He was hardcore before hardcore was cool. He elevated the level of violence to a point which made him one of the most hated performers in all of professional wrestling.
Real Name: Ed Farhat
Stats: 5′ 11″ 247 lbs.
By Steve Slagle
Perhaps no other wrestler is more responsible for influencing the current generation of “hardcore” wrestling than the one and only Arabian madman known as The Sheik. Famous worldwide as the most insane, violent, bloodthirsty competitor in pro wrestling (and that’s saying something), The Sheik was “hardcore” decades before anyone had come up with a term to describe his style. Simply put, if The Sheik was wrestling, fans of the day knew — without any question — that they were going to see a bloodbath. His maniacal ring technique and persona (not to mention his penchant for participating in overly gruesome, ultra-violent matches) set a standard that “hardcore” wrestlers are still trying to equal, some 40 years after his debut.
Ed Farhat began his wrestling career as The Sheik in the 1950’s. At the time, the young Farhat was muscular, trim, and very good at getting under the fans’ skin. With an assortment of handlers (which included Ernie Roth, the future Grand Wizard) sent to the U.S. by his wealthy aristocratic Middle Eastern “family,” The Sheik (pictured with Liberace) was one of the great early “TV wrestling” villains. Universally hated by wrestling fans, The Sheik was nevertheless a top ratings and box office draw for promoters of the day. His bloody, emotional battles with Bobo Brazil, Buddy Rogers, Antonio Rocca, Johnny Valentine and Harley Race were the stuff of legends, not to mention box office gold.
Despite the fact that bloodletting — not acquiring championships — was his primary goal as a wrestler, The Sheik was a winner, and he collected more than his fair share of title belts. He was known primarily as the perennial United States Heavyweight champion (Detroit version) by virtue of his 12 separate US title victories, which The Sheik won between 1965-1980. In 1969, he defeated archrival Bobo Brazil for the NWA Americas Heavyweight title, only to lose it to “Classy” Fred Blassie. The Sheik regained the strap from Blassie, but only held it for a relatively short time before losing to the legendary luchador, Mil Mascaras. Part of the key to The Sheik’s fame (aside from his brutality) was that he wrestled in territories spanning the entire country, at a time when wrestling was very regionalized. The Sheik was also a world traveler, and performed in nearly every country that had a following for pro wrestling. He was a 3-time US champion for Frank Tunney’s Toronto-based promotion, and won another prized international belt, the prestigious United National Heavyweight championship in Tokyo in 1972.
The Sheik also had a bizarre and bloody decades-long love-hate relationship with the only man who could ever lay serious claim to The Sheik’s title as the “Most Vicious Man In Wrestling,” Abdullah the Butcher. With Abdullah’s fork in hand, and The Sheik with his trusty jagged piece of wood, the two wrestling madmen ripped and tore into each other — and did the same to the teams they were paired against — in arenas around the country with a furor and vengeance nearly unparalleled in the history of wrestling. The point of contention was simple — who was the more violent, more insane, more extreme wrestler between the two. In a strange, twisted sort of way, the Abdullah-Sheik wars were battles of respect, honor, and pride — with a truckload of foreign objects and a couple of gallons of blood poured in for good measure…
In addition to his overwhelming success wrestling all across the globe as The Sheik, Ed Farhat had developed a healthy, profitable regional NWA territory in Michigan, which he ran from 1964-1980. With Detroit as its base of operations, Farhat’s “Big Time Wrestling” TV program and the group’s live events were a major part of the NWA’s territorial structure. As was often the case during the days of territorial wrestling, Farhat trained and developed many of his own young stars. Among them were future superstars like his nephew Sabu (pictured), Rob Van Dam and Scott Steiner, as well as young independent stars like “Machine Gun” Mike Kelly.
During his 30 years in pro wrestling, The Sheik not only created an “Arabian” character that was emulated many times over, but also set a standard of violence and mayhem inside the ring that few have ever been able to match. Were it not for him, today’s “hardcore” stars like Mick Foley, The Sandman, Sabu, Raven and Tommy Dreamer would likely be wrestling a very different style. Additionally, the “sport” itself would surely have a much different look to it, had it not been for The Sheik. As a result, he will forever go down in history as one of the most important wrestling figures of the late 20th century. We at the Ring Chronicle are proud to induct Ed “The Sheik” Farhat — wrestling wildman, innovator, trainer, and promoter — into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame…