The Iron Sheik, an iconic WWE wrestler and popular social media personality, has died at the age of 81, his family announced on Wednesday. His representative Jian Magen confirmed the death to CBS News.
His family called the wrestling legend, whose real name was Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, “an iconic figure who left an incredible mark on the world of professional wrestling” in a statement. They did not release the cause of his death.
“It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of The Iron Sheik, but we also take solace in knowing that he departed this world peacefully, leaving behind a legacy that will endure for generations to come,” they wrote on Twitter.
Vaziri, who was from Iran, was a onetime bodyguard for the shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, according to ESPN. He was a Greco-Roman wrestler and nearly made his country’s Olympic team in 1968. He later moved to the U.S. and became an assistant coach for the American wrestling team. He went on to break into professional wrestling and joined WWF in 1979, and won the WWF world heavyweight title in 1984. The Iron Sheik was inducted into the WWE hall of fame in 2005.
While he saw most of his success in the 1980s as he battled against Hulk Hogan and Sgt. Slaughter, he acquired a new era of fandom with his Twitter presence, often with his eccentric tweets. The Iron Sheik has more than 643,000 followers on the social media platform.
He is survived by wife Caryl, who he was married to for 47 years, and his children Tanya, Nikki and Marisa.
“He was a loving and dedicated father,” his family said. “He instilled in them the values of perseverance, determination, and the importance of following their dreams. The Iron Sheik’s guidance and unwavering belief in their potential served as a driving force for his children, empowering them to become the best versions of themselves.”