The Sheik

As you may know, I don’t watch or understand any wrestling from the past two to three decades, but I retain a fascination and nostalgia from the stuff I did watch in the ’80s. One of the iconic villains of that era was The Iron Sheik, a cartoonish embodiment (along with his fur-hat-wearing Soviet tag team partner Nikolai Volkoff) of America’s most absurd fears of scary foreigners. Looking back it seems like a put-on, a parody, an Andy Kaufman style evisceration of the stereotypes you’d have to be a dummy to believe in, the communists and Middle Easterners who come in and tell us we are weak Americans and then demand that we be respectful as they (gasp) make us sit through their national anthems. And then are outraged when we boo.

It was also a time when some people, due to economic anxiety or whatever, didn’t understand that these were fictional characters. Many Americans presumably believed that the Iron Sheik was real, that this Persian man was behaving this way not because he was an entertainer, but because those guys really hate America, you know? And  in the copious vintage footage included in this very enjoyable 2014 documentary by director Igal Hecht we see the red-faced fury of some of these fans. In interviews we hear about the danger of the Sheik’s “heat” from the crowd, people showing up with guns and shit. Every great heel tells a story like this (the wrestling villain’s humblebrag), but I bet the Middle Eastern angle means he had to be even more careful than Roddy Piper did.

It’s almost too trite to point out, but there’s a direct line from this ritualistic hatred of cartoon foreigners to the campaign rallies and now actual policies of WWE Hall of Famer and temporary President of the United States Donald Trump. Hyperbole, distortion and bold-faced horeshit is spewed without regard to anything but riling up the crowd, painting the most juvenile story of good vs. evil in an attempt to get hearts beating fast and people screaming. All that matters is selling tickets and t-shirts. Any other consequences are not considered.

A few years ago I reviewed a short doc called SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT, about an independent wrestling event in a high school gym. An aging Iron Sheik was the headliner, and I was fascinated by the cuts from his backstage interviews about his love for America to the intense go-back-to-your-country booing of the crowd when he came out. The irony is even deeper now, with Trump attempting to ban the Sheik’s countrymen from crossing our borders, while he’s an example of a great Iranian immigrant who accomplished the American dream – by creating pop culture’s pre-eminent caricature of the Evil Arab.

That’s some of the stuff THE SHEIK makes me think about while watching it today, but it doesn’t go directly into those issues. Instead it’s a great portrait of a complicated man and an extraordinary life, with that mix of Wrestlemania highs and high school gym lows that the best wrestling stories have, with the added appeal of his unique background and personality.

The doc starts with an Iranian historian, and photos of handsome young Khosrow Vaziri, champion amateur wrestler and bodyguard to the Shah. We learn about his idol, Takhti, who he says was “the best wrestler in Iranian history” and sort of a Muhammad Ali type of iconic athlete because according to legend he told the Shah to stop giving him lavish gifts and instead spend the money on the people and the infrastructure. Which didn’t go over well.

Allegedly Takhti committed suicide. Not believing that and disillusioned about his country, future Iron Sheik Vaziri decided to move to Minnesota, where he became assistant coach to the U.S. Olympic wrestling team. Later he met certain people and this led into doing the professional wrestling, and somebody suggested he wax his mustache and wear curly boots and play up his heritage as a villain, and then the Iran hostage crisis happened…

So we’ve got all this fascinating stuff about his background in Iran, and we also have some more standard wrestling biography material like various legends (Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Mick Foley, etc.) talking up his place in history. They really emphasize his part as the bad guy who Hulk Hogan got the title from, the theory being it had to be a truly great villain to create the momentum for Hulkamania to take hold. The Rock is in the movie quite a bit too and seems to genuinely love the Sheik – he even talks about being babysat by his wife.

It’s pretty funny to meet the family of the Iron Sheik, because they’re just normal people who are used to having a guy like that in their family. One of his daughters remembers kids at school asking her if wrestling was fake, and she says she didn’t understand what that even meant. She also talks about neighborhood kids being afraid to come over because he would blow a whistle like a coach and make them exercise.

Like other wrestling biographies there’s a terrible drug addiction. But this too has a unique spin on it because of the infamous incident of Sheik bumming a ride with Hacksaw Jim Duggan and getting pulled over with a bunch of cocaine and pot on him. Somehow they make it to their match anyway and they don’t say anything and they almost think they got away with it… until it’s in the newspaper.

And yeah, the crime and the coke addiction are bad but WHAT THE FUCK IS THE BAD GUY DOING  HANGING OUT AND SMOKING WEED WITH THE GOOD GUY? Vince McMahon fires him, worried that he has doomed the entire industry with this faux pas.

So all the sudden Sheik is almost losing his house and having to wrestle on the independent circuit. He misses the 93,000 people of Wrestlemania III, but “I didn’t have a choice and I love my business,” so he kept working. “Something better than nothing.”

Brothers Jian and Jake Page are producers and writers of the documentary and become major characters. Growing up they were family friends of the Vaziris. Years later they saw Sheik at some small time event at a bar in Toronto and reconnected, coming to his home to look after him when it was clear the drugs were a problem. There’s alot of home movie type footage from over many years and there are two scenes in particular that are shockingly intimate:

1) A sort of spy camera shot from outside of a house that he came to late at night to buy drugs. As he waits for the dealer to come out he unenthusiastically answers a girlfriend or wife’s small talk questions. Yes, he used to wrestle. Sheik, they called him. Surreal.

2) An intervention, which does not go so well.

It’s hard for him to quit when his body is so torn up and his career with it. His young friends accompany him and try to be supportive but he does things like limp into a Chuck E. Cheese type restaurant with his championship belt over his shoulder so that people will want to come up and take photos with him. Eventually he does clean up and sort of by accident, with help from these guys, he regains the spotlight by saying crazy shit on Youtube videos and social media. They come up with stunts to get him attention, like bringing him to a Rob Ford press conference to yell out that he’s the real mayor (it doesn’t show what happened). Honestly this stuff is kind of more sad than the small time wrestling gigs, except that he seems to enjoy it and you can see, and understand, the adulation he gets from fans (as well as other icons of ’80s wrestling reuniting at a convention).

There’s a montage of him posing for photos with various celebrities, from Snoop Dogg to Adam Sandler. There’s footage of Mos Def meeting him backstage at something and you can tell it’s totally surreal to him to suddenly see this figure from his childhood standing there. I’m sure you could have met and worked with every celebrity in the world (Mos was in a Michael Jackson video as a young man, for example), it’s still gonna be shocking to see a bad guy from the Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n Wrestling cartoon just standing there looking basically the same as he did 35 years ago.

Here’s one where Snoop looks more excited to be in a picture with the Sheik than vice versa.

On the other hand, I suspect that this one is the Page brothers wanting to get a picture with Beyonce. She may not know she’s posing with a famous wrestler.

I bet Jay-Z does, though. He’s old enough. Maybe not. I guess she did look happier about posing than him. I shouldn’t make assumptions.

If you’re interested in wrestler stories like I am, this is a good one. And I apologize if I’m harping on this too much, but just by virtue of who it’s about it’s timely in the era of Trump’s attempted Muslim bans. Vaziri is a complicated person, a flawed person, but unquestionably has had an enormous impact on American culture (and even our Olympic wrestling team). If there was someone like him today who didn’t like what was happening in Iran and decided he wanted to be an American, this fucking president would want to stand in his way. It’s stupid.

That type of nativism makes no sense to me. My family has been in the U.S. since one of them started a farmer’s revolt and had to flee Germany I don’t know how many generations ago. So for many years we were American-born, we didn’t have to do anything to get that status, we just inherited it. What kind of fucking assholes would we have to be to think that made us better Americans than a guy who was born somewhere else, but made the choice and the effort to come here and become an American? He believed in this country so he moved across the world to stand behind that belief, taking an enormous risk by defying the Shah, having to find a job and a home in a different culture, a different language. I never had to do that. Trump never had to do that.

Of course he’s a better American than you, you big dummy. He had to earn it. You don’t even know what it means.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 11th, 2017 at 10:58 am and is filed under Documentary, Reviews, Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

59 Responses to “The Sheik”

  1. I really enjoyed this one till the end when they focused on his social media presence. I’m not against them doing that but I felt they spent too much time on it. Regardless that’s like the end of the documentary and everything else before it is really good.

  2. Like Vern, I’m no wrestling fan, but I have fond memories of the 80s WWF heyday and am fascinated by all the weird behind-the-scenes story the industry seems to collect. One thing I’ve noticed is that Vince MacMahon sure seems like an utter piece of shit with no redeeming qualities. What do wrestling fans think of the guy? It is a George Lucas love/hate kind of thing or is he regarded as more of a necessary evil?

  3. I enjoyed this documentary as well, but felt like it flirted with becoming a commercial for the Sheik and his social media presence near the end. However despite any problems I had with the film the Sheik and his story are undeniable and worth checking out.

    Mr. M I have been a wrestling fan for most of my life going back to the 80’s and I still try and keep up with it today. Vince is a complicated figure, and there are lots of conflicting stories about him as a person and as a business man. He comes across as an ego maniac and bully but there are tons of stories of him doing extremely kind and generous things for people that have worked for him. I think he is a great business man and promoter, but I have not always been a fan of his idea of how wrestling should be presented or his personal behavior/politics.

