Don't Insult the Iron Sheik, Bubba

The Legend on His Life, Hulk Hogan, and the Documentary Being Made About Him

By Daniel Kohn

The trailer for Iranian Legend: The Iron Sheik Story

If you know anything about professional wrestling, you know who the Iron Sheik is. The legendary heel started his WWF career back in the early 80s, when he was part of an anti-American tag team with Nikolai Volkoff. Hulk Hogan beat the Sheik to earn his first title, and the Iranian-born star—his real name is Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri—was a major character during pro wrestling’s golden era. In “real” life, Hossein was a talented Greco-Roman wrestler who served in the Iranian Army and worked as a bodyguard to the Shah before emigrating to the US in the late 60s and achieving the American Dream many times over.

Today, nearly 40 years after the Sheik adopted his trademark shaved head and mustache and stepped into the ring, he’s more famous than ever before, thanks to frequent appearances on The Howard Stern Show and his Twitter account, a hilarious, profane, stream-of-consciousness rant about everything from celebrities to the Sheik’s former rivals to days of the week:

The Iron Sheik doesn't personally run his Twitter account, but they're still his words.

Last month at Stones Fest LA, a concert where musicians and A-list actors perform covers of Rolling Stones songs, the Sheik held court on some couches in the back of the Fonda Theater, proudly posing for photos with both concertgoers and celebrities. I headed over—I was a child of the 80s, after all, and meeting the Iron Sheik would be like meeting the Easter bunny or Darth Vader.

I found the Sheik seated in the handicapped area (he had recently had surgery on his ankle), and he growled at me, threatening to put me in his trademark Camel Clutch hold if I didn’t join him on the couch. Even at 73, the Sheik is intimidating, and when he tells you to sit down, you sit down. We got to talking and he mentioned that he has a documentary coming out soon—if I don’t watch it, he informed me, I can go fuck myself. Fair enough.

A week later, after doing some research into the documentary being made about his life (it’s called Iranian Legend: The Iron Sheik Story and you can donate to its Indiegogo campaign here), I called him at his home in Atlanta for a slightly more formal interview. While talking to him, I felt a little like Mean Gene Okerlund circa 1985—in the back of my mind, I worried that he’d jump through the phone and choke me. Our conversation covered his whole career, from Iran to his fights with Hulk Hogan to his Twitter attacks on celebrities like Amanda Bynes. I left his distinctive syntax intact, and at his request, his responses are in all caps.

VICE: What was it like serving in the Iranian military?
THE IRON SHIEK: YOU ASK EXCELLENT QUESTION. I HAD TO GO TO THE ARMY FOR ME TO LEAVE THE IRAN. I HAVE TO LEAVE THE IRAN BECAUSE AT THE TIME THE REZA TAKHTI WAS THE MICHAEL JORDAN OF IRAN. HE WAS WRESTLER AND HE WAS MOST IMPORTANT ATHLETE, CELEBRITY, HUMAN BEING IN THE COUNTRY. PEOPLE SAY HE KILLED HIMSELF, AND IN MY RELIGION AND MY COUNTRY WE ALL KNOW THAT NOT TRUE BECAUSE IT IS AGAINST OUR RELIGION. I BELIEVE SOMEBODY IMPORTANT KILL HIM. THIS MAKE ME VERY NERVOUS BECAUSE I WAS BEHIND HIM, NUMBER TWO, AND HE TEACH ME AND HELP ME BECOME BEST WRESTLER IN THE WORLD. SO I HAVE TO GO TO ARMY, WHICH MAKE ME PAY MY DUES SO I LEAVE THE COUNTRY. BUT BECAUSE I WAS MOST IMPORTANT ATHLETE IN THE COUNTRY AND BEST FIGHTER IN THE WORLD, THEY LET ME DO THE TRAINING FOR MY GRECO-ROMAN WRESTLING INSTEAD OF ME BEING A SOLDIER WHO KILL PEOPLE. I VERY HAPPY AND I WORK VERY HARD TO MAKE MY COUNTRY PROUD IN DIFFERENT WAY.

