By Ed Zitron
On August 29, 2009, a man of over 250 pounds with a thick, black mustache registered a Twitter handle. "#fact" his first tweet began. "Iron sheik is making twitter humble -- stay tuned." A retired wrestler, one known for sporadic outbursts about his competition, re-launched himself as a bizarre and irreverent pop-culture voice. Today he has more than 93,000 followers, a verified account and a voice that can be described in many different ways -- abrasive, hilarious, aggressive, off-the-wall. As I interviewed him, his bristling tone and thoughts went in rapidly-changing directions, with more in the way of energy than true meaning. In 2012, Hossein Khosrow Vaziri cannot be wrestled from his most famous persona.
As he described re-entering the spotlight of media, he burst with excitement (or was it fury?): "Iron Sheik world legend, not like no good LeBron James and the Kobe [Bryant] ex-wife. World champion always say 'yes please' -- never hold back when someone need humble. The world respect the legend and know I come to party with Lionel Richie at the world class party. Sheikie (sic) baby love sharing with all the intelligent people in world."
Mr. Richie was unavailable for comment.
Born in Iran in 1943, The Sheik was a hall-of-fame wrestler with the World Wrestling Federation. He is most famous for two things: Being the man Hulk Hogan defeated to capture his first WWF championship, and having a signature move called the 'Camel Clutch' -- one that he commonly threatens both celebrities and his current and former wrestling peers with.
Formerly of the Iranian army, The Sheik had a successful wrestling career across the WWF, NWA and WCCW, before dropping into relative seclusion in the late 1990's, popping up for air very occasionally for an appearances, including trips to visit radio personality Howard Stern.
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In his current state, the Sheik has looked to re-invent himself by using his Twitter to call out wrestlers such as Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior as well as comment on the news of the day -- including the death of Whitney Houston, Chris Brown's physical assault of R&B singer Rihanna, Rick Santorum and even New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Many are X-rated, Not-Safe-For-Work comparisons of celebrities to human appendages and threats of carnal activity -- described as a return to the "old country way" -- or simply calling them out on being what he perceives as "bad."
However, The Sheik takes pity on current wrestlers too -- when the TNA wrestler Jesse Sorensen was hospitalized with a blow to the head, The Sheik reached out with his condolences.
His most common threat is to "humble" those that he doesn't like -- a list that he considers never-ending. "I humble anyone who don't respect legend. I sell out the Madison square garden gold metal. F- the piece of garbage grasshopper d- Ultimate Warrior, the Hulk Hogan and the idiot no-good the Virgil ." The Sheik then went on to describe various female movie stars he also wished to "humble" -- a man of great energy at 69 years old.
Most celebrities do not rise to Sheik's taunts, questions or statements. However, some do -- positively, in the case of Patrick Carney, the drummer for band The Black Keys and incredibly negatively, as evidenced by his ongoing battle with well-known comedian Michael Ian Black -- one that I won't link to, as it's quite disgusting. A request for a comment from Black was not answered.
Deep down, though, The Sheik is proud of what he does -- as aggressively, abrasively or crudely as he does it. "I don't lie; I tell the people who I think is a jabroni and who is the real," he said.
While his future is murky, the Sheik sees great things ahead. Grinning broadly, the Sheik declares he is ready to return to the world of wrestling. "I am ready to get in ring for greatest boss in world [Vince] Kennedy McMahon, [or] do the movie or the TV. Also if my agent make me happy he get me with the Howard Stern."
Said agent is Page Magen, part of Magen Boys Entertainment based in Toronto, a premier events company he founded with his brother Jian. The Magens have worked with Dennis Rodman and professional wrestlers other than the Sheik -- who they share a proud family connection with.
"My dad and the Iron Sheik have been best friends since they lived in Iran. My dad [Bijan Magen] and the Sheik grew up in athletics together, and both left the country in the 1960s, losing touch. Our story kicks in 1983, when we were kids. We were watching TV, and all of a sudden we heard an Iranian man on screaming in Farsi. My mom, who was cooking food in the kitchen, headed over to the TV room and saw that it was my dad's friend -- and she couldn't believe he was on TV, swearing in Farsi."
