Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, better known by his ring name ‘The Iron Sheik,’ passed away on June 7 at the age of 81. While a cause of death wasn’t revealed at the time, his death certificate – which was obtained by TMZ on July 19 – provides some insight into what went down leading up to his death.
According to the document, The Iron Sheik died of cardiac arrest – which occurs when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops pumping blood. Cardiac arrests account for nearly 300,000 to 450,000 deaths in the United States every year and account for nearly half of all deaths related to heart attacks and strokes.
His death certificate describes his cause of death as a ‘natural’ one and confirms that he was also suffering from congestive heart failure and hypertension at the time of his death. He also struggled with cocaine and alcohol abuse for decades – starting in the 1980s and continuing up until the 2010s.
It didn’t take long for the tributes to start rolling in – starting with a statement from his family, which was posted to The Iron Sheik’s official Twitter account at 8:11 a.m. on June 7. They described him as a ‘true legend, a force of nature, and an iconic figure’ in the wrestling world, but he was so much more than that.
“Beyond the wrestling persona that the world knew so well, The Iron Sheik was a devoted family man,” the statement read. He married Caryl Peterson on March 21, 1976 and they shared three children and five grandchildren together – one of their daughters, Marissa, was murdered by her boyfriend in 2003.
“As a doting Papa Sheik, he cherished every moment spent with them, creating memories that will forever be treasured,” the statement continued – adding that ‘he shared his wisdom, humor, and zest for life with his grandchildren, leaving an incredible impression on their hearts.’ His legacy will live on through them.
In an interview with TMZ, fellow WWE legend Sgt. Slaughter remembered his rival-turned-partner as an incredible performer and ‘a character,’ but one who loved his career and loved his family even more.”God bless him. He’s finally gonna see his daughter that he lost. Love you Sheik. Love you forever,” he said.
A Look Back at the Legendary Career of ‘The Iron Sheik’
The Iron Sheik is one of the most famous villains in WWE history and played an integral role in the popularization of the wrestling phenomenon in the 1980s. He’s perhaps best known for his longstanding feud with Hulk Hogan – a rivalry that helped Hogan become one of the greatest heroes in WWE history.
The Iron Sheik’s career began in 1972 when he was approached by promoter Verne Gagne. He spent time with the World Wrestling Foundation (now-WWE), Jim Crockett Promotions, Mid-South Wrestling, Championship Wrestling from Florida, the WCCW, AWA, WWC, and WCW over the next three decades.
He’s the only Iranian wrestler to be named a world champion after winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in 1983. He was one of the most well-known villains due to his intensity, vulgarity, and shoot interviews. His legacy was cemented in 2005 when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
In addition to his 1983 world title, The Iron Sheik won the WWF Tag Team Championship in 1985 at the inaugural WrestleMania event – he was partnered with Nikolai Volkoff. Together, they defeated The U.S. Express, a team that consisted of Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo, by way of pinfall.
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