MANILA, Philippines – World Wrestling Entertainment legend The Iron Sheik has been as notable for his out-of-the-ring antics as his in-ring exploits in recent years. Nobody can accuse Sheik of ever holding his tongue, and at age 72, he is showing no signs of mellowing in his seniority.
Whether its Miley Cyrus, Dennis Rodman or just the soft drink Sprite, he is not shy about taking to his Twitter account and letting them know just what he thinks about them (usually that they’re jabronis and that he’ll make them humble with his Camel Clutch finisher).
Sheik (real name Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri) was an accomplished Greco-Roman wrestler, having represented his native Iran in the 1968 Olympics while serving as a bodyguard for the Shah’s family. During the ’70s, Sheik went to America and won national competitions there as well before moving into the world of pro wrestling.
Sheik is best remembered for his run with WWE (then WWF), where he was known as the ultimate bad guy who enraged fans with his anti-American chants. In 1983, Sheik ended the six-year WWF title reign of Bob Backlund with Camel Clutch finishing maneuver, then lost the title to Hulk Hogan a month later, kicking off the era of “Hulkamania.”
Other career highlights include winning the tag team championship with Nikolai Volkoff and being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.
Ensuing years have been up-and-down for Sheik, who has struggled with drug addiction and chronic knee injuries. But the Sheik is still going strong, and having produced a new documentary with managers Jian Magen and Page Magen, Sheik is eager to tell the world the true story of his life and career.
Below is the transcript of Rappler.com’s email interview with the one and only Iron Sheik.
Rappler: You celebrated the 30th anniversary of your historic victory over Bob Backlund for the WWF title last month. What are your thoughts about that moment, and what it means to wrestling history?
Iron Sheik: “Thank you bubba. The legend become the legend that night. I work in most famous arena in the world the Madison Square Garden and I make the Hulkamania the Hulkamania. Everybody know I am the champion and I most famous Iranian in the world.”
Rappler: Here in the Philippines many fans are looking forward to the return of Dave Batista to the WWE. What do you think of Batista, and how do you feel about his return?
Iron Sheik: “Batista excellent. Great body, great performer, great for the Philippine people. He my good friend and he work hard and he know how to become world champion.”
Rappler: You’re one of the most interesting cultural commenters on Twitter. Tell me about who are your three least favorite people right now, and who are your three favorite people right now?
Iron Sheik: “The 3 people that are biggest jabroni in the world to me are the Miley Cyrus, she bad for the role model. The Chris Brown, he biggest piece of s–t, he hit the lady. The Andy Dalton (quarterback of NFL team Cincinnati Bengals). He f–k up in the football big time. The 3 people that are the real I love forever are the the Randy Moss (NFL wide receiver), my good friend, he play the football, the Major Lazer (musician) and the Jenny Johnson (American TV host). They are all Iron Sheik class bubba.”
Rappler: Which wrestler in history would you have liked to have faced that you didn’t get a chance to?
Iron Sheik: “Kurt Angle. He Iron Sheik class.”
Rappler: Tell me about the Philippines. Have you ever been there, and what are your thoughts about the island nation?
Iron Sheik: “I been many many time. I use to wrestle in the Japan I go with The Rock’s dad (Rocky Johnson) to Philippines after for the vacation. I even wrestler and break people’s backs in the ring. I love them, I love the island, I love the people forever.”
Rappler: A big boxing fight that people hope will one day happen is Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather. Who do you think would win?
Iron Sheik: “Manny strong. Manny quick. Manny love the sport. I respect the Manny forever.”
Rappler: What advice do you have for other athletes who want to follow you into Olympic success and wrestling?
Iron Sheik: “Work hard, train and you be in love with your sport like your wife and family. Only way you become champion is you work hard forever.”
Rappler: Lastly, I know there are many fans out there who would want to know what projects you’re working on now. What is the legendary Iron Sheik working on now?
Iron Sheik: “I make my Iron Sheik documentary. The world watch the legend, they see that I become the world champion and most famous Iranian in the world. Everybody loves me, now you see how I become Iron Sheik and nobody f–k with me. I also have best store for my fans www.theironsheik.org, you see how I become the legend. God bless you and have good day. If you are not the lazy jabroni you need to get my Iron Sheik alarm clock on the iTunes. It’s only $0.99. I love the people in the Philippines forever, they always treat me like I am the legend.” – Rappler.com
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.