Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, known for his stage persona The Iron Sheikh, died Wednesday at age 81. Photo Courtesy of Iron Sheik/Twitter
June 7 (UPI) -- Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, better known to professional wrestling fans by his stage persona "The Iron Sheik," died Wednesday at age 81.
"It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of The Iron Sheik ... It was not just his in-ring prowess that defined him. The Iron Sheik was a beloved figure who was known for his humor, his larger-than-life personality, and his ability to connect with fans on a personal level," read a statement posted to Vaziri's Twitter.
"In the realm of family, love, and friendship, The Iron Sheik's bond with his nephews, Page and Jian Magen was unparalleled. They recognized the significance of their uncle's legacy and worked tirelessly to ensure that his impact would never be forgotten," the statement continued.
Vaziri was born in Damghan, Iran, where he competed in wrestling and served as a bodyguard for Iran's last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, before immigrating to the United States in the 1960s.
His in-ring persona would see him portraying comical anti-American positions, taking the antagonistic role known as a "heel" in wrestling. He would frequently express distain, real or feigned, against fellow wrestler Hulk Hogan.
During heightened tension between Iran and the United States in the '80s, Vaziri would taunt his opponents by saying "Iran Number one" and singing the Iranian national anthem.
During the Gulf War, Vaziri took on the persona of pro-Saddam Col. Mustafa.
After the end of his wrestling career, Vaziri became a fixture on the Howard Stern Show and other New York talk radio shows.
In later years Vaziri brought his colorful persona to Twitter with often vulgar, yet light-hearted, comments.