The other half of Hulkamania: The Iron Sheik discusses January 23, 1984

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January 23, 2014

Thirty years ago on this date, the face of the wrestling industry as we knew it was forever changed. In front of a raucous sellout crowd in New York’s Madison Square Garden, Hulkamania was born, as Hulk Hogan became WWE Champion by dethroning The Iron Sheik. I had the pleasure of making the ring announcement that evening, verbally anointing Hogan as WWE’s standard bearer. But as there was a victor, there was also a man who tasted defeat.

Recently, had an opportunity to discuss that fateful evening with my good friend and truly one of the all-time greats, WWE Hall of Famer The Iron Sheik, who was very candid in his thoughts about being a significant part of mat history.– HOWARD FINKEL

WWE.COM: After you beat Bob Backlund for the WWE Championship, did you think anyone could defeat you?

IRON SHEIK: Well, like all my wrestling fans round the world know, I was the first Iranian come to America. I was in Minnesota, and  Mr. McMahon called me up to New York. Like everybody know, six years, nobody beat Mr. Bob Backlund. I beat him in most famous arena in the world, Madison Square Garden. And all of a sudden, Hulk Hogan come to New York, and I lost on one bad day, lost my belt to Hulk Hogan. But all the intelligent wrestling fans around the world, WWE fans and Iron Sheik fans, they know: Without Iron Sheik, no Hulkamania.

Watch: Sheik ends Backlund's reign | Famous NYC moments

WWE.COM: How much did you know about Hogan going into the match?

SHEIK: Only thing I notice about him, I had started in [the AWA in] Minnesota. I left Minnesota, I heard Hulk Hogan was in Minnesota and he was a big bodybuilder wrestling in Minnesota. I’m in New York, but I didn’t know nothing about Hulk Hogan. Only thing I know is he was a bodybuilder and a big man. But I was real Iranian, and my background come from wrestling background, Olympics in Munich, Germany and Olympic coach. And I was most hated wrestler in America because I had the Ayatollah picture on my flag. I was the most hated wrestler in WWE, No. 1 company in the world. But I only heard about Hulk Hogan until I met him in New York.

WWE.COM: Did you think Hogan was worthy of stepping into the ring with you?

SHEIK: Like I said, I was three times All-American AAU champ when Mr. Hulk Hogan never competed in the AAU. No. 1 wrestling company in the world was WWE. But Hulk Hogan, the only thing he had was he was a bodybuilder and going to gym, work hard with the dumbbells. But he didn’t have that Iron Sheik background, because Mr. Bob Backlund grew up with wrestling and I grew up with wrestling all my life. But Hulk Hogan, only thing he had was luck. I have one bad night I lost my belt to Hulk Hogan.

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