TORONTO - Wrestling star The Iron Sheik plans to meet with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford while he's in the city to promote his latest project at the Hot Docs film festival.
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.
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.
Page Magen, one of the Sheik's agents and a producer of the doc, says Ford texted him a few days ago and wants to meet with the wrestler on Saturday.
He says the meeting is supposed to happen over sandwiches at Belly Buster Submarines, which Magen co-owns with twin brother Jian, who is also a producer on the film.
"I want to let him know that ... it's no good to smoke crack and come on national TV," the moustachioed Sheik, whose real name is Hossein Khosrow Vaziri, said in an interview at Hot Docs.
"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."
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.
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."
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.
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."
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