  4. I still watch wrestling. Or to be more specific: I watch wrestling again. I have phases where I watch it, then get bored, come back after a few years, etc. The main thing that annoys me currently (although not enough to make me quit again for now), is that “the gimmick” is dead.

    Wrestlers still have gimmicks, but not in the way they used to have back in the days. Okay, you still get your occasional Bray Wyatt (Some kind of rejected Rob Zombie movie character. Basically The Undertaker as redneck cult leader.), but most of the time the gimmick is more a catchphrase or a nickname. Most gimmicks these days are like: “Look at me, I’m strong and/or cool”. That guy who retired The Undertaker a few weeks ago? Well, he wears black and has greasy hair. That’s it.

    Shit, we have Finn Balor, who transforms into “The Demon King”, but he only puts the make up on in important matches. Rusev, this generation’s “evil foreigner” is “just” Bulgarian and while he and his wife love to get heat from the audience by talking about how much better they are than the American guys, his true gimmick is his brutal strength and not his nationality. Even Ric Flair’s daughter doesn’t have a real gimmick outside of “I’m such an arrogant asshole”. (Note: She is definitely my favourite heel right now, because she really knows how to make herself hateable, so it’s not all bad.) It gets really random when Cesaro enters the ring with some James Bond-ish visuals and even wearing a tuxedo, but then rips it off and the whole James Bond is instantly forgotten.

    I still enjoy the bizarre mix of dance theatre and stuntshow, but I would enjoy it more if “The Lunatic Fringe” would walk to the ring in a straight jacket, “The Architect” would carry a briefcase full of blueprints or “The Boss” would wear a pantsuit and talk about firing her opponents. (At least “The Hugger” is super delightful and hugs everybody, so there is this.)

    Okay, we live in more educated times, where everybody knows (or should know) that Wrestling is scripted and the fighters play characters. That’s not a bad thing. The random side projects on WWE’s YouTube channel, where for example the stars play video games out of character, are often more fun than the wrestling shows. (There is a reason why many fans demand that Rusev turns face! He comes across as a cool guy to hang out with.) But as someone, who grew up with all those larger than life cartoon characters like The Iron Sheik, I.R.S., The Million Dollar Man, etc, it’s a bit disappointing how the entertainment part in “sports entertainment” appears to be neglected these days.

  5. CJ, I can’t argue that there are less gimmick characters these days, then back in the day but I don’t think that is bad. First off I would clarify that while wrestling in general has always had gimmick characters, the completely silly over the top one note gimmicks (usually defined by the characters profession outside of wrestling like the Repo Man or I.R.S.) you are referencing were a staple off the then WWF but not reflective of pro wrestling as a whole. Also, I would argue that the Iron Sheik with his background as a shoot badass and larger than life personality would work in today’s wrestling without having to change his gimmick.

  6. With a few exceptions, the most successful wrestlers are guys who portray an exaggerated version of themselves, like The Rock, Steve Austin, Ric Flair, Bret Hart or Shawn Michaels, so you can’t really blame today’s guys for trying to stick to being Randy Orton or Brock Lesnar rather than an evil taxman or a post-apocalyptic warlord. Besides that would mean taking the risk of being instantly rejected as a lame copy of successful characters from the olden days, like when even the announcers ridiculed the Ascension for being shitty off-brand Road Warriors/Demolition.

    And it doesn’t help that today they all absolutely have to have as much social media presence as possible. These days how would you take a character like the original Undertaker seriously if he had a twitter account? On TV he’d be talking from his crypt about how he’s going to bury you, steal your soul and personally take it to the depths of Hell, and then the next day he’d be on twitter sharing pictures of his great workout session or a cool concert he saw with his wife and all the mysterious aura of the Undertaker would be gone. Dolph Ziggler can tweet, Enzo Amore can tweet, but the Wild Samoans or George the Animal Steele, not so much. Even the fact that someone like Braun Strowman has a twitter account kind of weakens the character. Dude shouldn’t be wasting his time trying to indimidate people by posting on his phone about how he’s the #MONSTERAMONGMEN when he can flip ambulances with his bare hands.

  7. Toxic, I agree. I will always be a fan of wrestling but I miss the old days of kayfabe. Part of the magic and art of pro wrestling has been lost when there is no effort into creating the illusion of reality.

  8. Mr. M: To say is Vince McMahon is complex is an understatement. He has done some pretty low things in his life, but he’s also done good by people who have been loyal to him. To pin him down as one thing is impossible. The only constant, to me, is his stubborn streak. Whether it was single-handedly killing off every regional promotion in America that opposed him, to now trying to get Roman Reigns over with his audience, he does not let up.

