The Sheik (2014)
Starring: The Iron Sheik
Directed by: Igal Hecht (The Hilltops; A Universal Language)
Synopsis: An Iranian sheik visits America and travels to different cities on a diplomatic tour, breaking backs and making people humble in this fish-out-of-water tale.
- The Iron Sheik is just a fascinating character. His manner of speaking is gold, especially the way he unnecessarily overuses “the,” as in “the WrestleMania” or “the Sgt. Slaughter.”
- There are a couple of good gets for the on-camera interviews, particularly The Rock, who by all accounts is a genuinely great guy and seems sincere when he heaps praise on The Sheik.
- Some pretty eye-opening moments, in particular the Sheik buying crack while mic’d up.
What Doesn’t Work:
- The documentary was not given the blessing of the WWE/F, so none of its footage appears, which would seem crucially important to a film about a wrestler.
- Since the WWF footage is absent, they really cut short the Sheik’s wrestling career to focus on his social media popularity. They talk about how Sheik was busted for coke in 1987 and kicked out of the WWF, but they make little to no mention that he came back a couple of times (notably as Colonel Mustafa to aid Sgt. Slaughter when he was an “Iraqi sympathizer”) and wrestled in WCW for a bit, came back for a battle royal at WrestleMania 17, etc. Instead, the Sheik’s two managers (who produced and wrote the doc) give themselves a ton of screentime to talk about how he’s now popular on Twitter. Sheik’s drug habit is addressed, but kind of glossed over. They bring up the fact that they’re concerned, but nothing really happens.
- As good as The Rock and Jim Ross are in the interviews, there should have been more wrestlers talking about the influence the Sheik had on them. Instead we get Nikolai Volkoff (who was fine and made sense, but didn’t talk much) and Jake the Snake Roberts, who looks like hell but can be forgiven because of the mountain of crack in his wake. They do corner Hulk Hogan in a hotel lobby for 22 seconds, proving once again that he the big time jabroni.
Overall: The Sheik is a very interesting character, and his dynamic personality is the only thing that keeps this doc afloat, as it’s kind of a mess. The timeline is all over the place, and you’re unsure of when some footage is happening. Sometimes a graphic will come up that reads “Atlanta, 2010,” even though the year is seemingly irrelevant. Then in other scenes you actually want to know what year it is and they don’t tell you. The Iron Sheik’s life and career make for great documentary material, but it’s bungled here and the result kind of leaves you shrugging your shoulders at the attempt. It’s basically an episode of Intervention with The Iron Sheik, without the intervention part, and without being nearly as epic as that sounds. As the Sheik himself would say, this movie not Iron Sheik class, bubba.
Score: 6 camel clutches (out of 10)