“I am the greatest heel, which means the bad guy in the wrestling history.”
With his chest puffed out proudly and arms akimbo, the lasting image of the Iron Sheik standing in defiance of the American public is embedded in pro wrestling’s psyche. As far as heels go, nobody rivaled the Sheik — the man who brought the old country to the squared circle and ultimately humbled the playing field.
With his circus strongman looks, his cherished keffiyeh on his head, and curly-toed boots, the Sheik defined villainy for a generation of fans from the 1970s on. He was the terror from Tehran. Whenever he got a suplex, there were gasps. Whenever he applied his infamous Camel Clutch, there were boos. Whenever he got on the mic, there was genuine awe, for the pride of Iran never missed a moment to call out the jabronis.
Legendary? Try iconic. Masterful. Cult certified. The foil from the Middle East and the hero in his home country in Iran, where he worked with the great Gholamreza Takhti earning a spot on Iran’s 1968 Greco-Roman wrestling team.
And underneath it all is one of the most accomplished and beloved figures in wrestling history. The man who seized the heavyweight title in 1983 from Bob Backlund. The man who gave Sargent Slaughter and Hacksaw Jim Duggan a run for their money. The man who helped create Hulkamania by becoming Hulk Hogan’s most hated rival in the mid-1980s. The man who gave gimmicks and kayfabe new meaning, as he won gold at the 1971 AAU Championships at 180.5 pound and later worked as an assistant coach of two U.S. Olympic teams that same decade.In the words of the Iron Sheik himself, “I’m the legend. I always be the legend.”