How did you end up as the Shah’s security guard?
I WORKING AT NATIONAL IRANIAN TELEVISION STATION. I WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SHAH AND HIS WIFE IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS. I WAS THERE TO PROTECT THE SHAH AND ANYTIME ANYONE CAME NEAR HIM, I MAKE SURE NO ONE TOUCH HIM. IF ANYONE DID, I BREAK THEIR NECK. I RESPECT THE SHAH AND MAKE SURE HE PROTECTED. THEY CHOSE ME TO THIS POSITION SO I KICK THE SHIT OUT OF ANYONE WHO FUCK WITH HIM AND MAKE THEM SUFFER.

When you moved to Minnesota, how did you meet American Wrestling Association owner Verne Gagne, who was the first guy to offer you a pro-wrestling gig?
THE MR. GAGNE HEARD ABOUT THE LEGEND—HE HEARD THAT I WAS THE NUMBER ONE IN THE WORLD AT THE GRECO-ROMAN. HE COME LOOK FOR ME, HE BEG THE LEGEND TO BECOME WRESTLER, HE TELL ME I PERFECT FOR THE BUSINESS. I SAY OK AND HE INVITE ME TO THE GYM AND I IMPRESS HIM BECAUSE I’M THE LEGEND AND HE WANT ME TO WORK FOR HIM.

What made you decide to change your stage name from the Great Hossein Arab to the Iron Sheik?
THE VINCE MCMAHON TELL ME I AM BEST MIDDLE EASTERN WRESTLER EVER. HE TELL ME I NEED NEW NAME TO SHOW HOW STRONG I AM LIKE THE IRON. HE WANT ME TO BECOME LIKE THE SHAH. HE CALL ME THE SHEIK. I BECOME IRON SHEIK AND EVERYBODY KNOW EVERYTHING AFTER THAT. BUBBA, DON’T INSULT ME.

What is it like when you were WWF champion? Were you worried at all about fans’ behavior because of the Iranian angle?
WRESTLING HOTTEST THING IN THE 1984, 1985. I MOST-HATED MAN IN THE AMERICA. I HAVE THE REAL, REAL HEAT WHERE THE FAN TRY TO KILL ME IN THE RING AND ON THE STREET. THE FANS BELIEVE IN THE CHARACTER. THEY BELIEVE I AM WORSE PERSON IN THE WORLD. THE SECURITY HAVE TO PUT ME IN AMBULANCE AT THE ARENA AND DRIVE ME MILES TO ANOTHER CAR BECAUSE IF I GO IN MY OWN CAR OUTSIDE BUILDING THOUSANDS OF THE PEOPLE TRY TO ATTACK THE LEGEND. I SWEAR TO THE JESUS I SO SCARED.

Why don't you like Hulk Hogan?
HULK HOGAN PUNK. HULK HOGAN NO GOOD. WHEN I WRESTLE HIM I WAS OFFERED $100,000 BY THE MR. GAGNE TO BREAK THE HULK HOGAN LEG BEFORE THE MATCH AND BRING THE BELT BACK TO THE MINNESOTA. I COULD HAVE RUINED THE BUSINESS, BUBBA. BUT BECAUSE I AM THE REAL RESPECT FOR MY BOSS, THE MR. MCMAHON, I NEVER DOUBLE-CROSS THE BOSS. HULK HOGAN SAYS “I OWE YOU ONE,” AND HE NEVER REPAY ME. I COULD HAVE RUINED HIS LIFE.

What do you think the legacy of the Iron Sheik is as a wrestler?
I AM GREATEST MIDDLE EASTERN WRESTLER IN HISTORY OF WRESTLING. I AM GREATEST HEEL, WHICH MEANS THE BAD GUY IN THE WRESTLING HISTORY. I WWE/WWF CHAMPION, TAG TEAM CHAMPION, AND HALL OF FAME. FOREVER I MAKE THE WORLD NEWS AND I LOVE MY FANS FOR THEY KNOW I AM THE REAL.

