WWE great The Iron Sheik dead at 81
Wrestling icon the Iron Sheik has died at the age of 81.
Born Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, the Sheik was one of the World Wrestling Federation's most prominent heels of the 1980s, winning the WWF Championship in 1983. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.
Prior to getting into pro wrestling, Vaziri was an Olympic wrestler, representing his native Iran at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City and serving as a coach for the United States wresting team at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
While Vaziri made his WWF debut in 1979, it wasn't until his return to the promotion in 1983 that he received his first major push when he feuded with then champion Bob Backlund. Vaziri would defeat Backlund with the Camel Clutch at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 26.
His reign as champion would only last weeks, as Vaziri would drop the title to Hulk Hogan in a match widely considered to be the kickoff to "Hulkamania" on Jan. 23, 1984.
In 1985, Vaziri began teaming with Nikolai Volkoff as an anti-American team managed by "Classy" Freddie Blassie. After Volkoff would sing the Soviet national anthem, Vaziri would grab the mic and yell, "Iran number 1, Russia number 1, USA..." ending it with a spitting sound. The team would win the WWF World Tag Team Championships from the US Express, Mike Rotunda and Barry Windham, in March of 1985 before dropping them back to them that June.
Infamously in 1987, Vaziri was arrested alongside "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan during a traffic stop in New Jersey with a small amount of cocaine found in their car. The arrest occurred while Duggan and Vaziri were embroiled in a TV feud at the height of kayfabe, causing a scandal within the industry. Vaziri was placed on one-year probation after the arrest.
After a two-year stint in World Championship Wrestling, Vaziri returned to WWF in 1991 at the height of the Gulf War, repackaged as Colonel Mustafa, the associate of former foe-turned Iraqi sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter. His run through 1992 would be his last as a full-time active wrestler with the promotion.
He would go on to make sporadic appearances for the company over the ensuing decades with his last appearance coming in 2010 on an edition of Monday Night RAW.
Vaziri became a well-known Twitter presence in recent years with his account run by the Toronto-based Magen Group.