The Sheik Igal Hecht
Published Apr 26, 2014This lacklustre documentary about an interesting subject is elevated by interviews with Hulk Hogan, Dwayne Johnson, Jake "the Snake" Roberts and even accused murderer Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka. The Rock's willingness to grant his time for this production reveals how popular and likable Khosrow Vaziri, better known as The Iron Sheik, has always been.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers weren't granted access to WWE footage. All the in-ring action comes from independent shows and Sheik's days in the AWA. Lightly animated still photos occupy the frame when Sheik loses his title to Hogan and helps birth Hulkamania. There's also some annoying documentary shorthand going on. For example, when the villainous Sheik was caught travelling with babyface Hacksaw Jim Duggan — a transgression some consider the straw that broke the kayfabe camel's back — it's implied this terminated his time with WWE. But Sheik worked with the company off and on for a decade after that.
The talking head approach is eventually abandoned for vérité footage of a crack-addicted Sheik carousing and yelling at his family. This is as pornographic and voyeuristic as an episode of Intervention. Though the story arc is meant to be one of redemption, it's never confirmed that Sheik is off drugs at present time; his wife says he has, "Good days and bad days."
Yet the film suggests everything is rosy for Sheik because his ribald social media presence has garnered over 400,000 Twitter followers, appearances on Howard Stern and opportunities to troll Rob Ford. If this is a pyrrhic victory for a man with a broken body and addiction struggles, it's still better than being among the laundry list of Sheik's fallen contemporaries. By retired wrestler standards, Sheik's story counts as a "feel good" one.
It's worth a look for wrestling fans, who should enjoy any documentary that isn't a WWE-produced crap festival. But this is to Wrestling with Shadows or Beyond the Mat as Duane Gill is to Goldberg.