Iron Sheik says Rob Ford snubbed lunch date

Wrestling star The Iron Sheik said Saturday he asked Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to have lunch with him while he's in the city to promote his latest project but was promptly turned down.

Wrestler had challenged Toronto mayor to arm-wrestling match in November

Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow was honoured by The Iron Sheik after the wrestler was stood up by mayor Rob Ford Saturday, April 26. (CBC)

Toronto mayor Rob Ford may be in for a Camel Clutch after wrestling star The Iron Sheik said he ditched him for lunch Saturday.

The wrestler is in the city to promote his latest project at the Hot Docs film festival and instead of meeting with the embattled mayor, the Iron Sheik honoured another mayoral candidate, Olivia Chow, with whom he had lunch at Bellybuster Submarines.

"We wanted to honour Olivia because she’s been supporting us and she’s a big wrestling fan. She will be crowned the heavyweight champion. The Sheik’s partner in crime," said Page Magen, one of the Sheik's agents and a producer of the documentary.

Chow was handed the Iron Sheik's golden heavyweight champion belt and a belly busting sandwich for the honour.

"I have a lot of respect for Olivia Chow because she is a real excellent lady and honoured Iron Sheik’s friend," said the wrestler.

Chow returned the compliment and offered her respect and admiration at the Sheik overcoming his problems with drugs and the murder of his eldest daughter in 2003.

Saying he had been snubbed by the mayor, the Sheik told Saturday's crowd: "I want to let you know mister… what is his name? Rob Ford you are not real because you promised you would come today. But Olivia Chow, I have a lot of respect for. Rob Ford, you are the real Jabroni today."

The restaurant erupted in chants in support of the Sheik and Chow. 

Ford's chief of staff Dan Jacobs responded later, saying there was never any plan in place for them to meet, nor was there even an invitation received.

He dismissed the whole thing as a publicity stunt.

The Iranian-born champion of the ring and social media is the subject of The Sheik, which makes its world premiere at the annual documentary marathon on Saturday.

The last time the 72-year-old was in Toronto in November, he stopped by City Hall to challenge Ford to an arm-wrestling match. The duel was proposed in response to a prior arm-wresting match the mayor had with WWF star Hulk Hogan.

But he never got to meet Ford amid the media circus that erupted over the mayor's admission he had smoked crack cocaine while in office.

Magen said Ford sent him a text a few days ago requesting to meet with the wrestler on Saturday.

He's supposed to be a role model for Toronto.... I wish I could see him to suplex him, put him in the Camel Clutch, make him humble.—Iron Sheik, speaking about Rob Ford

"I don’t respect him. And the young generation, no one respects him," the mustachioed Sheik, whose real name is Hossein Khosrow Vaziri, said at City Hall the last time he was in the city.

"A man who eats cheeseburgers and smokes crack? What kind of a role model is that for a city?"

Doc reveals wrestler's past drug, alcohol problems

As The Sheik shows, the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famer also tried crack during a dark period in his life following the murder of one of his three daughters in 2003.

Fellow WWE alum Hulk Hogan appears in the documentary about The Iron Sheik's life. (AP Photo/Jeff Christensen)

The Magen brothers started shooting footage of Vaziri for the doc at his Georgia home in 2006, and he's seen on camera suffering from a drug and alcohol dependency, which he says he's now over.

"I worked very hard on the road all year round and I lost my daughter and I was depressed, and I had a bad friend and I made a mistake," he said, sitting in a wheelchair flanked by the Magen brothers.

"I paid for my dues, millions of millions of dollars I lost. But recently I saw the light, and Jesus and God helped me.

"I'm sober and my two young agents, the Magen boys, are helping me and made the movie for me, The Sheik movie, and I changed completely."

Film features other WWE stars

Directed by Igal Hecht, The Sheik outlines Vaziri's life — from his time wrestling and working as a bodyguard for the Shah in Iran, to his rise to fame as a villain in the WWE in the U.S. and his struggle to become sober.

Other wrestlers featured in the doc include Hulk Hogan, Jake Roberts, Mick Foley, Dwayne Johnson and Bret Hart.

"Without Iron Sheik (there would be) no Hulkamania," said Vaziri, wearing an Arab headdress and holding up his medals from the NWA Hall of Fame and Amateur Athletic Union Greco-Roman wrestling.

Indeed, Vaziri is widely credited with helping launch Hulkamania in the 1980s after Hogan escaped his signature Camel Clutch chin-lock move and pinned him in Madison Square Garden to win his first WWF Championship.

"I make Hulk Hogan to be Hulkamania," said Vaziri. "Because I was a champion before him, I lost my belt to him."

Vaziri said someone offered him $100,000 to break Hogan's leg during that match and "take the belt to the Midwest of Minnesota," but he declined.

"I didn't do it because of my company boss, Mr. (Vince) McMahon. He is No. 1 promoter to me, nice to me."

Vaziri said Toronto is close to his heart as he had some big matches at the city's now-shuttered Maple Leaf Gardens.

"I beat Angelo Mosca, one of the great football players — nobody beat him — I beat him at Maple Leaf Gardens. I became champion and I cannot forget Maple Leaf Gardens. I cannot forget about Toronto."

These days, Vaziri is a grandfather and a hit on social media sites including Twitter, where he posts expletive-laden trash talk befitting his Iron Sheik persona.

"Some days I'm in a good mood and sometimes I'm bad," he said. "The knee bothers me, the ankle bothers me (from) many years of wrestling in the ring."

Vaziri credits the Magen brothers, who are seen in the doc, with helping revive his career and overcome his battle with addiction.

Making a comeback

The twins said Vaziri, who knew their father, was like a "childhood hero" to them and they felt compelled to go to Atlanta to help him when they heard of his struggles.

"The Iron Sheik has gone through a lot," said Page. "He has a soldier's mentality and he has a heart of a lion and he has been brought up, growing up in Iran, with discipline and a hard work ethic and strong, grounded values that — even at the lowest peaks of his life — he still stayed consistent with doing the best that he could for whatever it was."

Jian noted the Sheik has outlived many of his peers and remarkably made a comeback.

"He's 72 years old, which in the wrestling world is like 150. This man has the heart and the motor of a '67 Chevy. However, his bones are pretty beat up.

"I think it's a true testament for him and his perseverance and his athleticism growing up as to how he's alive today."

Said Vaziri: "I talk to all my wrestling fans, Twitter fans, to let them know I'm still surviving. God bless Jesus or Muhammad or Allah to be behind me, and I'm still surviving."

with files from the Canadian Press


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