RIP: The Iron Sheik was a good example of how immigrants often love America the most

'I love the America.'

In the 1980’s, the World Wrestling Federation’s Iron Sheik would spit on America and her flag and declare “Iran, number one!” He enraged audiences across the country. He was deeply hated, especially during the Iranian hostage crisis of the early 80s.

The Iron Sheik, real name Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, died Wednesday at age 81.

And he absolutely loved America.

Born in Iran, the Sheik had quite a life before his pro wrestling fame. As the Washington Post noted, “A onetime bodyguard for the shah of Iran, Mr. Vaziri became an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling team, accompanying the American athletes to the 1972 Games in Munich and the 1976 Games in Montreal. As a young man, he had won gold and silver medals in the Association of American Universities’ Greco-Roman National Championships.”

Sheik eventually became a famous pro wrestler, particularly as the villain who helped catapult Hulk Hogan to global fame. In 1984, Hogan would pin the Sheik at Madison Square Garden, winning his first WWF World Heavyweight Championship. Most consider that moment to be the beginning of Hulkamania, arguably one of the largest pop cultural phenomenons of the ‘80s.

But this is not about the Sheik and his legendary wrestling career, or even his later fame as a social media superstar.

The Sheik became famous in America for hating America, as a foreign menace.

But as an immigrant, he deeply loved America. This isn’t unusual at all for American immigrants.

Old school wrestling “heels,” the industry term for bad guys, try to never break character, though Sheik would often express his love for America on Twitter.

But his family could be frank about their father’s love of his country. In the 2014 documentary ‘The Sheik,’ his daughter Tanya Vaziri said, “Our dad was portrayed as the Iranian villain, I think in his wrestling career. But I think it was extremely ironic because I’ve never met another individual in my life who embraced this country more than our dad.”

Actor and wrestler Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, who was mentored and even babysat by the Sheik as a child, said in the documentary, “A man from Tehran, Iran with his Persian clubs and his incredible wrestling background and soldier’s mentality, representing how there is no success without struggle. He represented that hard work pays off.”

“He was all things that make America great,” Johnson added.

Legendary wrestling announcer Jim Ross had a similar take on the Sheik’s life and career, “America has always been the land of opportunity and he came here with nothing, and he’s had a 40 plus year career living here in this country raising a family.”

“So I don’t know how we could argue the fact that Khosrow hasn’t achieved the American Dream,” Ross added.

The Sheik himself said at the end of the documentary, in his characteristic broken English, “I like the people remember me, I’m a real good man. Good sport man. Real tough man, my young day.”

He added, “I was many year, villain. I got heat. But no, I’m a good guy. Wherever I go, most the people like me. They respect me. I’m like the hero. I’m the babyface.”

“I’m the good guy,” Sheik insisted.


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Jack Hunter
Jack Hunter
Jack Hunter is a freelance writer, the co-author of Sen. Rand Paul’s 2011 book ‘The Tea Party Goes to Washington’ and the former politics editor for