What The Iron Sheik Was Doing Near The End Of His Life

The Iron Sheik is a legend in the world of professional wrestling, and not simply for his talent or entertainment value. Don't get us wrong — he certainly had more than enough of that to go around during his active years, but it was the part he played in the growth of the professional wrestling industry that made The Iron Sheik a legendary figure. 

In January 1984, he lost the heavyweight wrestling title, a title he'd won only a month previously, to the great Hollywood Hulk Hogan. The official WWE website cites this match as the single event that put Hogan's name on the map and brought the production to the mainstream for the first time in history. If it weren't for The Iron Sheik, the WWE might be nothing more than a forgotten thing of the past.

The WWE legend would wrestle until effectively retiring in 2000, per People. After which, he'd appear a handful of times for gimmick wrestling matches and pose as a manager to The Sultan. The iconic pro-wrestler, whose real name was Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, died on June 7, 2023, at the age of 81, according to his Twitter page. No cause was given. Here's how The Iron Sheik spent the years after he retired from wrestling. 

He walked a hard road post-retirement

The once-great wrestler was wracked with painful experiences coming from all sides after leaving the WWE. As reported by Yahoo! Sports, The Iron Sheik's body was breaking down from a lifetime of high-impact athletics. He had bones that were misaligned and had admitted to his wife that he was in pain daily from top to bottom, and that was only the start of this wrestling icon's troubles.

In 2003, his 27-year-old daughter was murdered by her boyfriend. The pain of that loss sent the Sheik down a dark road. Bleacher Report says the former wrestler once snuck a razor blade, hidden in his mouth against his cheek, into a courtroom with plans of slitting the murderer's throat, but the Sheik's family ultimately stopped him. It surely couldn't have helped that he was suffering from alcohol and cocaine addictions at the time, either. After his daughter's death, he made attempts to get clean, but they didn't stick. Not even rehab, where an employee snuck the Sheik an eight-ball of cocaine, would do the trick. He briefly gave up substance abuse after having a heart attack in 2005 but returned to his old ways. 

The Iron Sheik's wife left him for several years

By 2007, The Sheik's habits had driven his wife, Caryl, to her wits' end, and she decided to move out of their home while her husband was out of town. "I up and moved out on him," Caryl told Bleacher Report. "I could no longer beg him to quit. We had lost our daughter. We were all sad and depressed. But enough was enough." Caryl lived away from her husband for the next two years and informed her husband that he either needed to take his sobriety seriously or she was gone for good.

One major part of The Sheik's sobriety efforts involved no longer hanging with one of his close friends who typically accompanied him on drug runs. This seemed to be a key moment in his sobriety journey, and in 2013, The Iron Sheik told Bleacher Report that while he still drank beer, he hadn't touched cocaine in years. "It was pretty hard," he said. "But I don't miss it anymore."

Things improved over time

The dark days eventually waned for The Iron Sheik, though it's safe to say the pain of his losses stuck with him for the rest of his days. Nobody goes into professional wrestling for the wins. It's a fictional production. They take up the athletic performance because they love to entertain, and the Sheik has found a way to scratch that itch off the mat as well. 

Bleacher Report recounts how the legend gained a large following through appearances on The Howard Stern Show, which was later leveraged into a Twitter following. At the time of his death the Sheik has over 664,000 followers and tweeted fun things like a threat to "suplex" Chris Hemsworth for playing Hulk Hogan in an upcoming biopic and other NSFW content.

Outside of Twitter, The Iron Sheik's life seemed simple. He was close with his grandchildren and was known to, on occasion, give them a lecture that's become famous in his family circle after the tragic death of his daughter, about the dangers of being too hard on one's self. And, with the exception of the occasional speaking gig, that seemed to be how the former wrestler lived out his final years. 

The Iron Sheik once challenged an infamous Toronto mayor to an arm wrestling contest

The Iron Sheik was known for his habit of issuing challenges and starting feuds with anyone and everyone, both online and off. One of his most unexpected challenges was thrown out to — of all people — the late, embattled former mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. It happened in 2013, and the wheels were set in motion when Ford attended a WWE fan convention where Sheik's old rival Hulk Hogan was in attendance. Ford and Hogan got into an arm wrestling match in which Ford came out on top, according to Sportsnet. Publicity stunt or not, The Iron Sheik wanted a piece of Ford.

The year 2013 was rough for Ford as, according to CNN, video surfaced of him smoking crack cocaine. The months that followed were an absolute media circus. One of the highlights was when Sheik arrived to humble Ford in an arm wrestling contest. "I saw he beat Hulk Hogan. I want to know if he can beat the Iron Sheik or not," he said, per Ottawa Sun. "I was the champion before Hulk Hogan."

Sheik also said that he didn't feel like Ford — who died in 2016 — was a good role model for Toronto's citizens. "The man eats a cheeseburger and smokes crack. What kind of role model is that for the city? I just want to know if he is a real man or not." Unfortunately, the arm wrestling match never came to be.