  9. I am also a former rasslin’ fan, and in the last few years I’ve definitely taken more of an interest in the nuts and bolts of the sport (?), like the choreography in a match, microphone skills/promos, and of course all the non-wrestling stuff my former favorites went through outside the ring. It definitely gives me a new appreciation for all the craft that goes into it.

    Seems like there have been several high-quality and mostly unbiased wrestling documentaries lately, and THE SHEIK is no exception. I do agree it turns into a little bit of marketing towards the end, but that hardly spoils the rest of it. I watched this shortly after THE RESURRECTION OF JAKE THE SNAKE, and I’d highly recommend seeing that one, too (it’s also involves Scott Hall getting back on his feet, which was a great bonus). I always though Jake the Snake was a bit boring as a kid, but that’s because he wasn’t too flashy as a wrestler, and he really excelled as a speaker:

    Greatest Promos of All Time: Jake "The Snake" Roberts - Wrestlemania VI

    Jake "the Snake" Roberts' promo with Mean Gene Okerlund just prior to his match with "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase. WWE, for the love of god, please c...

  10. I met the Iron Sheik randomly on a break from work. I went down the street and he was just sitting on a bench. It was surreal. I got talking to him and he was really down to earth and soft spoken. When I returned to work late no one believed my story.

  11. Hey, Free Dummy

    April 11th, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    God help me, I think I’ve turned into a wrestling fan over the last few weeks. The last time I watched wrestling was in the 80s and even then I was more into the cartoons and the toys and the idea of “wrestlers” more than I was into wrestling itself. A couple of weeks ago I took the nerdiest possible route of getting into wrestling, which was to read a book about wrestling on a whim (The Squared Circle by David Shoemaker). Then I watched the Jake the Snake documentary and shortly after that my twitter feed told me that it was Wrestlemania time. I figured post-Wrestlemania would be the best time to check in and see what wrestling is all about so I watched RAW and kinda dug it. I liked the carny aspects and the stunt show and that something so damned WEIRD is a straight-up form of sport/art/entertainment/whatever.

    Then it all escalated this afternoon when I watched last night’s episode of RAW and saw this giant monster-dude (Braun Strowman, I later learned) crash a backstage interview with Roman Reigns and give him the most bugfuck never-ending horror-movie-monster thrashing I’ve seen since the fight from They Live. I won’t spoil it (yes, it has spoilers), but seriously, if you like the Vern type of movies (and of course you do) it is absolutely worth tracking down the clip because it’s a more exciting beating (not really accurate to call it a fight) than you see in most action movies. At the end I made a joke to my wife about the monster-dude ending the beating by doing something crazy and funny that I never thought would happen and immediately after I said that the monster-guy did the exact crazy thing I had made a joke about and I said out loud “Holy shit, I think I love wrestling.”

  12. Hey, Free Dummy

    April 11th, 2017 at 9:39 pm

    Here’s the clip:

    Braun Strowman savagely attacks Roman Reigns: Raw, April 10, 2017

    As The Big Dog talks about defeating The Undertaker at WrestleMania and the Superstar Shake-up, The Monster Among Men strikes. #RAW More ACTION on WWE NETWOR...

  13. WWE is really good now that they’re showcasing all these NJPW and TNA guys especially Smackdown!

  14. But yeah Strowman’s “I’m not done with you yet!” rampage was classic. I laughed and cheered like a kid. It just kept escalating into brilliance. Between this and his staredown with Lesnar I’m really warming up to the guy.

    Not too many characters left in WWE just him, Rusev, Bray Wyatt. I’ve liked Samoa Joe, Nakamura, AJ Styles and Austin Aries for years but they’re just being who they have always been. Wyatt, Rusev and Strowman could easily be plugged into the 80s Rock N Wresting or 90s Attitude era without skipping a beat. Same with The Miz who has really stepped it up.

  15. “I met the Iron Sheik randomly on a break from work”
    Best start for a story EVER! You need to print that on a T-shirt!

    I won’t argue that the mega gimmick characters were always just a comparibly small part of wrestling, but to me, they were the best part. I guess you can call me a “Mark” (or since I know it’s fake, am I already a “Smark”?), but for me, the appeal of wrestling comes from seeing those bad Saturday morning cartoon caricatures fighting each other. If I just wanted to watch random tough guys fighting, I would watch MMA.

    And like I said, the death of kayfabe in the educated age of social media is a double edged sword. We get fun stuff like videos of Rusev or Nia Jax being charming goofballs while playing video games and I think it helps to make wrestling more accessible for and defendable against the “Why are you watching that, it’s fake” people. And of course: Fun! (Some of the stuff on the YouTube channel is much better than the regular ring action.) So I’m definitely not against it. I got no idea how I would have reacted as a kid, if things were like they are today, though.

