The Sheikh of Baghdad: Tales of Celebrity and Terror from Pro Wrestling’s General Adnan by Adnan Al-Kaissy

October 11, 2019

Alkaissy is best known in the wrestling world as Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie or General Adnan from the WWF, though he also had a tag title run in the WWWF as native American star Billy White Wolf. He grew up in Iraq and claims to have been a school classmate of Saddam Hussein. He took up an international football scholarship at the University of Houston and had an amateur background, later being introduced to the pro ranks by Canadian legend Yvon Robert.

Although he returned to Iraq, he fled the country in 1963 after the rise of the Baath party. According to the book, Alkaissy was invited back after the Baath party was driven from power and met up with old schoolfriend Hussein who invited him to wrestle Georges Gordienko in front of 200,000 people in a Baghdad stadium, with another 100,000 watching on TV screens outside. So popular was Alkaissy, the book recalls, that he once went shopping and caused a traffic jam so large that Hussein, caught up in it, feared a coup was underway.

It’s clearly very difficult to verify the claims given the lack of historical records. There’s certainly photographic evidence of Alkaissy and Hussein together (and not the doctored pictures used by the WWF during the Sgt Slaughter angle), while footage exists of Alkaissy in a stadium match with a large crowd, though clearly not at full capacity.

The problem is that the book contains numerous errors in the period covering his run with Slaughter, all of which would have been easy to verify and suggesting ghostwriter/editor Ross Bernstein largely took Alkaissy at his word.

Naturally every show was a sellout and US flags were apparently flying off the merchandise stands at house shows, but we also learn that the act had been going on for a year while the Gulf War took place (more like six months), that Colonel Mustafa was added to the act shortly before Slaughter won the title (in fact it was just after he’d dropped the belt to Hogan), that WrestleMania was moved from the LA Coliseum to the Sports Arena because of security concerns (LOL), that the Hogan-Slaughter match was unusually long at 20 minutes, the show grossed $145 million (the true figure was likely well under $10 million) and that he split with Slaughter in the ring after the SummerSlam tag match (it took place on TV over the following weeks.)

With that in mind, the book — which is generally well written — can best be described as an entertaining recollection of a career, but one to be read with a healthy dose of scepticism.

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One Comment

  • Jason Presley October 11, 2019 at 10:26 pm

    The JFK anecdote took the cake for me. So much of the book reads like a series of tall tales. It was entertaining, but often stretched credulity. But I suppose we are better off for it having been written, where a different writer might have challenged Alkaissy and shut down the whole project.