This week sees the release of the fascinating and heartwarming documentary The Sheik. The film follows the life of Khosrow Vaziri, known to many as the legendary pro-wrestling heel “The Iron Sheik” from his beginnings as a child wrestler to the present day. After serving as a bodyguard for the Shah of Iran, The Sheik fled to the U.S. in the midst of Iranian political turmoil, and began teaching high school wrestling. He even helped coach the U.S. Olympic wrestling team.
But Vaziri couldn’t be kept out of the ring forever, and soon found himself in the nascent pro-wrestling circuit that would eventually become the WWE. Using anti-Iranian sentiments to his advantage, he created the wrestling persona “The Iron Sheik” to become wrestling’s most notorious villain. Through this avatar he inspired the careers of wrestlers like The Rock and made the career of Hulk Hogan.
The Sheik doesn’t just highlight Vaziri’s career high points. It shows us a flawed man who succumbs to the trappings of fame and drugs as a form of pain management. We see The Iron Sheik at his absolute worst as he fights for redemption from his family and eventually uses his outlandish personality to become a Twitter sensation. We’re not only given insight into the life of a legendary wrestler, but also his place in U.S.-Iranian relations and the meteoric rise of American professional wrestling.
The Sheik was an Official Selection at the 2014 Hot Docs International Documentary Festival and features over 25 celebrities including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It’s a labor of love from Iranian-Canadian twins Page and Jian Magen who grew up idolizing The Iron Sheik and were instrumental in helping him turn his life around. The film is available today on your favorite digital store. Check out the trailer below: