The Iron Sheik, a WWE Hall of Famer and actor, has died. He was 81.
His passing was confirmed in a statement shared to his social media accounts, which revealed he died “peacefully,” but did not share an immediate cause of death.
“Today, we gather with heavy hearts to bid farewell to a true legend, a force of nature, and an iconic figure who left an incredible mark on the world of professional wrestling,” the statement reads.
The Iron Sheik, who was born Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, got his start in wrestling after competing on the Greco-Roman wrestling team in the 1968 Olympics. He later became an assistant coach to the U.S. Olympic wrestling team before going on to begin his professional wrestling career.
The Iranian athlete famously won the World Wrestling Federation’s (now known as WWE) World Heavyweight Championship in 1983, until Hulk Hogan took the title from him in 1984, sparking the beginning of their feud and catapulting Hogan to fame.
Vaziri was later inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.
The statement released on his social media details the close bond he shared with his wife, Caryl, and their family: “Beyond the wrestling persona that the world knew so well, The Iron Sheik was a devoted family man,” the statement notes.
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“With his larger-than-life persona, incredible charisma, and unparalleled in-ring skills, he captivated audiences around the globe,” it continued. “He was a trailblazer, breaking barriers and paving the way for a diverse range of wrestlers who followed in his footsteps.”
Vaziri is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren and nephews.