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OSU Wrestling: The Incredible Story of All-American Adnan Alkaissy and Saddam Hussein

From Cowboy to Iraqi professional wrestler, to one of the more famous wrestlers of the early 1990’s

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For any of you that have read my writing over the few years I’ve been doing this, you know I have a pretty unique approach where I try and find different angles and topics to write about.

I was working on a story, which is still to come, that is basically just a look at the history of the Cowboys in professional wrestling. OSU has quite the legacy there and I felt it appropriate to share it.

As I was researching the topic I came across the story of Adnan Alkaissy and think it deserves a post of its own.

Alkaissy was born and raised in Iraq. According to his autobiography “The Sheikh of Baghdad: Tales of Celebrity and Terror from Pro Wrestling’s General Adnan,” he was a childhood classmate of Saddam Hussein. He came to the United States first as a football player at the University of Houston, then transferred to Oklahoma State in 1957 and became a two-time All-American for the Cowboys. He was a part of two NCAA championship teams and finished 4th each year. Here’s a 1959 yearbook team photo with Alkaissy on the top left next to OSU head coach Myron Roderick.

Adnan Yearbook

According to this article from the Wall Street Journal, after his time at OSU he went on to start wrestling professionally under the name of “Chief Billy White Wolf.”

In 1967 he married an American and became a U.S. citizen. He returned to Iraq to visit family in 1969 and according to the WSJ article was asked by Saddam Hussein to introduce professional wrestling to the country in an effort to make Saddam appear more attractive to Iraqi citizens.

According to accounts of multiple citizens in the country, Alkaissy was a superstar during the time and one of the more popular celebrities in the country.

Mr. Alkaissy became a national hero, lauded in poetry and folk songs, according to Fawziya Abbas, a 43-year-old housewife in Baghdad. “Everybody loved him,” she says. The Baath Party built him a modern, domed mansion and gave him luxury cars and a position as a director in the ministry of youth, he says. Fans appeared at his door offering goats for sacrifice.

He eventually fled Iraq after fears that Hussein would kill him and came back to the United States where he continued his professional wrestling career

But Mr. Alkaissy says he began to fear he could suffer the fate of others whose popularity was perceived as rivaling that of Mr. Hussein. A relative in the government told him his life was at risk, he says.

Some Iraqis interviewed say Mr. Alkaissy escaped when it became known the wrestling was fake and Mr. Alkaissy, who won every match, was splitting profits with his opponents. Mr. Alkaissy acknowledges suspicions were rising within Mr. Hussein’s inner circle about whether the matches were rigged.

Mr. Alkaissy says the early matches brought in more than $1 million in revenue each. Initially he pocketed most of the money, since he was responsible for organizing them. Later, when the government realized how much Mr. Alkaissy was making, it took over the finances, Mr. Alkaissy says, giving him cars, trips and spending money.

Toward the end of 1978, Mr. Alkaissy says he stuffed a suitcase with $50,000 in cash and fled to the U.S.

After his return to the United States he assumed the character role of General Adnan with the WWF. His most well known storyline was in the early 1990s in the WWF where he teamed up with Sgt. Slaughter in his feud with Hulk Hogan.

Alkaissy is a world-renown staple in professional wrestling and quietly has one of the more incredible life stories of any former Oklahoma State athlete that’s rarely talked about.

Here’s a photo of him with Hussein, and here’s his book below.

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