People love your Twitter account. Why do you like to rip on athletes like Mark Sanchez and Chris Bosh?
THESE PEOPLE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO TALK, TALK, TALK AND THEY ACT LIKE THEY SOLD OUT THE MADISON SQUARE GARDEN OR THEY MAKE IT TO THE HALL OF FAME. THEY NOT HALL OF FAME, SO I MAKE THEM HUMBLE. I BREAK THEIR NECK AND I PUT THEM IN THE CAMEL CLUTCH. THIS MAKE THEM KNOW THEY ARE NOT THE LEGEND. THEY ARE NOT THE IRON SHEIK. THEY ARE TWO BIG-TIME JABRONIES WHO DESERVE ME TO BEAT THE FUCK OUT OF THEM.

What about public figures like Amanda Bynes and Chris Brown? Why do you hate them?
DON’T INSULT ME, BUBBA. AMANDA BYNES, SHE IS DUMB BITCH UNINTELLIGENT JEW. SHE TALK ABOUT HER ASS AND HER PUSSY LIKE SHE PROSTITUTE. I NEVER RESPECT HER AND IF I SEE HER I PUT HER IN CAMEL CLUTCH. SHE NO GOOD FOR THE YOUNG GENERATION.

THE CHRIS BROWN IS ANOTHER PUNK PIECE OF SHIT. HE BEAT UP THE GIRLFRIEND HE NEVER HAVE MY RESPECT. HE DESERVE FOR ME TO BEAT THE FUCK OUT OF HIM BECAUSE HE NEVER PAY FOR HIS DUE. HE TALK LIKE HE WORLD-CLASS FIGHTER BUT HE LUCKY I DON’T SEE HIM AND I SNAP HIS NECK WITH MY LITTLE FINGER.

What do you think of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian? Do you think Kanye should ditch her?
I LOVE THE KANYE WEST, I RESPECT THE KANYE WEST, BUT HIS WIFE LOOK LIKE FAT PENGUIN. SHE EAT TOO MUCH CHEESEBURGER AND SHE HAVE NO MODERATION. HE NEED BEAUTIFUL WOMEN ALWAYS WITH HIM AND NOW SHE MOTHER OF HIS BABY SHE ONLY GOING TO EAT THE CHEESEBURGER. SHE NO GOOD, BUBBA. IF SHE DON’T LOSE THE WEIGHT, I TELL HIM TO KICK HER FAT ASS ON THE STREET AND GO BUY HER OWN CHEESEBURGER.

Which current wrestlers are you a fan of? How important is it to you that the Rock and wrestlers like him call you their hero?
I LOVE THE KURT ANGLE, I LOVE THE CM PUNK, THEY THE STUDENT OF THE BUSINESS. THEY LIVE THE BUSINESS. THEY RESPECT THE LEGEND. THE ROCK—I KNOW HIM, KNOW HIS FATHER, HIS GRANDFATHER FOR OVER 40 YEARS. THEY KNOW WHERE I COME FROM. THEY KNOW I PAY FOR MY DUE AND I NEVER TAKE SHIT FROM ANYBODY BECAUSE I WAS THE REAL, I WAS THE SHOOTER. IF ANYBODY FUCK WITH ME I BEAT THE FUCK OUT OF THEM MAKE THEM HUMBLE. THEY KNOW WHO THE LEGEND IS. DON’T INSULT ME.


The Sheik with filmmakers Jian and Page Magen.

What have you been doing in your life after wrestling?
I DO WORK FOR THE TV OR MR. HOWARD STERN. MY AGENT’S MAGEN BOYS, THEY PUT ME EVERYWHERE FOR THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE THE LEGEND. THEY KNOW HOW TO MAKE ME LEGEND FOREVER.

