Who Remembers 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!

3 thoughts on “Who Remembers the Iron Sheik’s Persian Club Challenge?

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  1. Just saw that the Sheik died this Wednesday. Well, certainly one of the most memorable “heels” in wrestling history and one strong SOB whatever the weights of his actual meels were. According to some sources, he and I were born on the very same day. Coincidentally, I am looking into getting a slightly heavier pair of meels/mugdars/joris since I was finally able to complete more than 100 swings with my 5kg pair.

    1. Billy Graham and the Sheik in a very short period – both physical culturists in their own ways.

      Oh really? How heavy?! Congrats on the 100 swings which is no mean feat

  2. Just got a pair of teakwood mugdars this past week from The Great Indian Workout. They were probably heavier than I should have gotten and slightly mismatched: One is 17 pounds, the other 18.6. I can do a few one handed casts with the lighter one and hope to be able work up to swinging the pair. Very handsome they are and look appreciably larger than the Shiek’s pair…which should tell us something! I can’t help feeling rueful that today’s diversity of fitness and training options were not readily available when I was in my prime 40-50 years ago. Still, I managed to build myself into a fairly imposing specimen of manhood with nothing more than dumbbells. Please keep up the good work, Conor!

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