat himself ("Tehran Iran, oldest country in the world, 15 years old, 155 pounds, Iranian High School Champion, Iranian Army Champion, go to '68 Olympics in Mexico City, AAU Champion, coach at University of Minnesota and '72 Olympics in Munich, all true wrestling fans know I let blond guitar player beat me because HE not AAU champion, etc. etc. etc."), the reviewer chose to replace any reference to Sheik's background with, a la Chris Farley's Saturday Night Live character Matt Foley, "LIVING IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER!"
  • Manly Tears: When Randy Savage died.
    @the_ironsheik: "Randy Savage, i find out you die, i cry. you are one of best and my brother. you be happy with the elizabeth. god bless you. macho man best worker. better than all. he make the wrestlemania match with ricky best ever in pontiac. I love you forever. randy savage my best brother, i love him and i am sad"
    • In one otherwise raucous shoot interview, Honky Tonk Man delivered a confusing Broken Aesop about how, regardless of how one felt about Chris Benoit and his wife, nothing could have justified killing their child. The Iron Sheik burst into uncontrollable bawling.
  • Never Gets Drunk: Sheikie Baby is known in pro wrestling circles for his high tolerance to alcohol. In his own words, he "knows the moderation A to the Z".
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: As Colonel Mustafa.
  • No Indoor Voice: He's developed a reputation for yelling at people across the room rather than approaching and could make himself heard without the aid of a microphone in many arenas.
  • Odd Friendship
    • While working for the National Wrestling League he described Kamala as "Not Jabroni" and formed a tag team with him. They didn't seem to have much in the way of conversations but it seemed like friendship.
    • With Prime Time Amy Lee, whom he served as a manager to, going so far as to pop up behind her in Women's Extreme Wrestling, an adult-oriented promotion. This also made it easy for him to show up in WSU, another all woman not quite garbage wrestling promotion when she was its commissioner.
    • Iron Sheik has expressed love for New Jack, who at the very least seems to have no problem with Iron Sheik hanging around.
    • He also seems to be friends with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner Eddie Bravo of all people.
  • Older Than They Look: Besides gaining one hell of a beer belly, he looks exactly the same as he did in the 80s.
  • Patriotic Fervor: "Iran, number one! Russia, number one! USA—haaaack ptooey!"
    • He once got into an argument with Sgt. Slaughter over which country was greater:
      Sgt. Slaughter: AMERICA, you puke!
      Iron Sheik: IRAN, you jabronie!
  • Power Stable:
  • Precision F-Strike: Did this to Hulk Hogan on Twitter in 2015, after the revelation of a racist tirade made by Hogan:
    "I should have broke the jabroni Hulk Hogan fucking leg when I had the chance."
  • Pro Wrestling Is Real: When he gets really excited in his interviews, he seems to forget he doesn't have to maintain Kayfabe anymore.
  • Raging Stiffie: He appeared to have one during his match with Hulk Hogan. Seen here at 9:23
  • Reverse Psychology: He would often grab a mic and yell "Don't say USA" which, inevitably, drew massive U-S-A chants from the crowd. As a Foreign Wrestling Heel, this is exactly what he wanted.
  • Schmuck Bait: His "Persian Club Challenge", in which he offers a cash reward of $1000 or more to any face that could handle the Persian Clubs as he can, then sucker punch them while they're in a vulnerable position.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Verne Gagne offered him $100,000 to shoot on Hogan during their title match, and hopefully cripple him. Sheik refused.
  • Serious Business: He was most active in The '80s, when Kayfabe was at its strongest. One of his biggest criticisms about Hulk Hogan (and other notable Faces in the day) was that they would act like dicks toward the fans when not in a wrestling capacity. He may well have had a point.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Looking at his post retirement interviews versus his promos when he was still a wrestler will cause many to marvel at his restraint.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": To others, not himself. Has referred to "The Bruno Sammartino," "The Trish Stratus," and even "The Jesus."
  • Stout Strength: He's a lot tougher than he looks. He looked a little flabby but when he flexed it was clear solid muscle was underneath.
  • Tsundere:
    • During his famous 2007 interview.
    Randy Savage, you're a no-good son of a bitch... but still I like you.
    • He does this a lot with his fans as well. From his Twitter:
    Goodbye Toronto. I love you forever and go fuck yourself
    Go fuck yourself! Have a nice day.
  • The Unintelligible: We think he's speaking English, and he's usually mad about something, but gods help anyone who can make lick of sense of whatever the fuck he's saying.
  • Viewers Are Morons: This was often his attitude to the fans who booed him, insisting to "Mean" Gene that the intelligent wrestling fans agreed with whatever he was saying or doing to get boos. The exception being his Anti-America/Pro-Iran statements, where he didn't care.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With fellow Foreign Wrestling Heel and Federation Years holdover Nikolai Volkoff
  • World Half Full: Even as abrasive and loud as he can be, his Twitter feed still shows glimpses of this...
  • Worthy Opponent: When asked on YouShoot why he could never defeat Jerry "The King" Lawler, Sheik answered that it was for the sake of diplomacy: because Jerry Lawler was "the King" and he was wrestling him in his home "country" of Memphis, Tennessee, he thought it only proper that he should put "the king of the Memphis, Tennessee" over, but he could beat Lawler in a real fight.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Marty Jannetty likes telling a Crosses the Line Twice story of when Sheiky Baby hit a woman that Marty left with him, with what Sheiky described as a "short clothesline".