Shortly thereafter, Bijan and The Sheik reconnected -- and the wrestler became a regular featured guest in the ring and at the dinner table. Big John Studd, Nikolai Volkoff, Ricky Steamboat, Jake the Snake and others would sit down with the Magens, telling stories of the behind-the-scenes of the pro wrestling circuit. "Imagine your childhood heroes would come into your house -- it was really unique and crazy," Magen says. Eventually, in 1994, a call came into the Magen brothers to represent the Sheik -- taking over his business and his press appearances.
In closing, I asked Bijan (pictured below with his brother, Beyonce and the Sheik) of the Sheik's hate of Hulk Hogan, arguably one of the more popular wrestlers of the era:
"It really stems from the fact that back in that day, the Iron Sheik and Hulk Hogan had the most harsh [on-air] relationship -- and the Sheik took care of the hulk, but not vice-versa. Sheik could have broken Hulk's leg, could've made more money, but chose help Hogan over his own career -- Hulk never really paid the favor. He never really gave back. Hulk even had his own dressing room and was never really part of the boys. He didn't travel with them, didn't go on a road -- they didn't hang out together. He'd go home in a limousine when the rest of the wrestlers were hanging out together, having a beer. It was a brotherhood."
Colt Cabana, professional wrestler, owner of the Art of Wrestling Podcast and curator of pro wrestling history, interviewed the Sheik in 2011 and had this to say:
"Honestly, The Iron Sheik to me came off as the nicest Iranian Grandpa ever. He seems so kind and generous to the people that are good to him. I guess, the people that are "bad" to him are the ones that seem to get the verbal lashing that he dishes out so famously. To me he's an inspiration where he's kinda carved out this great comedy niche for himself to people outside the world of pro wrestling. I think he's done it in a different way than I'd like to, but he's done it nonetheless ... I almost want to look at him as this fictional character even though he's right in front of me having a real life conversation. It's important to know though, that every human has real feelings and emotions and Iron Sheik does too. Maybe some of it's just an act. He has been a performer his whole life."
Ultimately, the consistent theme of The Sheik's existence has become one of targeted brutality juxtaposed with a deep paternal care for those close to him and the things he loves. "Sheikie love the music that make me happy when I eat the kebob. I love the old generation -- the Frank Sinatra, Bob Marley -- he legend. The new generation? I respect the Jay Z, the Kanye West, the Black Key and the Black Eye Pea." As he approaches subjects he detests, he gets frustrated, the words coming out in a torrent of anger and spit. "I humble the Spice girl! And The Lady Gaga Mickey Mouse."
When asked where he spends his semi-retirement, the Sheik echoes a deep love of the nation that took him in: "USA greatest country in world. Sheikie -- baby live in the America. I live in Atlanta, the LA and the New York City -- greatest city in the world. I never respect the Tom Brady wife -- she don't know how to make him happy after he lose Super Bowl."
Each answer dangles with a seemingly irrelevant statement -- ones that the Sheik peppers each answer to my question with. Another ends simply with "If I see the … Hulk Hogan or the Donald Trump, I break their back -- make them humble."
For all of the chaos of his speech, there lies a subtle logic. He has his themes. He has his timing. He understands, consumes and comments on the news. Within his irreverence lies the passion to be an entertainer, to make people laugh with or without a love for pro wrestling. He has harnessed Twitter to create his own ring to return to -- a misfit champion of a Tweet-landscape of self-promoters and retweet-beggars. Brusque, honest and brutal, the Sheik will live on where other wrestlers fall into bad habits they learned from their fame.
Magen teased a return to Howard Stern, and a media blitz for the Sheik like nothing we'd seen yet. When further pressed, Magen had nothing more to say, other than they were considering every form of media that the Sheik could operate within.
That led to the most important question of them all: Would the Sheik join Pinterest?
"I don't give a f— about the f—–g Pinterest. Have a good day."
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