Dancing Sheik to Sheik: Blood, Fire, and The Original Sheik

The NEW YOU ASKED FOR IT, a show that ran in syndication from 1981 to 1983, was a revival of the original 1950s YOU ASKED FOR IT. Like the original, the NEW YOU ASKED FOR IT had field correspondents traveling to the ends of the earth to answer and fulfill viewer questions or requests, an example of which could be: show me the inside of the vaults at Fort Knox, or show me some real-life Hawaiian cowboys, and they’d show it to the viewers.

Its creator, Art Baker, hosted the original black-and-white show. Famed comedian/impressionist, Rich Little hosted the 80’s remake.  I started watching the remake because I was a fan of Rich Little and liked to see which celebrity he’d impersonate next. Little always ended every episode with a celebrity impression. I often sat through a lot of dumb viewer requests just to catch his final impression.

Why wasn’t YOU ASKED FOR IT centered on Rich Little’s comedy act? It didn’t occur to my ten-year-old mind back then there were only so many impressions Little could do to fill up a half-hour show before the novelty wore off, even if he was known as the “Man of a Thousand Voices.”


I watched the NEW YOU ASKED FOR IT every night while I worked on my homework, but to this day I can only remember a single segment. I vaguely recall the segment was squeezed somewhere between segments on people kissing Ireland’s Blarney Stone and a logrolling contest in Alaska. Or was it between the one on wrestling chimps and Hawaiian cowboys?

Whatever it was sandwiched between, the segment was both scary and intriguing. A viewer had asked to see the world’s craziest wrestler, or something to that effect. Rich Little said the show’s correspondents scoured the earth to find him and wound up in Detroit. That’s where they found the king of chaos, master of mayhem, creator of crimson-the one and only Sheik.

The Original Sheik

Prior to this episode of YOU ASKED FOR IT, I’d never heard of The Sheik. Who was this crazed lunatic bludgeoning his opponents with taped-up sharpened pencils? Who was this evil wizard throwing fireballs in people’s faces? I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Where was such a man even allowed to wrestle? Please, God, don’t let him come to New York.

Keep him confined to Detroit! These were the thoughts whirling through my ten-year-old brain. And yet, I couldn’t take my eyes off of his manic moves in the ring, or the rows of jagged scars on his forehead like rows of shark teeth, looking unreal and repulsive at the same time.

The scarring was from years of blading his forehead to produce blood for the fans. The fireballs were a magic trick he used to great effect in the ring. No one was throwing fireballs in the WWF and no one in the WWF was using taped-up sharpened pencils on their opponents.

When the YOU ASKED FOR IT camera crew snuck up on an unsuspecting Sheik in a MEN’S RESTROOM to pin him down for an interview, the Sheik lashed out at the cameraman, yelling wild Arabic gibberish, and ready to grab the camera with a menacing look that felt more real than anything I’d ever seen in pro wrestling before.

The camera crew backpedaled out of that restroom for dear life. I feared for their lives. There was no catching the Sheik off guard, no cornering him for an interview. He was the one who did the cornering. He was the one who caught you off guard.

A few weeks after the YOU ASKED FOR IT episode featuring the SHEIK, I ran across a wrestling magazine photo of a referee who’d been burned by one of the SHEIK’s fireballs. The ref profiling the burned side of his face for the camera was a man named JOHNNY “RED SHOES” DUGAN.

Seeing the photo for the first time and not knowing anything about burns, I assumed the burn was real. I later found out burn “wounds” are easy to recreate with theatrical liquid latex or by rubbing a little sandpaper to the cheek. Whatever the trick was, it didn’t matter, because it was enough to make me believe a fireball to the face burned Dugan.

It would be a long time before I’d hear about the Sheik again. The next time was when I was in a video rental store, back when mom-and-pop rental stores were on every corner, browsing titles in the horror section. The macabre movie title was I LIKE TO HURT PEOPLE.

I read the blurb on the back cover and discovered the movie was actually a wrestling movie/documentary of sorts. The movie featured the likes of OX BAKER, ABDULLAH THE BUTCHER, TERRY FUNK, ANDRE THE GIANT, DUSTY RHODES, and the SHEIK. All of these wrestlers, with the exception of Andre, were known for their penchant for blading. This certainly explained why the movie was banished to the horror section and not the sports section, where all the WrestleMania’s and STARCADES could be found.

Most people who grew up watching the WWF knew about one SHEIK-THE IRON SHEIK. The IRON SHEIK was Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, an American-Iranian villain who beat longtime champ BOB BACKLUND to become the first and only Iranian champion in WWF history. It was a championship he quickly lost to HULK HOGAN, changing the course of pro-wrestling history forever.

Although they both wore similar traditional male Middle Eastern headdresses to the ring, Vaziri and Farhat could not have been more different. Ed Farhat, the Original Sheik,­ had grizzled hair and a perpetual goatee that stretched his perpetually crazed scowl downwards, while Vaziri-the Iron Sheik-had a curled mustache hiding his top lips and a shiny bald pate that made him look like an old time strongman from the early 1900’s.

In his prime, the Iron Sheik had a bodybuilder’s physique that he regularly flexed in the ring, when he wasn’t swinging heavy Persian clubs over his head to show off his physical prowess.  The Original Sheik couldn’t be bothered with such antics. He had an average wrestling frame, nothing to write home about.

And while he may not have been physically imposing, it was the Original Sheik’s unpredictability that made him such a threat in the ring. IRON SHEIK, who had a lot to say during his promos, was prone to wheezing and spitting during his diatribes, to the point where he sounded mildly asthmatic. The Original Sheik said nothing, preferring instead to utter Arabic gibberish and look crazed, possessed even, by some unspeakable evil.

In addition to the keffiyehs they wore on their heads, the two Sheiks also shared a finishing move: the CAMEL CLUTCH. A rear chinlock while seated on the back of an opponent, without placing the arms on the thighs, the Camel Clutch was the finisher the Iron Sheik used on Bob Backlund to end his six-year reign as the WWF champ.

It was a move Farhat named and employed back when his fights were a little bit more athletic than his subsequent bloodbaths. To be fair, Farhat had an amateur wrestling background when he was in the United States Army, and he was quite good at it too during his years of service as was The Iron Sheik during his time in Iran.

Although he was not an Olympic gold medalist, the Iron Sheik’s amateur wrestling was Olympic-caliber, which means both he and the Original Sheik had chops they could display in the ring. An interesting side note that can’t put asses in seats the way blood and fire can.

Blood and Fire With Brian R. Solomon

I had the great pleasure of talking with Brian about his awesome book about Ed Farhat. It was an interview a few months in the making.  I think the timing is even a bit apropos, exactly one after month the passing of Khosrow Ali Vaziri- the Iron Sheik.  Here’s my conversation with Brian R. Solomon.  Enjoy!!!

Check here for Brian’s website.

Hi everyone.  My name is Ariel Gonzalez, originally from Brooklyn, now living in the Garden State and I have a new podcast called “Wrestling With Heels On.”

On the podcast, I get to reminisce about my favorite wrestling bad guys from yesteryear.  Light on stats and heavy on nostalgia, this little trip down villainy lane gives me a chance to visit the dark corridors of my wrestling soul, and it’s also fun to have a podcast.

Wresting With Heels On podcast hosted by Ariel Gonzalez artwork (presented by Sports History Network)
Photo Credit: Sports History Network
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