The multi-tasking brothers behind that bar mitzvah you just attended will soon unveil a pet project harkening back to their youth when they first staged wrestling shows for neighbourhood kids.
Jian and Page Magen of event production company Magen Boys Entertainment are the driving force behind The Sheik, a full-length documentary chronicling the rise, fall and return of The Iron Sheik, a star of 1980s-era World Wrestling Federation (now WWE).
You might remember him as Hulk Hogan’s foil, and the documentary’s publicity materials plays up the rivalry: “Without the Iron Sheik there could be no Hulkamania,” a press release reads.
The wrestling legend, real name Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, hails from Iran, where the Magen Boys first met him decades ago. Vaziri was a good friend of the Magen brothers’ father, a ping-pong champ also hailing from Iran.
“We considered the Sheik our uncle,” says Jian Magen in an interview. When wrestling matches came to Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, the Sheik introduced the Magen family to all the WWF icons, such as Randy “Macho Man” Savage, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, King Kong Bundy and countless more.
So what makes the Sheik’s story so compelling to share with audiences? This isn’t a wrestling film, Magen says. “He was cast as an evil anti-American character but in reality he’s all things American. He fled his country to make a better life in the U.S. and is now truly the nicest guy you’ll ever meet.”
A quick glance at the Sheik’s widely popular Twitter account (413,000 followers), though, might have you reconsidering Magen’s “nice guy” assessment. The Sheik plays a character, Magen says, and that attitude now lives on Twitter instead of in the ring. The tweets are crude, antagonistic and intentionally immature. It’s an act, something any wrestling fan will truly see through.
Magen says as much as the film will profile the Sheik’s wrestling career, it will also show the softness behind the hard mask the Sheik wears.
It’s a dream come true for the Magens; they staged wrestling matches in their driveway at 16, paying amateur wrestlers to compete for teen crowds. It wasn’t long before the brothers founded their successful event business known for GTA-area weddings, bar mitzvahs, and special shows.
Toronto filmmaker Igal Hecht came on board as director/editor/writer, and the veteran director behind 53 documentaries gets giddy when he discusses The Sheik. “Wrestling is my soap opera, I love it,” he says, “and I just knew this would be an amazing film, considering the Sheik’s story.”
He explains how the wrestler’s popularity peaked during the Hogan/Bob Backlund days but he fell prey to drug abuse and career-ending injuries. His rebound was partially thanks to The Howard Stern Show, where the American radio show invited The Sheik to spew his diatribes against other wrestlers.
Despite the character he plays, the Sheik is far from phony, Hecht says. “He’s the real deal, he’s authentic. And he still wants to entertain people, which he’s now doing on Twitter.”
The Sheik will debut at Toronto’s Hot Docs Film Festival on April 26 at 9:30 p.m., at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. The film will later be released across Canada in May. The Iron Sheik will be at the premiere of the documentary at the screening,but don’t worry, he won’t pin you down in his classic camel-clutch.
For more information, go to www.sheikmovie.com