AS I SEE IT April 1: Remembering The Sheik

Posted on 4/01/124 by Bob Magee

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling Between the Sheets

I was 7 years old.

I had just moved 600 miles away from just about everything I
ever knew, as my Dad's railroad job had moved from upstate
New York to a suburb just outside of Detroit. All my
relatives, all my friends, and pretty much everything I knew
was back in upstate New York... and I had a new baby brother
to boot.

My whole world was pretty much up in the air.

Then, one Saturday afternoon I turned on the TV set and saw
something I'd never seen before... professional wrestling.

On CKLW Channel 9, from across the river in Windsor,
Ontario... there was this bizarre looking character called
The Sheik.

I didn't know what I was watching... but I was fascinated.

Back in that long-ago world of a seven-year-old, I didn't
know what phrases like "kayfabe", "a work", or "workrate"
meant, but I knew I'd seen something I liked.

Decades years later, I guess you could say I was hooked for

Wrestling has been something that's gotten me through the
bad times... has given me enjoyment during the good
times...has given me friends that have lasted for many
years...and it all started with seeing this "Madman" on a
small black and white TV.

On January 18th, 2003; Edward Farhat...The Sheik...this
legend from what seems like so long ago in my own life...
died after a long illness, as his heart gave out at age 76
in Williamston, MI.

The Sheik was said to be "from a wealthy, aristocratic
Middle Eastern family". He wore a kaffiyeh (Arabic head
covering), and used his trademark jagged piece of wood to
"cut his opponents". He also "threw fire" at his opponents,
one more amazing trick for a seven-year old who'd never
heard of flash paper.

The real-life Edward Farhat was born in Lansing, MI, one of
10 children of Lebanese immigrants. After hiding his age of
17 in order to enlist during World War II, Farhat entered
wrestling in 1950.

As even CNN recognized in reporting in Edward Farhat's
death, few if any wrestlers are more responsible for
creating the "hardcore" wrestling style.

Ed Farhat came to the Detroit territory as booker in 1963,
and by 1965 had bought out owners Jerry Doyle and Jim
Barnett to become owner of the Detroit territory, beginning
one of the wildest territorial runs of the 1960s and 1970s.

The Sheik was involved in what was likely the most legendary
feud of the 1960s with Bobo Brazil, a feud worked primarily
in the Detroit territory, but also extending as far away as
California in the late 1960s, and to Frank Tunney's Toronto
territory all the way down to Texas in the late 1970s.

The Sheik partnered during much of that time with manager
Abdullah Farouk, better known to those from the Northeast as
The Grand Wizard.

The Sheik also worked a memorable series of matches in 1969
and 1970 in southern California with Fred Blassie, selling
out the famous Olympic Auditorium. In later years, he was
also managed by Eddy Creachman.

His other most legendary feud on and off over 30 years from
the United States to Japan was with Abdullah The Butcher,
who he also partnered with in All Japan.

The Detroit territory, operating as Big Time Wrestling/World
Wide Sports, lasted as a major territory until October 1980,
when the worsening economic climate in the Detroit area, as
well as booking that kept the Sheik on top longer than many
thought helpful, finally ended the promotion's run.

Even at the end of the Detroit territory's run, The Sheik
helped create three superstars of the future, nephew Sabu,
Rob Van Dam and Scott Steiner, and gave a chance to a
wrestler later named Randy Savage.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, The Sheik spent time in Japan
working for All Japan, a tenure that included several years
in the Real World Tag League tournaments together with
Abdullah The Butcher, and later working such names as Ricky
Steamboat, Giant Baba, and Kintaro Oki. The Sheik won the
NWA United National Heavyweight Title (now part of the All
Japan Triple Crown) by defeating Seiji Sakaguchi on
September 6, 1972 in Tokyo, Japan.

The Sheik returned again in the 1990s working Atsushi
Onita's FMW promotion in programs with Atsushi Onita, Tarzan
Goto and Tiger Jeet Singh, even working matches as the WWA
World Martial Arts Heavyweight Title at age 66 in 1992. He
also worked with his nephew who became known as one of the
legends of the hardcore style, Sabu.

Part of The Sheik's charm to fans was his ability to stay in
gimmick and protect his gimmick. Much like Abdullah The
Butcher, he was said to be one of the few that even smart
marks were afraid of. He held to the old kayfabe code and
protected the business, staying in character nearly

In one of the almost amusing touches to this protecting his
gimmick even within the business, Farhat wouldn't even
answer promoter phone calls to his home for "Ed"...not even
for potential bookings. He would tell them "no Ed lives

Everywhere he was... The Sheik.

But in case this devotion to gimmick makes you think Edward
Farhat didn't have a grip on real life, this story recalled
by the Charleston Post and Courier's Mike Mooneyham might
convince you otherwise:

Farhat was working Bobo Brazil down in Texas, realizing that
in Texas (like everywhere else) they could draw good money
with each other.

In a Texas arena, during those pre-civil rights era days,
black fans were seated in a balcony behind chicken wire.
Farhat got to the ring, and saw this seating setup. A very
real-life Edward Farhat got very upset, and in full Sheik
gimmick, he climbed up 15 feet and ripped down the wire.

He got back in the ring and locked up with a shocked Brazil,
who asked Farhat, "What the hell did you do?" Sheik told
Brazil that the local promoters were racist @$#$@$#s, and to
hell with them. So the "hated enemies" were in a clinch in
the corner laughing at what a real-life Edward Farhat had
done, and could get away with in the segregated
South...simply because he did it as "The Sheik."

Back when he died, a number of mainstream outlets picked up
the story of Edward Farhat's passing. Associated Press ran
the news across the country. CNN reported him as a "pioneer
of hardcore wrestling" on their news ticker. The New York
Times ran a detailed and well-written obituary. Even an
episode of ESPN's Pardon The Interruption gave Farhat a
"Happy Trails" shout-out.

But in his own business... a business that seems to feel
more and more obligated to forget its history, it was a
mixed bag in terms of those within wrestling remembering him
officially. A number of indies remembered him, including the
then IWA Mid-South Wrestling and Jersey All Pro Wrestling

But WWE couldn't be bothered to remember The Sheik on TV
(one of the columnists on their website did finally mention
him later on in the "The Original Hardcore

CZW, one of the promotions that certainly owed its
"ultraviolent" roots to The Sheik, didn't do a ten-bell
count for him, apparently preoccupied with opening their new
venue in Philadelphia. Across town that night, XPW did
remember him with a ten-bell count prior to their show.

Mike Tenay also remembered to mention The Sheik's passing on
the January 22nd NWA-TNA PPV.

Those promotions and many more should have taken the time to
honor this colorful figure, without whom they might not be
holding their kinds of wrestling shows at all.

As for the business Edward Farhat gave so much to, one of
its longtime publications, The Ring Chronicle, summarized
his contribution to wrestling this way:

"...During his 30 years in pro wrestling, The Sheik not only
created a 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."

But one little seven-year-old boy now soon to be 67-year-old
man, remembers him simply as the mysterious figure who
turned him on to an artform he enjoys to this very day.

Until next time...

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