  16. Pretty much every time they tried to add a more cartoony character in recent memory, fans started complaining online that they were stupid the second the first vignettes aired, so even before their first match it was already an uphill battle to get the character over. Kizarny, Mordecai, I mean, I’m not saying they were great characters but they were never given a fair chance. The Boogeyman worked a bit better but they had to switch him from “gritty reboot of Papa Shango” to “gross buffoon”.
    To take the example of the Undertaker again, if the internet had been around in the 90s, I doubt that “undead old west mortician with a magic urn who knows about 3 wrestling moves” would have lasted more than a few weeks or a couple of months, they would have given up after too many “OMG this is so dumb” complaints on social media.

  17. Let’s be honest, modern wrestling fans are a lot like modern Star Trek fans. Doesn’t matter what happens, their first reaction is to bitch and complain. I actually read a comment from a guy who threatened to cancel his WWE Network subscription after Shinsuke Nakamura made his first main roaster appereance, because his entrance was too long in his opinion.

  18. About Vince. Jim Cornett who has worked with him closely in the past said something to the effect of “A team of psychiatrist’s could retire comfortably if they managed to figure him out.”

  19. “Gentleman” Jack Gallagher is about the only gimmick guy I can get behind now, though I admit I only watch WWE like once a month.

    Thanks, CJ. When I get some shirts printed up, I’ll send you one.

  20. The cool thing about the Iron Sheik was that he was in town to support the local indie circuit wrestling match. He wasn’t even participating in the event. He was just there to see his friends and spread the word. That speaks volumes to his character.

  21. Wonder why this is just called THE SHEIK, when in fact there was an infamous wrestler from the generation previous to Vaziri.


  22. Maybe the WWE owns the rights to the “Iron Sheik” name.

  23. Toxic – Iron Sheik operated under that name before going to the WWF. The Sheik was one of the top heels back in the 1960s/70s, heyday of the old wrestling territory days and who in fact was booker/promoter of Detroit’s wrestling promotion. He was for that region like say Jerry Lawler and the Von Erichs and Sammartino were for Memphis and Dallas and the Northeast: a larger than life major money-drawing wrestler that those local promotions basically were built around.

    Fun fact: Sheik’s nephew is Sabu who is mostly famous for working for ECW in the 1990s for his high spots (usually involving chairs/tables and moonsaults) and hardcore matches including that infamous barb wire match with Terry Funk where Sabu tore his bicep open and had it taped it so he could continue. Funny how Sabu at the time worked an evil Arab gimmick too, but the smarky ECW fans refused to boo for him mostly because they respected/were impressed with his suicidal moves and willing to do crazy shit.

  24. Vern – I haven’t seen this documentary. Does it bring up how Vernge Gagne and other promoters had gotten together and offered Sheik a big bribe ($100,000 if I remember right) to legit break Hulk Hogan’s leg in their WWF Title match? Sheik claims it happened but turned it down and let McMahon know about it.

    Mr. Majestyk – Vince is a carny, and can be a ruthless one at that. Which is par on the course for wrestling promoters in general, especially likes the ones from Vince’s era (like his dad) back in the old territory days when they operated less like businessmen and more like unofficial gangsters when you read about their antics. Nevermind that Vince help encourage the steroid/drug culture in wrestling because he pushed guys with heavenly physiques. Untold scores of guys died early deaths because of roids and HGH abuse (Brian Pillman immediately comes to mind.)

    I think its more a love/hate relationship with fans regarding Vince. On one hand, he was for years upon years one of the play-by-play commentators for WWF programming long before WWF TV acknowledged that Vince was also the owner. And after the fallout from the Montreal Screwjob where Vince was shocked that fans legitimately were pissed at him, that set the stage for him becoming “Mr. McMahon”, quit possibly the greatest heel in the history of wrestling. And like any hot character/program, WWF/E beat that shit into the ground and beyond to the point that him and his family on-screen are played out as authority figures/villains. But at his prime as a character in the Attitude Era, Vince had killer heat that help put over Steve Austin, the Rock, Mick Foley, etc. as underdog babyfaces to the crowds. (Someone above mentioned wrestlers playing exaggerated versions of themselves, well “Mr. McMahon” was a greedy ruthless scumbag, so take that what you will. Vince apparently LOVED playing a heel though on TV. One must remember that he wanted to be a wrestler but his dad Vince McMahon Sr. when he owned the then-WWWF refused.)

    There are random stories of Vince, good/bad/weird. Like that time he stayed at a hotel and wanted to exercise but the hotel had no gym so he ordered a Stairmaster overnight to his room…and left it there when he checked out.

