Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, better known as the wrestler The Iron Sheik, has passed away at 81. The Sheik rose to fame in the 1980s as the nemesis of Hulk Hogan, one of the biggest names in wrestling. Vaziri was the only Iranian champion in the history of the sport. He won the WWF Heavyweight Championship in 1983, but the title was soon taken from him by Hogan.
His death was announced on his Twitter account on June 7th. A statement read, “Today, we gather with heavy hearts to bid farewell to a true legend, a force of nature, and an iconic figure who left an incredible mark on the world of professional wrestling.”
Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri was born in Damghan, Iran, in 1942 to a working-class family. While training as an amateur wrestler, he worked as a bodyguard for Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – the last shah of Iran. He moved to the United States in the 1960s and found work as an assistant coach on two US Olympic wrestling squads.
Following a successful television career, the Sheik ran into trouble when he was found in possession of cocaine in 1987. He was sentenced to a year’s probation and his departure from the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) soon followed. He returned a year later but his appearances remained sporadic until he finally threw in the towel in the early 1990s.
When his daughter was murdered by her boyfriend in 2003, Hossein once again fell into drug use. His American wife Caryl Peterson, whom he married in 1976, arranged for him to attend drug rehabilitation services, but she eventually ended the marriage after several failed attempts at sobriety. Peterson said, “I could no longer beg him to quit. We had lost our daughter. We were all sad and depressed. But enough was enough.”
Within two years of his wife’s departure, the Shiek won his battle with cocaine and she returned.