Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, infamously known in the professional wrestling world as The Iron Sheik, was the quintessential foil to Hulk Hogan in the 1980s WWF that ushered in a new sense of popularity for the sport; he was the perfect villain for the time, capitalizing on his Iranian heritage to draw hoards of boos from American crowds. Now in his 70s, The Iron Sheik has found a second act with the help of his Twitter page, where he trash talks every and any pop culture figure. Pop Culture Spin talked to the Iron Sheik about his life and about The Sheik, his new documentary.
You transitioned from amateur wrestling to professional wrestling with the help of AWA’s (American Wrestling Association) Verne Gagne. What’s the best piece of advice Gagne gave to you early in your career?
He taught me that the hand that feed you never cut that hand. You work hard, you do best job, you keep your fucking mouth shut and you always have a job.
Legendary manager “Classy” Freddie Blassie said that there’s good heat (a crowd’s negative reaction towards your character) and that there’s bad heat where fans literally want to kill you. Were you ever concerned about your well-being during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis?
10,000%, bubba. They have to hide me in the ambulance and in the trunk of cars because the people say they have gun. They want kill me. I never be more scared in my life. I was white-hot, but I was most hated man in the America.
You were managed by Freddie Blassie for a portion of your career, but you were also managed by Jimmy Hart while you were working for Memphis. What’s the biggest difference in how Hart and Blassie managed you?
Jimmy’s good. One of the best talkers. He love the business and he have excellent charisma. He my no. 1 manager. Mr. Fred Blassie was champion wrestler before me. He was real tough and he know what the fans think. He know how to draw the most heat; he American, but he turn on his country for the Iron Sheik. This way, he was real heel. God bless him forever.
You were set to drop the WWF Championship to Hulk Hogan, which undoubtedly began Hulkamania and made wrestling bigger than it ever was. In The Sheik, you mention that (Verne) Gagne offered you $100,000 to break Hogan’s leg and take the WWF title to Minneapolis’ AWA. How close were you to doing that?
Like I say before, the Verne Gagne say [I cannot bite] the hand that feed me. I cannot do this to Mr. McMahon. I think about it a lot, but I never cross my boss. I know he take care of me one day.
Do you think your incident with “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan caused more harm or good to what professional wrestling eventually became?
The Jim Duggan situation cost me million million dollar. I lose my job and I lose my name. This was worst timing and I have to work harder than before to be the legend.
Looking at WWE now, who do you think is the best wrestler?
I respect the Jon Cena. He work hard for his company. Also I respect the Randy Orton and The Brock Lesnar. All believable. All real gimmick that show the people the best in best company in the world.
Do you keep up with the independent wrestling scene? Do you have favorites?
I just see what the Luke Hawx say; he impress me. Also now I look at my brother Alberto Del Rio. He work everywhere now and I be happy for him. Also my best friend Jeff Jarrett ready to make good business like his father. (Both Jeff and his father Jerry have owned multiple professional wrestling organizations. Jeff is currently working on a new promotion, Global Force Wrestling.)
On Twitter, you mock celebrities you don’t like by calling them jabronis. If you like them, you call them the real. @Midnight even had a segment based on this for their show. Who do you think will be the real in 2015?
Iron Sheik always the real. Iron Sheik always ready to break somebody’s fucking back in 2015. This year I think the CM Punk show the people he make choice to be happy (by leaving WWE early this year and signing with UFC for a multi-fight deal). I hope he make it bubba.
The Iron Sheik currently has a documentary, The Sheik, available on VOD. Visit SheikMovie.com for more information.