My buddy/wrestling guru Jan Murphy sent me an article today marking the 11th anniversary of the passing of wrestling great Ed Farhat. Who is Ed Farhat? Really? Ed Farhat is THE Sheik!!! Who is the Sheik? Nothing less than the greatest villain in pro wrestling history, and the father of what came to be known as hardcore. Sorry, Sheiky Baby. Don’t get me wrong. I love The Iron Sheik. Not only is he a world champion, he also tried to humble/sodomize me with a beer bottle. (How can I not love that?) The Iron Sheik is a legend. No question about it. But, and it pains me to say it, in my view, there is, and will only be, one Sheik. The Original Sheik. Ed Farhat.
When I was a wee lad, my cousin used to take me to Maple Leaf Gardens to see Frank Tunney wrestling cards. Back then, much of the audience believed it was real. Kayfabe was all the rage in the squared circle. You know … the good old days. It was at Maple Leaf Gardens where I first saw The Sheik, and he scared the living shit out of me. Remember, I was around seven years old then and was probably still watching Sesame Street. I don’t remember the grisly details, but I’m sure it was a typical Sheik match; The Sheik, escorted to the ring by his scumbag manager, Abdullah Farouk (more on that beauty in a bit), would size up his victim before rolling out the prayer rug so he could have a chat with Allah before slicing up his opponent. It was usually within five minutes into the match before the “foreign object” came out from The Sheik’s trunks (sometimes a pencil) and he proceeded to start carving a head or sometimes an arm. Farouk was ringside, working the crowd and distracting the ref, whose inability to see the foreign object pushed the limits of believability even for wrestling, but there was so much glorious blood that it didn’t matter.
Not only was Farhat the most notorious heel of all time, he was also a successful promoter in the Detroit territory. I’ve heard that he used his promoter authority to make himself the NWA United States Heavyweight Champion (Detroit version) an astounding 12 times between 1965 and 1980. In other words, even the fix was fixed if that’s true. But that was OK, because what The Sheik did paved the way for many hardcore legends like Abdullah the Butcher and Terry Funk. What The Sheik did back then bares no resemblance to what we see today on Raw and SmackDown. As someone who has been through multiple forms mental therapy, I never delved into what it was about watching an out of shape Syrian turn babyfaces into human mulch as he made psychotic faces even Chuck Manson would envy, that made me so happy. Could it have to do with my parents’ divorce, or bedwetting? I’d rather not overthink it.
As I remember him, The Sheik was not a solo act. Like me, he was part of a duo. (a.k.a. The Grand Wizard) actually Ernie Roth, was The Sheik’s venerable manager. Referring to his psychopathic client as the “noble exalted Sheik” — of which the Sheik was neither — Roth was, in my opinion, the greatest of all the managers.
Look, I love Bobby Heenan, Eddie Creatchman, Captain Lou, Freddie Blassie and Paul Bearer, but Ernie was my favourite because he was FUNNY! All of the above were funny, but for me, Roth was the funniest. It made perfect sense that the scariest, nastiest, blood-thirstiest heel would need a slimy, obnoxious comic foil to offset the horror … and to help cheat, of course. Here’s one of my favourite videos featuring Farouk and Eddie “The Brain” Creatchman — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pt2fD4Rr0w — and yes kids, there was a “The Brain” before Heenan. These guys worked the mic like the craft masters they were. It’s sublime … truly sublime.
So, The Noble Exalted Sheik met met his maker about 10 years ago. For those of you who remember the mayhem, give The Sheik a heavenly nod of respect for all those wonderful years of blood and guts. For those who don’t, he’s only a YouTube click away. Thanks Jan for remembering, and thanks, Mr. Farhat, for being greatest fucking heel of all time!
Spencer “Spenny” Rice is one half of the comedic duo from Kenny vs. Spenny and the executive producer of the documentary series X-Rayted. Follow him on Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/pages/SPENCER-SPENNY-RICE/216355453412 — or on Twitter (@Spenny) and watch re-runs of KVS for years to come.