Pro wrestling legend and pop culture fixture the Iron Sheik, who embraced his role as “one of the most notorious villains” in the entertainment genre’s history, has died, his team said Wednesday.
He was 81.
The announcement was made on the wrestler’s popular Twitter feed, which has more than 640,000 followers.
The statement did not offer any details of how the man, born Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, died.
The Iron Sheik “transcended the realm of sports entertainment” with “his larger-than-life persona, incredible charism, and unparalleled in-ring skills” that “captivated audiences around the globe,” according to the statement.
The all-caps tweet pinned at the top of his Twitter feed summed up the performer’s comically angry and often-profanity laced persona: “TAKE A MINUTE OF YOUR DAY TO BE NICE TO SOMEONE YOU DUMB SON OF A B—-.”
The Sheik often used hilariously caustic language to address current events.
His final tweet, before the post that announced his death, made reference to Canadian wildfires that have darkened skies across the northeast United States: “F— THE WILDFIRES.”
“WWE is saddened to hear of the passing of WWE Hall of Famer The Iron Sheik, and extends its condolences to his family, friends, and fans,” according to a statement from the pro wrestling organization.
The Sheik rose to prominence as a comic foil in 1980s America, when tensions between the United States and Iran reached a boiling point during the hostage crisis in Tehran.
Before donning the garb of a comical anti-American heel, the Sheik was a real wrestler, competing as an amateur in his native Iran before moving stateside.
The Sheik achieved his American dream in late 1983, when he captured the world heavyweight belt by taking down Bob Backlund at Madison Square Garden, in a “controversial” outcome, according to WWE archives.
It was a disputed title “as Backlund’s manager Arnold Skaaland threw in the towel after Backlund refused to submit,” according to the WWE narrative.
The Sheik held that title for just a month, relinquishing it to budding superstar Hulk Hogan and touching off a longtime rivalry with the Hulkster.
The Sheik kept up the kayfabe act for decades, frequently and gratuitously tweeting insults at Hogan. He wrote “F–K THE HULK HOGAN!” in early 2021.