Wrestling legend Iron Sheik dies aged 81, transcending sports entertainment

The world of professional wrestling has lost an iconic figure as Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, known as the “Iron Sheik,” passed away at the age of 81. Vaziri, an Iranian-born athlete, gained prominence in the 1970s and ’80s as part of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), which later became the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

The wrestler’s death was announced on his Twitter page, stating that Vaziri “transcended the realm of sports entertainment” with his incredible charisma and unparalleled in-ring skills. However, Vaziri’s legacy is also defined by contradiction, as his character often represented a mix of Middle Eastern stereotypes in his role as a heel or villain on the wrestling circuit.

William Lafi Youmans, associate professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, said Vaziri was always willing to be the villain in the cultural moment and exploit the politics of xenophobia. Vaziri’s career flourished during the 1979 Iranian revolution and the US hostage crisis in Tehran, often facing off against “All American” wrestler Hulk Hogan.

Niki Akhavan, chair of the department of media and communication studies at The Catholic University of America, noted that Vaziri’s wrestling character represented a different way of being an Iranian in American culture. Inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005, Vaziri experienced a renaissance in his later years, taking his caustic one-liners to social media while also dealing with personal tragedy, including the murder of his daughter in a domestic violence incident.

Vaziri’s death has sparked reflections on his impact on the wrestling world and beyond, with fans and media observers remembering his larger-than-life persona and the complex, contradictory aspects of his character.

World News


With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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