The Pro Wrestling Origins of the Meme

When the Iron Sheik died last year at age 81, the pro wrestling villain left behind his finishing move, the Camel Clutch, a number of hilarious and polarizing tweets, and a clear outlook on life: you were either real (a legitimate person) or a jabroni (a hack) — there was nothing in between.

But the Middle Eastern heel also gifted us with one of the best taunts in WWE history, an onomatopoeia that, thanks to a charismatic Tennessee girl's heavy accent and a viral video, has since taken on a completely different meaning: The Iron Sheik was the “Hawk Tuah” O.G.

In the Eighties, when the Sheik's feud with the “Real American” Hulk Hogan ended, the Iranian villain teamed up with Russian caricature Nikolai Volkoff to form a bogeyman tag team that never missed a chance to hurt American dominance. “Russia, Number One! Iran, Number One! USA? Hock Tuah!” the Iron Sheik yelled into the ring mic and then spat loudly on the mat. This incited a crowd ranging from Madison Square Garden to high-school gymnasiums to explode.

But when Hailey Welch used that exaggerated hocking-up-a-loogie sound in a street interview in Nashville last month, she became just as beloved as the Shaq. When asked on camera to describe a sex move that makes a man lose his mind, Welch replied, “You've got to give them the 'Hoc Tua' and spit on that thing!” In that moment, an inescapable pop-culture moment was born that continues to live on like body slams in the ring.


About three weeks after the interview was posted, Welch has begun selling merch with a Tennessee apparel company (at least $65,000 so far, she claims), made an onstage cameo at Zach Bryan’s Nashville stadium show that garnered more headlines than actual singer Kacey Musgraves’ appearance, and was offered hundreds of dollars to spit in a jar. “I thought, ‘Should I do this?’ And I thought, ‘No, don’t do this,'” Welch told Brianna LaPaglia on an episode of . Plan BRI podcast, this is his first “real” interview.

So far, Welch — who was born after the Iron Sheik's heyday — has not revealed whether the wrestler's use of the phrase somehow crossed her mind. But whoever continues to run the Sheik's Twitter account hasn't stayed silent. On June 22, the account posted a video of the Iron Sheik dropping his signature cough bomb, captioned “The Original Hawk Tuah.” Only a jabroni would disagree.

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