    Or when Bob Holly’s “Sparky Plug” (redneck racecar driver) gimmick flopped and WWF had spent 6 figures on sponsoring a race car for competition and paying for the equipment/maintenance/etc., Vince sold it all to Holly for $1.

    Or when Ric Flair worked in the WWF in the early 1990s, Flair never signed a contract. He and Vince had a handshake agreement that Flair would get a base salary and could leave anytime if he wasn’t happy with his booking. Contrast that with the late 1990s in WCW when Flair didn’t have a contract either but Eric Bischoff dicked him and Flair broke kayfabe and buried Bischoff on an episode of Nitro over it. Or when Flair was in major financial straits (multiple divorces plus spending like a drunken sailor tends to do that), Vince let him borrow 7 figures worth of money so Flair could pay off his debts.

    *=There are rivals sure, but not major ones. Impact Wrestling (formerly TNA) has had major financial problems in recent years and under new ownership. Ring of Honor has been the smark-friendly wrestling promotion for over a decade, but they’re in a creative rut. On the bright side, the cable channel AXS has been showing New Japan Pro Wrestling stuff lately (with Jim Ross doing the English commentary) and its cool seeing all that insane Japanese workrate/style on the American boob tube. But they’re not much of a threat to Vince/WWE.

  25. Mick Foley created Dude Love as a teenager, yet the WWE had the rights to Dude Love at some point. Today Impact Wrestling is trying to claim ownership of Matt Hardy’s “Broken Universe” even though he created it. So it’s not impossible that the Iron Sheik doesn’t own the rights to “the Iron Sheik”. Maybe the owner is not even the WWE either, last time the guy was in a WWE game he was there as “Col. Mustafa”, not “the Iron Sheik”.

  26. Toxic – and yet WWE doesn’t own Cactus Jack. Why? Because he worked that name in promotions around the globe and WCW before WWF. Dude Love, he didn’t work that gimmick at a pro wrestling gig until WWF, which is where “Intellectual property” and all those nice corporate lingo comes into play. (The “Broken” stuff started in TNA, but Hardys trademarked it while TNA never did.)

  27. Sabu was great. That is all.

  28. So on the one hand, we’ve got “ruined lives for petty reasons and encouraged scores of wrestlers to kill themselves slowly with drugs (and most likely paid off the cops to keep Jimmy Snooka out of jail for blatantly murdering the fuck out of his girlfriend)” and on the other we have “was generous to some people who made him a lot of money (but not all).”

    I don’t know if the scales really balance out on that one, you guys. Throw in the Trump stuff and I’m going with my “Vince MacMahon is a total piece of shit” theory.

  29. Not a bad theory.

  30. Majestyk is like Jack Palance in the Bill Hicks skit about Jack Palance in the movie SHANE, throwing the “What do you think of McMahon?” pistol at the wrestling fan’s feet.

    -Tell me he’s not a utter piece of shit with no redeeming qualities.
    -Please Mister, I don’t want no trouble.
    -Come on, what do wrestling fans think of the guy?
    -Well, he’s definitely a ruthless businessman, but he also has a history of…
    -You all saw him: he defended a murderous piece of shit.

  31. Mr. M, there are plenty of shitty things Vince has done he deserves to be held accountabilfor, but to blame pro wrestlings drug problems on him is inaccurate. Drugs have always been a part pro wrestling going back to the territory days when you had a number of regional promotions instead of 1 or 2 large national promotions and the now WWE was the WWWF based out of NY. Wrestlers were dying from drugs in the territory days, but the problem accelerated as the business grew. There was more money than ever before in wrestling and abusing prescription pills was becoming more of a problem. As time has passed and the WWE has crushed or absorbed all of its competition it has become the face of pro wrestling in the US and most of the world, and it has inherited wrestlings drug problem since it

  32. Mr. M, there are plenty of shitty things Vince has done he deserves to be held accountabile for, but to blame pro wrestling’s drug problems on him is inaccurate. The issue is much more complicated. Drugs have always been a part pro wrestling culture going back to the territory days when you had a number of regional promotions instead of 1 or 2 large national promotions and the now WWE was the WWWF north eastern promotion based out of NY. At that time you already had wrestlers that were dying from drugs in the territory days that worked for other promotions, but the problem accelerated as the business grew and the drugs changed. With the spike in popularity in the 80’s and 90’s there was more money than ever before in wrestling and it coincided with the rise in access to more prescription pills and the drug problem started to take more lives inside and outside the WWE. For years you had wrestling’s taking something for the pain, taking something to help you sleep, taking something to help you wake up, and then mixing those drugs with recreational drugs and alcohol creating a deadly pattern of behavior, but that abuse is not exclusive to wrestling and has been a problem in the music industry as well where life on the road is to much for some performs to mange. As time has passed and the WWE has crushed or absorbed all of its competition it has become the face of pro wrestling in the US and most of the world, and it has inherited wrestlings drug problem. There are ways the WWE has contributed to the problem and maybe they could have taken more measures to address it earlier, but it is unfair to blame Vince and the WWE for the problem. The culture of pro wrestling and life on the road living like a rockstar has been the issue. You could argue it is a PR stunt but to help combat the problem WWE will pay for any wrestle to go to rehab even if they only worked one day with company.

  33. I don’t know how I did that but sorry for the double post.

  34. Well, I guess the only way to know for sure what kind of man he is, is to become a close friend and spend a few years with him. What if most of the bad stories about him are actually kayfabe and/or sour grapes from egomaniac assholes who wanted more money than they were worth or needed a scapegoat to blame for their own mistakes? What if all the charity stuff he did were just empty publicity stunts and tax write offs? We will never know for sure, I guess.

  35. CJ, I agree. I am sure there is some truth to most Vince stories good and bad and the reality is somewhere in the middle.

    I will say that personally I think that often people with the drive of a Vince, Trump, or Bill Gates are wired differently than most of us and they posses an ego and singular focus that creates a sort of sickness that would make them miserable if they don’t achieve their goals. That sickness and drive propels them to achieve things people didn’t believe possible but also doesn’t make them the most relatable or good people.

  36. A lot has been made of the Trump/McMahon relationship. I understand why he’s in the WWE Hall of Fame and don’t dispute that he doesn’t belong, provided with the understanding that it’s really just a yearly event honoring people who either (in order of importance) A) aren’t on the McMahon shit list, B) have long-standing relationships with the family, or C) made a genuine, undeniable impact on pro wrestling or “sports entertainment”. Trump falls directly onto the 2nd category, going back to when Trump Plaza hosted two WrestleManias in a row. I will say that between the two I would say Vince is the better man, because he has the capability to be self-deprecating where I’m quite sure Trump doesn’t. Otherwise they are two peas in a pod, in so many ways. Even in how they got to where they are in the first place, but that’s another story.

    I highly recommend, to anyone interested (even Vern himself), to check out SOMETHING TO WRESTLE WITH, Bruce Prichard’s podcast where he talks about his time in the wrestling business, but mostly his 2 decades (1987-2008, with a brief time away in 91 and 92) working in WWE. He was on screen for a little while the character Brother Love, but spent the entirety of his career as one of Vince’s right-hand guys in creative. Vince is, obviously, a consistent topic of discussion alongside whatever else he and the host talk about. I wouldn’t say you get a clearer idea of who he is from listening to the show, but his Vince stories are always good.

    I really hope he commissions a biography of his life soon, I imagine it will be quite the page-turner if it happens. He was at the center of some very turbulent storms, and getting the birds-eye perspective of it would be an interesting read, no doubt.

    I’ve often brought up the subject on wrestling sites, of who would be perfect to play him in a movie about his life. I say Gary Oldman but I’ve warmed to the idea of Michael Shannon.

  37. The only thing I know about Vince is that gif where he jizzes in his pants over Stacy Keibler.

  38. Stephen Lang would make a pretty good Vince McMahon if you ask me.

  39. onthewall – Did you know that the “Trump Plaza” of those Wrestlemanias is really the Atlantic City Convention Hall? Trump sponsored them so they pretended he owned an arena. They even made uniforms so the security could pretend they work for him and want to have his name written on them in giant letters.

  40. I can’t say any of that surprises me. He’s also sitting in the front row, in what’s known in wrestling as the hard camera side, which is the angle where you see the most in-ring action (he did the same thing later for WrestleMania VII too). Makes watching those shows on the WWE Network a little odd, to say the least.

  41. Agreed. If you watch the first few WrestleManias he’s in the front row in plain sight the whole time. It is distracting. He was sitting with Marla Mapels at that time. Howard Stern has had some interesting thoughts lately regarding Trump. They’re on YouTube if anyone cares.

  42. There’s more than a few articles online about how the Magen Brothers have been propping this dude up like a puppet for years to make them money. It’s grim, depressing stuff.

  43. I’ve heard stuff like that too. How the older wrestlers conduct themselves, or find themselves in these pathetic situations is really sad. Just last week, Ric Flair was kicked out of a restaurant in my home town for being the old cranky drunk he’s become.

  44. Justin: It sure as hell comes off that way with this documentaries final 30-minutes where it straight up advertises his social media presence. There’s scenes were he clearly doesn’t know what the hell is going on but they’re just wheeling him over to wherever. It’s not supposed to come off like that but I guess I’m too cynical to not think of it that way.

  45. Pro wrestling historian Max Landis already taught us the most important thing there was to know about the late Chyna, i.e. she totally looked like a dude, but still, it looks like the Chyna documentary has potential:

    WRESTLING WITH CHYNA - Official Documentary Trailer (Stereo)

    For the latest updates follow http://www.facebook.com/chynafilm By fatefully capturing her final year, this documentary reveals the tragic struggles behind t...

  46. In her case, I would blame that fucking monster Dr. Drew and the reality TV bubble more than I’d ever blame Vince McMahon or WWE for what precipitated her demise.

  47. The Vince McMahon biopic is happening, people!

  48. I forgot the link:

    WWE Ring Titan Vince McMahon Getting His Close-Up With ‘Pandemonium’

    EXCLUSIVE: The story of pro wrestling impresario Vince McMahon is getting the Hollywood treatment with Pandemonium, a drama that will be directed by John Requa & Glenn Ficarra from a script by …

  49. I could be a good movie but if Vince is involved it will end up being a vanity piece that ultimately only paints him in a positive light without exploring some of the less flattering things he has done that don’t paint him in the best light.

  50. They’ll probably do like every biopic, “he has a few flaws but still WHAT A GENIUS!”

  51. This is as good as a time as any to do this. Vince can be unusually open in interviews sometimes, which makes me think this may not be as sanitized as is probably expected. The casting news for this will be very funny to read, for the reaction of both wrestling and movie fans.

    Little tidbit: Andre is probably standing on a crate in that picture, to make himself look taller on television.

  52. Forest Whitaker and Helen Mirren re-enacting the Mark Henry/Mae Young storyline is pretty much a licence to print money (and 3D-print Oscars).

  53. ESPN Films’ Ric Flair 30 for 30 “Nature Boy” Premieres November 7 - ESPN MediaZone

    ESPN Films announced today at the Television Critics Association Press Tour (TCA) that its 30 for 30 documentary “Nature Boy,” on wrestling legend Ric Flair, will premiere on Tuesday, Nov. 7, at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN. Director Rory Karpf (“I Hate Christian Laettner,” “The Book of Manning”) will take an inside look at Flair’s story, including his triumphs, his tragedies, and his pivotal role in turning pro wrestling into mainstream sports entertainment.

    I’m looking as forward to this as I am the new BLADE RUNNER. This has been in the works for awhile, as it was announced at least about 2 years ago.

  54. Vern – Bobby Heenan died. Didn’t know where to put this, but fuck that’s another slice of my wrestling-watching childhood gone. Somewhere in the afterlife, Gorilla Monsoon once again is screaming “WILL YOU STOP?!?”

  55. I met him in 1999 at an autograph signing at a record store. Knowing how bored and overall grouchy he had become in WCW, his demeanor that day isn’t all that surprising. I talked to him for about 5 minutes, and he did well enough to engage but I could kind of tell he wanted to be anywhere else than a place that was blasting loud rock music, and being asked questions of varying interest by marks.

    He was perhaps the legit funniest man ever in pro wrestling. His chemistry with Monsoon and others did well to establish him being hilarious, but he also knew how to be the biggest heat magnet ever. It’s an important line to walk if you choose to be a funny bad guy, knowing when to be goofy and when to be serious.

    He was so good he could even jive a little


  56. He was not in the best shape for quite some time now but it’s still sad since he was part of the trifecta of greatest commentators in that biz. Along with Monsoon and Ventura with J.R. being the only one to come close after them. I’d like to think he’s having a blast ribbing Gorilla and Freddie Blassie in the afterlife.

  57. The Ric Flair 30 FOR 30 was good. Not exactly for die-hard fans but maybe non-fans or people more familiar with how wrestling is now. It banks more on his personal saga, and is quite tragic towards the end.

  58. So as many of you may have seen already, Gene Okerlund died. I don’t quite want to say he was before my time, because I started watching in 92 and he left the WWF for WCW in the following year, but I did miss out on the heyday of his tenure there, as the primary interview guy. More than anyone else during that time he made wrestling palpable and believable, because he had the right chops and finesse to come off as a serious interviewer even when the guy next to him is wearing fur, holding a snake with his upper torso, or screaming steroid-induced intergalactic jibberish to him.

    More recently, his contributions to the HBO Andre the Giant doc were invaluable.

  59. The Vince McMahon biopic is not happening, but Netflix is about to produce (with Bill Simmons) a documentary series about him. I really hope it’s like THE LAST DANCE but about WWE. Partly for the structure, mostly just to see him sitting in a lavish living room with a cigar and a glass of booze talking about the times he took it personally.

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