Professional wrestling legend and WWE Hall of Famer, ‘The Iron Sheik’ died on Wednesday. He was 81.

Sheik, whose real name was Khosrow Ali Vaziri, was a former standout Greco-Roman wrestler from Iran before being launched into superstardom in the 1980s as a top heel for the World Wrestling Federation, now known as WWE. Sheik had memorable feuds with the era’s top stars including Bob Backlund and Sgt. Slaughter, but none were bigger than his rivalry with sports-entertainment megastar Hulk Hogan.

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In January 1984, Sheik surrendered the WWF championship to Hogan in front of 20,000 fans at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. The match launched Hulkamania worldwide and set the stage for the promotion’s first-ever spring extravaganza, WrestleMania, the following year.

“With his larger than life persona, incredible charisma, and unparalleled in-ring skills, he captivated audiences around the globe,” said a statement from his Twitter account. “He was a trailblazer, breaking barriers and paving the way for a diverse range of wrestlers who followed in his footsteps.”

In more recent years, Sheik developed a cult-like following for his often hilarious Twitter posts that routinely took digs at his longtime WWF rival Hulk Hogan and his understandable dislike for Mondays.

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“Beyond the glitz and glamour of the squared circle, The Iron Sheik was a man of immense passion and dedication,” the Twitter statement read. “He embodied resilience. He overcame countless challenges in his life, both inside and outside the wrestling ring. His journey from a small village in Iran to becoming one of the most recognized figures in the world of wrestling is a testament to his unwavering dedication.”

Members of the Combat Sports Community Pay Their Respects to ‘The Iron Sheik’

Men and women involved in mixed martial arts, professional boxing, and beyond shared their love for the called WWF icon on social media amid news of his passing.

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Craig Pekios is a freelance writer born and raised in Bettendorf, IA. Joining LowKick MMA in May 2022, Craig has more than 2,500 articles published that focus on the world of mixed martial arts and boxing, including news, event previews, results, analysis, and op-eds. Aside from working with LowKick MMA, Craig has contributed to news outlets Overtime Heroics, Sportskeeda, and MiddleEasy.