The Sheik (wrestler)
Farhat in 1972
|Birth name||Edward George Farhat|
|Born||June 7, 1926|
Lansing, Michigan, United States
|Died||January 18, 2003 (aged 76)|
Williamston, Michigan, United States
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||The Sheik|
The Sheik of Araby
The Original Sheik
|Billed height||5 ft 11 in (180 cm)|
|Billed weight||250 lb (113 kg)|
|Billed from||The Syrian Desert|
Edward George Farhat (June 7, 1926 – January 18, 2003) was an American professional wrestler best known by his ring name The Sheik (sometimes called The Original Sheik to distinguish him from The Iron Sheik, who debuted in 1972). He is also one of the originators of what became the hardcore wrestling style, as the promoter of Big Time Wrestling, and the uncle of ECW wrestler Sabu.
Early life and career (1949 - 1970)
Farhat started out wrestling in the Chicago area as The Sheik of Araby after having served in the U.S. Army. He often teamed with Gypsy Joe. Later on he went to Texas. During his early career, his biggest match was one he didn't even wrestle in. He was set to face NWA World Heavyweight Champion Lou Thesz in Chicago for his title but Thesz had a reputation for embarrassing "gimmick" wrestlers so The Sheik bailed from the ring and hid under a bus. The publicity from the event helped push the Sheik character to a more prominent level. He went to New York for Vincent J. McMahon where he teamed with Dick The Bruiser and Bull Curry in feuds against Mark Lewin and Don Curtis as well as the team of Antonino Rocca and Miguel Pérez in Madison Square Garden. He returned when McMahon formed the World Wide Wrestling Federation to feud with Bruno Sammartino in the WWWF's major markets in the late 1960s.
The Sheik's gimmick (1949-1995)
The Sheik's wrestling was centered on his character of a rich wild man from Syria. Before each match, he would use stalling tactics as he would kneel on a prayer rug to pray to Allah (in real life Farhat was a Maronite Christian). He would lock on choke holds and refuse to break them, and use a camel clutch hold leading to submission. The hold would have him sit over his opponent's back as he applied a chinlock. He used hidden pencils and other "foreign objects" to cut open his opponent's faces. Often, the tactic backfired and the opponent got The Sheik's pencil, leading to the extensive scarring on Farhat's forehead. The other illegal move was his fireball that he threw into his opponents' faces, sometimes burning their face severely (he had pieces of paper soaked in lighter fluid which he quick lit with a cigarette lighter hidden in his trunks). He didn't speak on camera, apart from incomprehensible mutterings. At the start of his career his wife Joyce played the part of his valet Princess Saleema who would burn incense in the ring. He had three different managers during his career to cut promos on his behalf. His first manager was Abdullah Farouk but when Farouk managed full-time in the WWF, Eddy Creatchman became his manager. When Creatchman was unable to work with him later in his career, Sheik had Supermouth Dave Drason.
World Wide Wrestling Federation (1965-1969, 1972)
In 1968, he was brought into the WWWF for title matches with then-champion Bruno Sammartino. They met three times in Madison Square Garden—Sheik won the first via count out on October 28, he was disqualified in the second November 18, and he lost to Bruno in a Texas Death Match via submission when Bruno grabbed a foreign object (pen) and hammered Sheik's arm to a bloody pulp on December 9. Sammartino and Sheik also had a series of matches in Boston in January and February 1969, including one sell out the day after a crippling snow storm, and public transportation not yet restored. They fought in three steel cage matches one in Philadelphia and two in Boston.
Noteworthy feuds and matches (1960s-1980)
The Sheik's biggest feud was his seemingly career-long conflict with Bobo Brazil in Big Time Wrestling in Detroit. The two feuded over Sheik's version of the United States Championship, frequently selling out Cobo Hall. This is seen briefly on the "documentary" movie, I Like to Hurt People. The two took the feud to several markets, most notably Memphis, Tennessee and Los Angeles, California. His other major opponent in Los Angeles was Fred Blassie. Sheik and Blassie faced off several times, including cage matches in the Grand Olympic Auditorium.
Starting in 1969, he also wrestled regularly in Toronto, where he was undefeated for 127 matches at Maple Leaf Gardens. He defeated the likes of Whipper Billy Watson, Lou Thesz, Gene Kiniski, Bruno Sammartino, Édouard Carpentier, Ernie Ladd, Chief Jay Strongbow, Tiger Jeet Singh, Johnny Valentine and even André the Giant during Andre's first extensive tour of North America in 1974. It was Andre who put an end to the Sheik's Toronto winning streak in August 1974 by disqualification. In 1976 he lost by pinfall to Thunderbolt Patterson and Bobo Brazil. Sheik continued to headline most shows in Toronto until 1977, but business dropped off significantly over the last three years. Few fans were aware of the fact that he was actually the booker within Frank Tunney's promotion following the retirement of Whipper Billy Watson in 1971. He was also the promoter at Cobo Hall in Detroit for many years. As business in Toronto failed, he worked for indy promoter Dave McKigney in Ontario and ran his own Big Time Wrestling promotion out of his home near Lansing, Michigan.
