The world of wrestling was shocked by the announcement of the death of the former WWE The all time legendary champion and heel The Iron Sheik. Sheiky Baby was one of the most iconic heels of the 1980s, when WWE and professional wrestling in general were going through a real boom period. With Sheik’s sad passing, it’s an opportunity to look back on his career and celebrate the legacy he left behind. There will be some questions regarding the circumstances of his passing that fans may have that will be answered here as well, as well as looking at his legacy in the industry.
The Iron Sheikh was an iconic wrestling heel
Iron Sheik had a hugely successful career before the Golden Age when he emerged as one of the greatest foreign heels of all time at a time when they were all the rage. Before making the move to professional wrestling, he, like many others before and after him, was an accomplished amateur wrestler, which no doubt helped in his transition to the other world of wrestling. He started out in the AWA, gaining some prominence before working at JCP and WWE.
He would prove to be a brilliant heel, working with the likes of Bob Backlund, Dusty Rhodes and Bruno Sammartino, and would even make history by being the first and only Iranian to win the WWE Championship when he defeated Backlund, ending his 1000+ day reign. with the gold. Sheik was set for a rematch with Backlund, but was replaced by rising American hero Hulk Hogan. Sheik handing over the title to Hogan is what many call the start of She-HulkMania, which in turn propelled WWE to the number one promotion on the planet. Sheik would also find WWE success in another major foreign act alongside Nikolai Volkoff, where they would win the Tag Team Championships.
Sheik’s in-ring career was less prominent once he left WWE under controversial circumstances (to be explored a bit later), wrestling less frequently each year until his eventual retirement in 2001 when he competed in the iconic WrestleMania 17 Gimmick Battle. Royal. Sheik would come out of retirement from him once in 2007.
The iron sheikh passed away peacefully
On June 7, 2023 it was announced that, at the age of 81, The Iron Sheik had passed away. On his now infamous Twitter accountt, a statement was issued celebrating his life as a performer and as a person. In the statement it said; “It is with great sadness that we share the news of The Iron Sheik’s passing, but we are also comforted to know that he departed this world in peace, leaving a legacy that will live on for generations to come.”
His behind-the-scenes life as a husband, father and grandfather was detailed, as well as all the positive traits he possessed. The statement closed by saying; “To his family, friends, and all those touched by his larger-than-life presence, we offer our deepest condolences. May you take solace in knowing that The Iron Sheik’s legacy will always be cherished and celebrated. Rest in peace, dear Sheikh, and thanks for the memories.”
Iron Sheik’s legacy in professional wrestling
As for his legacy, Sheik will be remembered as one of the greatest heels of all time, and as a master and destroyer of the kayfabe. In 1987, when Sheik was feuding with Jim Duggan, the police caught them together outside the ring in an incident that shook the world of professional wrestling and the whole concept of staying in character. It was a huge moment for the business, and one that changed the course of how fans viewed the product and wrestlers. Furthermore, Sheik was also a master at keeping it kayfabe, staying in character for almost the rest of his career. In interviews, he would not waver in his hatred for Hulk Hogan, in addition to his iconic Twitter account, which would also retain his personality, and classic appearances on The Howard Stern show.
Sheik was also a clear sign that anyone from anywhere could rise through the ranks and become a world champion in WWE, and very few non-Americans had a shot at becoming WWE Champion. To this day, it remains a very short list of people who have won the legendary gold. Whether it was his great work in the ring as a heel and WWE Champion or his beloved personality outside of the ring, he left a legacy so great that it will be remembered for generations.