The Iron Sheik's 5 Best WWF Matches Ranked

With opponents ranging from his early nemesis and eventual ally Sgt. Slaughter to Hulk Hogan and even Antonio Inoki, there's just no denying that the late Iron Sheik was one of the greatest performers of his era. His character made a permanent imprint on professional wrestling, as well as popular culture at large, and countless fans remember him fondly today.


The wrestling icon, whose real name was Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, had a legendary in-ring career, with matches spanning from 1973 all the way until 2007. In that time, Vaziri spent a number of years performing in the WWF, and gave fans some truly impressive matches in the promotion.

From Royal Rumbles to outlandish stipulation matches to straightforward singles bouts, The Sheik could do it all. A brief look back at the top five matches of his WWF career should serve as proof of just how versatile he was as both a character and an in-ring performer.

Sheik was never known for death-defying stunts in the ring, but fans of classic wrestling would be hard-pressed to find a more despicable villain in the WWF during his heyday. These matches will reflect what Vaziri did best: riling up the crowd and creating memorable moments for wrestling fans both in the arenas and watching at home over the years.


The Iron Sheik vs. Sgt. Slaughter Boot Camp Match, 6/9/1984

Possibly the greatest stipulation match of its era, this good old-fashioned brawl also happened to be part of one of the most heated feuds in wrestling at the time. Sheik and Sgt. Slaughter were diametrically-opposed rivals, with Slaughter positioned as the ultimate patriot — a United States Marine defending America against Sheik, representing the evil foreigner.


While the dynamic is certainly dated, there's no question that the two men were able to create magic together. At no point is their chemistry on better display than in this 1984 match, which fittingly took place in Washington D.C.

The Boot Camp stipulation meant no disqualifications, with pinfalls counting both in and out of the ring. As the match begins, Slaughter starts with the upper hand before Sheik turns things around by gouging Slaughter's eye. From there, momentum shifts back and forth between the two men, and the intensity of the bout steadily boils over until Sheik succeeds at causing Slaughter to bleed.

Things don't end there, however, as Slaughter busts Sheik open as well, and the match becomes something of a bloodbath between two bitter rivals. In the end, Sgt. Slaughter overcomes The Iron Sheik, sending the crowd home happy, but the feud between the two was far from over.


The Iron Sheik vs. Hulk Hogan, 1/23/1984

Though Sheik was notoriously outspoken about disliking Hogan in his later years, there's no denying the two had enormous impacts on one another's careers. In fact, it's safe to say that few matches in the history of professional wrestling had as much impact as this — the kickoff of Hulkamania.


Iron Sheik had captured the WWF World Heavyweight Championship from Bob Backlund less than a month prior, and he was set to defend his newly won title against rising superstar Hulk Hogan at Madison Square Garden in January 1984. Sheik himself had just been elevated to a new high in the wrestling industry, but it was time to put the title on the next big star. Sheik did a phenomenal job of making Hogan look like a hero, and Hogan became the first wrestler to break out of Sheik's Camel Clutch.

This match took place prior to Sheik's feud with Slaughter, and in many ways, this title bout against Hogan paved the way for the frenetic reactions Sheik would begin to garner in the months to come. It can easily be argued that this showcase match helped make the careers of both men, and it was a fantastic display of what Sheik could do.


The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff vs. Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo, WWF WrestleMania, 3/31/1985

Sheik had a strong presence at the very first WrestleMania, taking part in a tag team match alongside Nikolai Volkoff. Together they would defeat Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo, the U.S. Express, to become the new WWF World Tag Team Champions.


Although they didn't occupy the main event slot, it was a very high-profile position for Sheik, and it could be argued the four men put on one of the better matches at the first WrestleMania. This was Sheik's second title victory in the WWF, and his work during this period helped cement him as one of the era's most prominent villains.

The match itself featured some standard wrestling, with both Sheik and Volkoff doing everything they can to upset the crowd. Eventually, with the help of manager Freddie Blassie and a golf club, Sheik and Volkoff pull off the title win.

The stretch from late 1983 to 1985 must be regarded as a peak for Sheik's career, and this WrestleMania spot is a high point. It wouldn't be the last time The Iron Sheik appeared at WrestleMania, either, as he would wrestle the following year in a battle royale consisting of WWE and NFL stars. He and Volkoff would continue working together, with their gimmick of Sheik representing Iran and Volkoff representing the USSR gaining massive crowd reactions everywhere they went.


The Iron Sheik vs. Bob Backlund, 12/26/1983

Before being defeated by Hogan for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship in January 1984, Sheik had taken the title from long-reigning champion Bob Backlund in December of the previous year in possibly the most legendary moment in his career. While Hogan was getting ready to explode into stardom, at the same time the company was building Sheik into a villain for the ages.


Just weeks prior to his title win, Vaziri was wrestling on the independent circuit, putting on memorable performances in promotions like Mid-South, Jim Crockett Promotions, and Georgia Championship Wrestling. In almost no time, Vaziri was brought back for his second stint with WWF and became a world champion as The Iron Sheik.

As for the match, Sheik showed off what he was capable of as a bombastic villain. Clips of the bout show Backlund doing all he can with his technical wrestling ability to overcome the powerful Sheik, but it wasn't meant to be. Sheik won the match after Backlund's manager, Arnold Skaaland, threw in the towel.

Sheik's victory here at Madison Square Garden was almost certainly quite unexpected among fans at the time. However, it wouldn't be long before The Iron Sheik was recognized as one of the most impressive performers in the industry at the time.


Hussein Arab vs. Antonio Inoki, 12/17/1979

During Vaziri's first run with the WWF, he was known as Hussein Arab, and one of his most important matches during this period was against NJPW founder Antonio Inoki for the NWF World Heavyweight Championship. The event this match took place at holds some special interest, as it served both as a WWF event and a taping for NJPW. Hogan competed elsewhere on the card, making his Madison Square Garden debut.


These were Vaziri's earlier days in the business, and Inoki spends much of the match in control. While his character work as Arab wouldn't quite reach the same heights he would climb later in his career, two of the industry's legends locking up inside MSG will always hold some special attraction. While this match happened before the glory days of The Iron Sheik in the WWF, fans looking for a glimpse at an earlier iteration of Vaziri's character should find plenty to enjoy here.

Vaziri and Inoki would have a number of run-ins over the next several years, as Vaziri would soon take his Iron Sheik persona over to NJPW. However, this would be their lone singles match in the WWF, as Inoki had only a handful of those across his appearances with the promotion.