A Moment in Time: The Iron Sheik wins the WWF title

Craig Wilson

(Image courtesy of www.strengthfighter.com)

(Image courtesy of http://www.strengthfighter.com)

On December 26th 1983 the WWF hosted a show at the MSG. Considering the time of year it isn’t altogether surprising that the line-up, by WWF at MSG standards, is a weak one. That said, the event did contain a historic moment with WWF Champion Bob Backlund, with his manager Arnold Skaaland, defending against The Iron Sheik, who had “Classy” Freddie Blassie in his corner.

The finish was screwy and served the sole purpose of creating a transitional WWF Champion until a certain all-American hero got his chance at the gold in January 84 but there is no doubting the importance of this one.

The Scene:

Since Vince McMahon Jr. bought the WWF from his Father, the company had changed greatly. McMahon had a vision for the company that didn’t fit well with a number of performers on the roster.

The Champion he had inherited was Bob Backlund. Backlund had initially been very popular with the WWF faithful who were firmly behind the quirky superstar. But by the early 80s the fans had grown weary of his act – leading to him being voted ‘Most Overrated Wrestler’ in the Wrestler Observer Newsletter’s 1983 awards.

McMahon pinned his hopes on the man he saw as the guy to be the face of his planned expansion: Hulk Hogan. He suggested to Backlund that he turn heel but the Champion refused. That meant that a transitional champion was needed – due to this being before a face v face championship match was the norm – so that the title could pass to a heel wrestler before Hogan would win the title.

The Background:

The Iron Sheik had faced Bob Backlund before. After winning a Battle Royal in 1979 the Sheik earned a title match against Backlund. After a 30 minute match the champion was able to retain his title. Sheik would briefly feud with Chief Jay Strongbow and Bruno Sammartino before returning to the NWA territories to play up on real life political matters – namely the Iran hostage crisis.

The Showdown:

In 1983 he returned to the WWF and again challenged Backlund to a match for his title. After Sheik attacked Backlund with his Persian clubs, injuring the champion, the stage was set for their showdown at MSG on 26 December 1983.

Sheik attacks from the start of the match, working on the neck area where the commentators have already alluded to Backlund favouring. Sheik works on the arm as he shouts “Iran number 1” which infuriates the New York crowd. Backlund is able to fight back but a shoulder block sends him down. He is able to take the challenger down with a hip toss but it’s with the bad arm and Sheik is back to working on the injured champion with an arm bar on the mat.

Much to the delight of the crowd Backlund is able to get some offence in but Sheik comfortably overpowers the champion and applies a surfboard like manoeuvre. Backlund is able to fight out with a series of roll-up pins but a backslide attempt is too much for his injured arm to take. Sheik misses a running elbow and Backlund counters a suplex when he slips out the back and uses the ropes to roll the champion up by the challenger easily kicks out. “Classy” Freddie Blassie is screaming at The Sheik to apply the Camel Clutch which he does in the middle of the ring.

The champion is clearly in a lot of pain and his manager Arnold Skaaland throws in the towel for his charge, giving The Sheik the win and the WWF title.


So due to forfeit Backlund’s 1,470 day reign at the top came to an end and due to losing via “injury” he was denied a rematch. Sheik would have a 4 week run with the WWF title he would face Chief Jay Strongbow, Pat Patterson, and Tito Santana before dropping the title to Hulk Hogan in January 1984. The rest, as they say, is history.

You can read all previous ‘A Moment in Time’ pieces here.

2 thoughts on “A Moment in Time: The Iron Sheik wins the WWF title

  1. Pingback: 30 Years Ago Today: Hulk Hogan wins the WWF title | Ring the Damn Bell

  2. Pingback: best year in wwe history? | Zahal IDF Blog News

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