I had the opportunity to speak with The Iron Sheik about his title reign a few years ago, while I was doing research for the WWE Championship book. For the first time ever, here is the entire transcript of our conversation. Up until this point, only portions of our talk were made available in the book and on this site. Look for more full transcripts on this site in the future.
Kevin Sullivan: Describe the feeling of winning such a prestigious title.
Iron Sheik: It was a very big pleasure to me because I was the first middle eastern to win the championship. I came from Tehran, Iran, and came to America and became champion. That was the biggest honor for me, as well as all my country people and all my wrestling fans in America.
Sullivan: Do you have any regrets or ill-feelings toward the short length of your reign?
Sheik: I’m not really upset, but I wish I had more of a return match with Mr. Hulk Hogan. That way I would be more happy. But even though it was short, it was a big honor for me and I was happy.
Sullivan: Do you think WWE could’ve been as successful as it was in the 1980s with you on top instead of Hogan?
Sheik: I think the reason Mr. Hogan did get my belt was because I had a lot of heat in 1983 because of the hostage situation in Iran. Fifty people, 444 days over there, and I was the hottest thing in the WWF and I was a real athlete. I was all-American, three-time AAU champion from University of Minnesota. And I think Mr. Hulk Hogan came and took the belt over from me because I had too much heat because of the hostage situation in Iran.
Sullivan: Is the story of Verne Gagne offering you $100,000 to break Hogan’s leg true?
Sheik: Hogan was in Minnesota, but then went to New York, and everyone knew at that time that the WWF was the No. 1 company and No. 1 federation in the world. Everybody knows that Mr. Hogan was a big man. But Mr. Gagne told me, “don’t drop the belt to Hogan, break his legs, come back home and I give you $100,000.”
That’s the story. That’s the truth. I came from Minnesota. Mr. Gagne was my coach. He told me, “do me a favor because I am going to go bankrupt. My company is going to go down because Hogan is in WWF. Bring the belt home to Minnesota and I give you $100,000. Do it for me.”
I didn’t do it because the hand that feeds me, I don’t bite that hand. I have so much respect for WWF. A lot of federations go bankrupt after that because WWF was the greatest company in the world.
It’s a true story. I told Mr. McMahon, Pat Patterson, Sgt. Slaughter, and my wife. Long story short – the best time in the world for me was with the WWF. And I have so much respect for that company, I didn’t do it.
Sullivan: So the though of going through with it was never an option for you?
In honor of one of the greatest voices in sports-entertainment history, Mean Gene Okerlund, joining Twitter, I present the definitive Mean Gene collection. These videos speak for themselves … no commentary needed. But I must warn you, these aren’t your traditional highlight reel videos. Enjoy:
For more on the legendary Mean Gene Okerlund, pick up a copy of the new WWE Encyclopedia.
Welcome to the Weekly Top Five (WTF) for the February 25 episode of Monday Night Raw. Before ranking the best moments of the show, allow me to remind you that the second edition of WWE Encyclopedia is available on Amazon.
5. RYBACK vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Superstars should be lining up in the back to wrestle Dolph Ziggler. The man is a star and he continually makes his opponents look great. Example: Ryback on Monday.
4. MIZ TV
Politics aside, the level of attention Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger have received for WWE has to be admired. And just like Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter before it, the Swagger vs. Alberto Del Rio rivalry has managed to strike a nerve, which is exactly what a good angle should do.
I was a little shocked by the lukewarm level of heat Colter received from the live crowd. I’m willing to bet if Raw wasn’t in Texas, the WWE Universe would’ve been all over him even more than they were. Nonetheless, the segment was very effective in getting Colter over as an ignorant heel and Del Rio as the classic hero.
3. JACK SWAGGER
After Jack Swagger’s run-in with the law last week, there was a very real chance that Alberto Del Rio would be facing a different challenger at WrestleMania. But WWE stayed the course with Swagger and continued to make him look strong in his match against The Miz.
WWE could have very easily suspended or fired Swagger, but that would be akin to cutting off one’s nose to spite the face. WWE is a business and the best thing for business at this point, in my opinion, is to finish what they started. Imagine if they plugged somebody like Mark Henry into the match instead. That would destroy the credibility of the Elimination Chamber. People paid their hard-earned money to see which Superstar would win and go on to WrestleMania. To throw that all away now would be to severely damage the Chamber event now and in the future.
2. BROCK LESNAR/TRIPLE H
I’m sure everybody reading this assumed Brock Lesnar and/or Triple H would play some role in Monday’s fight between Mr. McMahon and Brock Lesnar, but there’s no way anybody anticipated the chaos and intensity shown by Lesnar and The Game. Their battle was as physical as it gets, and Lesnar’s bloodied head was proof of that. Like many I’m sure, I figured the two Superstars would engage in a war of words, saving the physicality for WrestleMania. I was wrong, and I’m pretty happy about it.
1. JOHN CENA vs. CM PUNK
WWE did a great job reminding viewers throughout the night that Cena vs. Punk had huge consequences. And Cena and Punk clearly got the message and delivered an epic main event. More often than not, there’s nothing better in this business than to watch two of the generation’s greatest battle it out one-on-one in the ring. No gimmicks, just good old-fashioned action.
NXT officials tell me that Bo Dallas has what it takes to be a star for years to come. I’m told he has an “everyman” type persona that NXT fans really got behind. Whether that personality resonates with the WWE Universe remains to be seen … that is if we ever see him again. I may have missed it, but I haven’t seen him in a while. Dallas’s absence had me thinking about past WWE Superstars who came and left in a blink of an eye. Here are a few of my favorites. By the way, if I had to guess I’d say Dallas has a long and successful career ahead of him.
Find out more on these obscure Superstars in the WWE Encyclopedia.