The Iron Sheik’s Persian Club Challenge

Wrestling has always held a special place in my heart. Thanks to my grandparent’s old VHS collection, I grew up with the WWF and later the WCW firmly moulding my impressionable mind. Like countless others I was a ‘Hulkamanic’ growing up but I was always fascinated by the Iron Sheik.

Known for kickstarting Hulk Hogan’s meteoritic rise to fame in the 1980s, Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri or the Iron Sheik, was an incredible wrestler in his own right. Aside from having possibly the best heel personality for his time (although fans of Nikolai Volkoff may disagree), the Sheik also held the distinction of being a champion Olympic weightlifter. Trained, in part, in the Persian wrestler tradition, which I have yet to cover, the Sheik really was a specimen of an athlete.

Like many other wrestlers in the 1980s, the Sheik created his own strength challenge for other wrestlers to try their hands at. It was here where the Sheik really caught my young attention. Unlike other wrestlers who used the bench press or some form of callisthenics, the Sheik came to the ring with 75 pound Persian meels. The challenge itself was simple. If anyone could swing the meels for as many reps as the Sheik, they would win $2000.

Now oftentimes the challenge descended into a farce as the Sheik would attack the challenger long before they could win. The above video is evidence of that. Nevertheless the Sheik was influential in popularising the meels to Western minds and, in my own life, encouraged me to take up Indian club swinging. I doubt I’ll ever match the Sheik’s reps so in that sense, he managed to humble me without putting me in the camel claw.

As always … happy lifting!

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