Monday, October 25, 2010

Sheik and Destroy: Adnan and Saddam

 "This is what the Arab people want!"
The squared circle (or wrestling ring, if you will) of the 1980s often mirrored the geopolitics of the time. One such character was former wrestler and manager Sheik Adnan Al-Kassiey (real name: Adnan Bin Abdulkareem Ahmed Alkaissy El Farthie). Al-Kassiey was hailed as being from Bagdad, Iraq. Now, even in my own teenage mind I knew somehow, someway that the "no Russian accent having Russian", Krusher Krushev wasn't really from Moscow. Yet, the more I've read about Adnan Al-Kassey the more interested I've become. Kassiey started as the Native American gimmick Billy White Wolf  despite being Middle Eastern in origin. This however was nothing new as  Barry Darsow played the Russian mentioned earlier (in the National Wrestling Alliance), a mountain man (Georgia Championship Wrestling), and a Repo Man (WWF).

Kassiey I knew mostly from the AWA and a little bit of various NWA territories. He managed King Kong Brody (aka: Bruiser Brody), Jerry "The Mountain from Stone Mountain, GA" Blackwell, and Kamala the Ugandan Giant. In 2005, Al-Kaissy published his memroirs, The Sheikh of Baghdad: Tales of Celebrity and Terror from Pro Wrestling's General Adnan. Sports author Ross Bernstein wrote the following in his review:

"Alkaissy returned home to Iraq as a modern day hero of sorts. Meanwhile, Saddam was rising to power in the ruling Baath Party at the time and had big plans for his old friend. With that, Saddam summoned Adnan to his palace and told him that he wanted him to wrestle for Iraq and make him proud. Adnan, who was only home for a visit to see his family, respectfully declined the generous offer. But when Saddam told him it was not an offer, but an order, he realized that his life would never be the same. So, under Saddam´s watchful eye, Alkaissy began promoting his own wrestling matches in Iraq - importing professional grapplers from around the world to compete against him. Literally hundreds of thousands of crazed fans poured into local soccer stadiums to see Adnan emerge as the Middle East Heavyweight Champion of the World, and before long a superstar was born. Adnan was rewarded with his own palace, a fleet of Mercedes complete with chauffeurs, and money beyond his wildest dreams. He was even named as the Director of Youth at the Ministry of Youth, a very coveted and prominent government position. Soon, there were thousands of adoring fans sleeping outside his home at night just hoping to catch a glimpse of their new hero. It was utter insanity. What Adnan didn´t realize, however, was that Saddam was using his old friend as a clever ruse to entertain and occupy the masses while he began his own murderous regime of torture and terror throughout the Middle East. Eight long years later, Alkaissy was fearful of being killed. So, he left everything behind and escaped in the dark of night, leaving his friends and family behind forever. With nowhere to turn to, he came back to America, where he would start over as a professional wrestler - only this time, instead of being an adored national hero, he would be transformed into a villainous Arabian madman named "The Sheikh."
 Bagdad for several years had a wrestling scene. In the book Weird Minnesota, Alkaissy says of his Bagdad match with Canadian grappler George Gordienko, "(we had) probably the biggest crowd ever in the history of wrestling. The stadium in Iraq had over two hundred thousand people watching." The book also says: "the ring was surrounded by armed guards with submachine guns." In 1978, Al-Kaissy helped promote another wrestling event in his birthplace of Bagdad.  It was here that he fought and won against Andre the Giant. When asked about the reality of putting on matches that were worked in a country like Iraq, Al-Kaissy said "If Saddam found out that the wrestling we were doing was fake, you think I'd be alive?" He later found the tortured body of one his colleagues and a friend of his was assassinated after having dinner with Sadaam.  

 High school pals: Saddam Hussein and Sheikh Adnan Al-Kaissy/Ed Farthy. 

Al-Kassiy wrestling as Sheik Adnan  

Despite his dangerous times in Iraq, Al-Kaissy's last major run in wrestling involved playing an Iraqi heel during the the first Gulf War. In 1990, Al-Kaissy became the Arabic spouting General Adnan who managed the now Iraqi supporting Sargent Slaughter in the WWF.  Slaughter went after fan faves such as The Ultimate Warrior and Chump Hogan. After his run in the WWF, Kassiey worked with Tito Santana, Bob Orton Jr. and other big names in the Chicago based AWF. He appeared on Fox News' Hannity (and...Colmes) in 2006. Unfortunately, the video got wiped out from YouTube - possibly in fear of reprisal from Abdullah the Butcher.  Al-Kaissy. currently resides in Hopkins, MN where he participates in the town's annual Raspberry Days Festival. For more on the history of pro wrestling in the Middle East check out this.