Late in his career, Sheik ventured to a promotion in Japan. His run was successful, but management was in financial ruin, so when the company went bankrupt, Sheik jumped to Baba's All Japan Pro Wrestling. He then jumped a year later to Inoki's New Japan Pro Wrestling, but had a falling out with Inoki, and left Japan to return to wrestling full-time in Detroit. He returned in 1977 for All Japan, teaming, and feuding with, Abdullah the Butcher. His match with Abdullah the Butcher against Dory Funk, Jr. and Terry Funk where Terry fought off Butcher and Sheik with his arm in a sling is credited for turning the foreign Funks into faces in Japan.
Later career (1980 - 1998)
In 1980, he wrestled for various independent promotions throughout the United States and Japan through the 1980s. It was while in Japan that he suffered his first heart attack while boarding a taxi.
From 1991-1995, he mainly wrestled in Japan for Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling and had various dangerous death matches. On May 6, 1992, The Sheik had a "fire deathmatch" with Sabu against Atsushi Onita and Tarzan Goto, where the ring ropes were replaced with flaming barbed wire and he got third-degree burns and went into a coma.
On May 5, 1995 he defeated Damián 666 for Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling's 6th Anniversary show in under two minutes.
When Sabu joined WCW in 1995, Farhat joined him as his manager. During a match with Jerry Lynn, who was wrestling as "Mr. JL" at the time, Farhat's leg was broken by the wrestlers during a spot he was previously unaware of.
He wrestled his last match in Japan in 1998 at 72.
Retirement and legacy
Farhat retired to his estate and died on January 18, 2003, of heart failure. In his later years, Farhat provided extensive interviews to his biographer with the intent of publishing a book on his life. These interviews provided a highly explosive look into the world of wrestling, especially on the early days of the WWWF/WWF and Japanese wrestling organizations. As a result, the interviews and draft book were sealed at the time of his death. Despite large offers for movie rights to this book, it is unknown when, or if, Farhat's family will allow his biographer to release the book.
The Sheik was seen as one of professional wrestling's biggest box office attractions, and as a pioneer of "hardcore wrestling" which became a major part of professional wrestling in the 1990s. On March 31, 2007, The Sheik was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by his nephew, Sabu, and Rob Van Dam, who he had trained. Most notably, he trained boxer Muhammad Ali before Ali's famous "boxer vs wrestler match" with Antonio Inoki in 1976 in Tokyo.
His wife, and former valet, Joyce, died on November 27, 2013, in Michigan. They are buried at Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Williamston, Michigan. He was also the uncle of Michael Farhat, who worked as Mike Thomas in Detroit. Sadly Thomas committed suicide in 1978 at age 27. The Sheik's son Tom died on October 2, 2020 from kidney cancer at 57.
Championships and accomplishments
- 50th State Big Time Wrestling
- All Japan Pro Wrestling
- Big Time Wrestling
- Cauliflower Alley Club
- Other honoree (1995)
- Central States Wrestling
- Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling
- International Championship Wrestling
- Japan Wrestling Association
- Maple Leaf Wrestling
- National Wrestling Alliance
- NWA Hall of Fame (Class of 2010)
- NWA Hollywood Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (Class of 2011)
- World Class Championship Wrestling
- World Wide Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1996)
- Shields, Brian; Sullivan, Kevin (2009). WWE Encyclopedia. DK. p. 275. ISBN 978-0-7566-4190-0.
- Real World Tag League 1978 at purolove.com retrieved on October 6, 2018
- Real World Tag League 1981 at purolove.com retrieve on October 6, 2018
- "Lawler, McMahon, Road Warriors among PWHF Class of 2011". Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum. 2010-11-26. Retrieved 2010-11-28.
- *Will, Gary; Duncan, Royal (2000). "Texas: NWA Texas Heavyweight Title [Von Erich]". Wrestling Title Histories: professional wrestling champions around the world from the 19th century to the present. Pennsylvania: Archeus Communications. pp. 268–269. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
- "NWA Texas Heavyweight Title". Wrestling-Titles. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
- Birthday https://wrestlerdeaths.com/the-sheik-death
- Tributes II by Dave Meltzer, 2004, ISBN 1-58261-817-8, pp 83–93