DVD Review: The Sheik

Published on March 4th, 2016 in: Documentaries, DVD, DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews, Movie Reviews, Movies, Pro Wrestling, Reviews |

By Jeffery X Martin

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Normally, when you hear about someone who started with nothing, made it big, then lost it all to drugs and general bad behavior, it’s some Hollywood starlet or Tom Sizemore. This is not the case with The Sheik, a documentary about one of the most famous professional wrestlers of all time, The Iron Sheik.

He was a bad guy in the ring, what they call a “heel.” His gimmick was that of an Iranian national who hated America. He would storm into the squared circle, waving an Iranian flag, spewing anti-American sentiment. His heyday was right after the Iran hostage crisis, so the Sheik had legitimate heat. The crowds hated him.

His real name is Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri and, as of this writing, is still alive. Most guys walk into the wrestling business with a character, pretending to be something they’re not. Not Vaziri. He was actually from Tehran, Iran. He competed on the Iranian wrestling team in the 1968 Olympics. He served as a bodyguard for the Shah of Iran. This guy was the real deal.

When you hear Vaziri talk about those times, there’s a kind of boozy pride in his voice. He’s like a guy who corners you at the bar and wants to talk about nothing but the time he threw the winning touchdown. It’s the sound of a guy who has peaked and knows it.

The Sheik follows Vaziri over a period of eight years. We see him at home with his family. We get an idea of what kind of hell his body has been put through. He tears up when his dead daughter is brought up in conversation. Like a fly on the wall, we see him drinking and trying to score drugs on the street, anything to get rid of the pain.

It’s an honest film for the first three quarters. When we see Vaziri’s star begin to rise again, becoming a Twitter sensation and yelling obscene phrases in broken English on radio shows, we get a sense of just how protective the documentary really is. The filmmakers reveal just enough about Vaziri to make you think you know him, but then imply that the whole documentary exists to further the rehabilitation of Vaziri’s public image. In that respect, The Sheik isn’t a documentary at all. It’s a PR project.

But the man’s history is amazing, and a lot of time is spent on Vaziri’s time in the WWF, his feuds with Hulk Hogan and Sgt. Slaughter, and the time he won the Heavyweight Championship.

The package may be wrapped a little too neatly, but the contents are still pretty shattered. Fans looking for lurid details about Vaziri at his lowest will find them, but The Sheik tries too hard to get Vaziri over in the end. There’s a possibility that he may be a genuinely horrible human being. But he was a hell of a performer.

The Sheik was released by Dark Sky Films on March 1.

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