Iron Sheik, WWE Hall of Famer, dies at age 81, according to family

Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, known to millions as wrestling’s “Iron Sheik,” died Wednesday, according to Wrestling News.

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“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. It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of The Iron Sheik, but we also take solace in knowing that he departed this world peacefully, leaving behind a legacy that will endure for generations to come,” a statement on his social media page read.

According to the WWE, Vaziri, 81, “became WWE Champion the day after Christmas in 1983 when he defeated Bob Backlund at Madison Square Garden.” “The victory was a controversial one,” the website reports, “as Backlund’s manager Arnold Skaaland threw in the towel after Backlund refused to submit.”

The Iron Sheik, who was born in Iran and was an amateur wrestler there, held the title for just under a month before losing the championship to Hollywood Hogan (eventually Hulk Hogan) on Jan. 23, 1984.

The Sheik, who was also a WWF Tag Team champion, was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.

According to ESPN, prior to starting professional wrestling, Vaziri was a bodyguard for the last Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, before moving to the United States, where he won an AAU Greco-Roman wrestling championship at 180.5 pounds and became an assistant coach for the U.S. wrestling team, including the US Olympic team in 1972.

Known for his villainous persona, Vaziri was part of several famous WWE matches. In one, he took on America’s champion, Sgt. Slaughter, in the “Boot Camp Match” held at Madison Square Garden.

As it turned out, The Sheik, known for his famous crippling Camel Clutch maneuver, was no match for Slaughter who won the contest.

In the past few years, Vaziri gained a loyal following on Twitter for his concise and colorful tweets.

He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Caryl, three children and several grandchildren.