Hot Docs Festival: Iron Sheik Blasts Rob Ford for Snub

Rob Ford
Rob Ford
 Getty Images

TORONTO -- The Iron Sheik, a 1980s TV wrestling legend, appeared at the Hot Docs film festival Saturday night to slam Toronto mayor Rob Ford for blowing him off ahead of his movie premiere.

"Rob Ford is a jabroni. You know what, f--- Rob Ford," The Sheik, whose real name is Khosrow Vaziri, ranted amid cries of "Sheik! Sheik!" from wrestling fans after Ford was a no-show Saturday afternoon to meet him.

The World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famer was doing a Q&A at the Hot Docs Cinema after the world premiere of The Sheik, a Canadian indie documentary by director Igal Hecht about the TV wrestler's journey from Iran to America and infamy as a hated villain.

Vaziri, who at 72 has lived longer than a slew of other drug and steroid-abusing TV wrestlers despite his own earlier crack cocaine addiction, took to his Twitter account Saturday to announce he and Ford were to "break bread" to help Toronto's mayor conquer his own drug and alcohol addictions.

But by Saturday night, Ford's failure to show had Vaziri tweeting his frustration and meeting instead with Olivia Chow, a rival in the city's upcoming mayoralty election.

"The jabroni Rob Ford don't come but my queen lady the @oliviachow show me the respect for my #sheikmovie," the former world champion sounded off.

Page Magen, a manager of Vaziri and a producer of The Sheik movie, explained the ex-wrestler reached out to Ford, "who has his own demons, his own issues, that The Sheik overcame."

"Ford didn't want to listen, and you know what, he lost our votes," Magen added.

In the wake of the film's Hot Docs debut, the producers will digitally launch The Sheik via Vimeo On Demand, with a May 8 debut.

The self-distribution strategy, to include releases on iTunes, Amazon and other digital platforms, will include leveraging Vaziri's 420,000 Twitter followers to increase the film's reach.

"His fans are influencers and we're talking to them directly to become ambassadors of the film," Michael Girgis, another producer of The Sheik, said of Vaziri's followers like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Hulk Hogan, Seth Green and Jack Black, who also appear in the indie film.

Girgis and fellow producers will use Thunderclap and other crowd-speaking platforms, in addition to live events and a Twitter Q&A, on May 8 to amplify the film's digital release.

"Simultaneously, everyone will echo the same message, at the same time," he added.

Vaziri's social media following is yet another chapter in an unlikely comeback for the former wrestling superstar after his body failed him due to endless injuries, and his drug addiction and depression over the 2003 murder of his daughter had him in a downward spiral.

The Sheik, filmed between 2006 and 2014, recaptures Vaziri's 1980s reign as TV wrestling's perfect heel, the best bad guy, before turning to his current family life at home in Atlanta.

It helped that Vaziri came from Iran, so his wrestling character became a foreign menace for American wrestling fans in the wake of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.

Vaziri was also the perfect counterpoint to the WWE's ultimate good guy, Hogan, whose Hulkamania fame laid the foundation for the WWE's eventual success with Wrestlemania, The Raw and other popular TV promotions.

But by 2006, when the Toronto-based Magen brothers came on the scene as family friends, Vaziri was nearly broke and selling autographed photos for $10 each to feed his drug habit.

Eventually the Magen brothers, by now Vaziri's managers, got him off drugs by completing wrestling's ultimate pivot: going from heel to baby face, via Twitter and YouTube viral videos.

The strategy saw Vaziri no longer having to wrestle to get a payday, instead going on Howard Stern's radio show, the WWE's nostalgia convention circuit and social media for lucrative gigs.

The Hot Docs festival runs to May 4.

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