What was it like being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame? Would you have ever expected that when you first joined the organization?
NEVER. I KNOW ABOUT HALL OF FAME IN THE AMERICA. I WORK HARD TO BECOME WORLD CHAMPION. I TRAIN ALL MY LIFE AND I WORK HARD ALL MY LIFE SO I BECOME HALL OF FAME. WHEN I BECOME HALL OF FAME I KNEW I MADE IT AND I KNEW I BECOME THE LEGEND FOREVER.

With so many wrestlers from you era having died or made fools of themselves like Hogan, how have you managed to stay popular?
I HAVE MOST INTELLIGENT JEWISH AGENTS, THEY HELP ME BECOME WORLD NEWS. I AM THE REAL. THE OTHER PEOPLE CAN’T HANDLE THE MODERATION. I PARTY HAVE FUN BUT THE OTHER WRESTLERS GOD BLESS THEM THEY CANNOT HANDLE THE A TO THE Z. THEY LOSE THE CONTROL, NOT LIKE THE LEGEND. ALL MY LIFE I AM IN THE GYM, STAY HEALTHY, AND I KNOW HOW TO PARTY AND MAKE THE WORLD NEWS.

Why do people love the Legend so much?
BUBBA, I WORK HARD, I SPEAK MY MIND, I DON’T GIVE A FUCK WHAT PEOPLE THINK, I AM HALL OF FAME. I WORK OVER 50 YEARS IN THE SHOW BUSINESS AND I CAN TELL WHOEVER I WANT TO GO FUCK THEMSELVES BECAUSE I MAKE IT AND ANYBODY WANT TO TALK ABOUT HOW THEY ARE WORLD CLASS I LET THEM KNOW IF THEY ARE OR THEY ARE NOT.

What was your favorite wrestler to feud with?
ME AND THE SGT. SLAUGHTER WERE HOTTEST THING IN THE BUSINESS. IRAN VS. THE USA. EVERYBODY PAY TO SEE HIM BEAT ME BUT EVERYBODY KNOW I BEAT THE FUCK OUT OF HIM AND THE PEOPLE WENT CRAZY.

What does the Iron Sheik do for fun?
I LOVE THE TWITTER, I LOVE MAKING MY FANS HAPPY, I LOVE SEEING MY FANS, AND I LOVE TO WORK ON THE COMEDY BUBBA.

Tell me about the documentary. Why is the time right for you to put out the story of your life?
MY DOCUMENTARY I HOPE AND I PRAY BECOME BEST ABOUT MY LIFE. I’M A LEGEND. I WORK AROUND THE WORLD 50 YEARS AND I DO EVERYTHING IN MY LIFE TO BECOME THE LEGEND. GOLD MEDAL, SHAH OF IRAN BODYGUARD, AAU CHAMPION, WWE/WWF CHAMPION, HALL OF FAME, MR. HOWARD STERN RADIO CHAMPION. EVERYBODY KNOW IRON SHEIK PERFORMER, BUT THEY DON’T KNOW THE REAL IRON SHEIK. THEY DON’T KNOW HOW I BECOME THE LEGEND, WHY I COME TO THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, THE AMERICA, WHY I WORK SO HARD, AND ALL THE STORIES IN MY LIFE THAT EVERYBODY WANT TO KNOW. I NOW SHOW YOU. I VERY PROUD, BUT I ALSO LOVE MY FANS TO HELP ME AND SUPPORT ME BECOME IRANIAN-AMERICAN LEGEND FOREVER.

What do you want people to remember the Iron Sheik as?
BEST IN THE WORLD. BEST PERFORMER, REAL MAN, REAL SPEAK MY MIND, REAL LEGEND WHO NOBODY EVER FUCK WITH BECAUSE IF THEY DID THEY KNOW I BEAT THE FUCK OUT OF THEM.

You can donate to make the Iron Sheik documentary a reality here.

Daniel Kohn once waited in line to meet the Ultimate Warrior with his dad and brother. After they spent two hours in the rain, the Warrior left, proving himself to be the Ultimate Dick. @danielkohn

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