Rob Ford turns down invite to meet Iron Sheik
TORONTO – Rob Ford has earned the wrath of wrestling star The Iron Sheik after the Toronto mayor declined a request to break bread with him at a sandwich shop on Saturday.
The Iranian-born champion of the ring and social media is the subject of “The Sheik,” which makes its world premiere at Toronto’s Hot Docs film festival on Saturday night.
Page Magen, one of the Sheik’s agents and a producer of the doc, said a Ford staffer had earlier texted him to say they’d try to free up the mayor to meet with the wrestler at a sub shop hours before the screening.
But the embattled mayor didn’t turn up — annoying the 72-year-old moustachioed Sheik.
“Rob Ford…we invited you to come to the Belly Buster’s (shop), you didn’t show up,” he said.
— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) April 26, 2014
But Ford’s chief of staff Dan Jacobs stiff-armed that account, saying in an email “there was never any plan in place for them to meet, nor was there even an invitation received.” “The story was nothing but a publicity stunt.”
Ford’s mayoral-race rival Olivia Chow did arrive, however. She mugged for the cameras with the Sheik’s wrestling belt slung over her shoulder, and won the aging grappler’s endorsement.
The last time the Sheik was in Toronto in November, he stopped by City Hall to challenge Ford to an arm-wrestling match.
But he never got to meet Ford amid the media circus that erupted over the mayor’s admission that he had smoked crack cocaine while in office.
In an interview at Hot Docs on Friday, the Sheik said he had some things to discuss with Ford at the subway shop, which Magen co-owns with twin brother Jian.
“I want to let him know that … it’s no good to smoke crack and come on national TV,” the Sheik, whose real name is Hossein Khosrow Vaziri.
“He’s supposed to be a role model for Toronto. … I wish I could see him to suplex him, put him in the Camel Clutch, make him humble.”
The World Wrestling Entertainment hall of famer also tried crack during a dark period in his life following the murder of one of his three daughters in 2003.
The Magen brothers started shooting footage of Vaziri for the doc at his Georgia home in 2006, and he’s seen on camera suffering from a drug and alcohol dependency, which he says he’s now over.
“I worked very hard on the road all year round and I lost my daughter and I was depressed, and I had a bad friend and I made a mistake,” he said, sitting in a wheelchair flanked by the Magen brothers.
“I paid for my dues, millions of millions of dollars I lost. But recently I saw the light, and Jesus and God helped me.
“I’m sober and my two young agents, the Magen boys, are helping me and made the movie for me, ‘The Sheik’ movie, and I changed completely.”
Directed by Igal Hecht, “The Sheik” outlines Vaziri’s life — from his time wrestling and working as a bodyguard for the Shah in Iran, to his rise to fame as a villain in the WWE in the U.S. and his struggle to become sober.
Other wrestlers featured in the doc include Hulk Hogan, Jake Roberts, Mick Foley, Dwayne Johnson and Bret Hart.
“Without Iron Sheik (there would be) no Hulkamania,” said Vaziri, wearing an Arab headdress and holding up his medals from the NWA Hall of Fame and Amateur Athletic Union Greco-Roman wrestling.
Indeed, Vaziri is widely credited with helping launch Hulkamania in the 1980s after Hogan escaped his signature Camel Clutch chin-lock move and pinned him in Madison Square Garden to win his first WWF Championship.
“I make Hulk Hogan to be Hulkamania,” said Vaziri. “Because I was a champion before him, I lost my belt to him.”
Vaziri said someone offered him $100,000 to break Hogan’s leg during that match and “take the belt to the Midwest of Minnesota,” but he declined.
“I didn’t do it because of my company boss, Mr. (Vince) McMahon. He is No. 1 promoter to me, nice to me.”
Vaziri said Toronto is close to his heart as he had some big matches at the city’s now-shuttered Maple Leaf Gardens.
“I beat Angelo Mosca, one of the great football players — nobody beat him — I beat him at Maple Leaf Gardens. I became champion and I cannot forget Maple Leaf Gardens. I cannot forget about Toronto.”
These days, Vaziri is a grandfather and a hit on social media sites including Twitter, where he posts expletive-laden trash talk befitting his Iron Sheik persona.
“Some days I’m in a good mood and sometimes I’m bad,” he said. “The knee bothers me, the ankle bothers me (from) many years of wrestling in the ring.”
Vaziri credits the Magen brothers, who are seen in the doc, with helping revive his career and overcome his battle with addiction.
The twins said Vaziri, who knew their father, was like a “childhood hero” to them and they felt compelled to go to Atlanta to help him when they heard of his struggles.
“The Iron Sheik has gone through a lot,” said Page. “He has a soldier’s mentality and he has a heart of a lion and he has been brought up, growing up in Iran, with discipline and a hard work ethic and strong, grounded values that — even at the lowest peaks of his life — he still stayed consistent with doing the best that he could for whatever it was.”
Jian noted the Sheik has outlived many of his peers and remarkably made a comeback.
“He’s 72 years old, which in the wrestling world is like 150. This man has the heart and the motor of a ’67 Chevy. However, his bones are pretty beat up.
“I think it’s a true testament for him and his perseverance and his athleticism growing up as to how he’s alive today.”
Said Vaziri: “I talk to all my wrestling fans, Twitter fans, to let them know I’m still surviving. God bless Jesus or Muhammad or Allah to be behind me, and I’m still surviving.”
© 2014 The Canadian Press