One of Shreve's trademarks is a series of divot-like scars on his head that he has due to excessive use of blading during his career. The scars are so deep that, according to Mick Foley, Shreve is able to put gambling chips into them. An amateur martial artist, Shreve also has knowledge of judo and karate, often including this knowledge in his wrestling matches. This knowledge was mainly displayed by him using judo throws and karate chops.
Shreve was born on January 11, 1941 and raised in Windsor, Ontario, as part of a family of ten people in a deeply impoverished household. He learned karate and judo as a youth and, teaching fellow children in the backyard, claims to have eventually earned the title of seventh-degree grandmaster.
Standing 6 feet tall and weighing 360 pounds, Shreve caught the attention of Montreal promoter Jack Britton, and he soon made his professional wrestling debut at age 17 in 1958. He initially competed in numerous independent territories in Canada under such various monikers as Pussycat Pickens, Kuroi Jujutsushi (The Black Wizard) and Zelis Amara. However, he ultimately created his gimmick of an evil Arabian sadist; and in a match against Gino Brito (Jack Britton’s real-life son), the Abdullah the Butcher character first distinguished himself as one of the world’s most feared rule breakers when he broke a chair over Brito’s head and then beat him senseless with the leg.
Since his gimmick required that he speak no English (though it was in actuality his native tongue), he possessed a number of managers over the course of his long career, including Gary Hart, Paul Jones, Eddie Creatchman, Black Baron, The Grand Wizard, J.J. Dillon, Damien Kane, Larry Sharpe, Chicky Starr, Oliver Humperdink, Buddy Colt, George Cannon, Bearcat Wright, Big Bad John, Gentleman Jim Holiday, and Rock Hunter, who were all portrayed as “handlers” commissioned to control the Sudanese madman, while also doing most of the talking in promos and interviews. He has, however, spoken for himself in promos while in Japan.
As a result of his frequent traveling, Abdullah the Butcher usually served as more of a special attraction than as a consistent championship contender. Accordingly, Abdullah never did win a World Heavyweight Championship, though he would capture myriad regional titles during his career. He won his first major championship on October 23, 1967, when he teamed with Dr. Jerry Graham to defeat John & Carlos Tolos for the NWA's Canadian Tag Team Titles in Vancouver. A few years later, he ventured to the Montreal region, where he had three reigns as the IWA International Heavyweight Champion between 1969 and 1972, feuding against Ivan Koloff and Johnny Rougeau. He later served as one of the premier rule breakers in Calgary’s Stampede territory, capturing the NWA Canadian Championship, as well as having six North American Heavyweight Title reigns during the early 1970s. On June 24, 1972, he defeated Ernie Ladd in Akron, Ohio, to capture his first of two NWF Heavyweight Championships. During the mid-1970s, he frequently performed in Detroit, Michigan’s Big-Time Wrestling territory, where he engaged in a rivalry against The Sheik. He teamed with “Killer” Tim Brooks to win the region’s version of the NWA World Tag Team Titles before defeating Bobo Brazil on February 8, 1975, for the NWA United States Championship.
In addition to his successes in North America, Abdullah the Butcher also performed in the Far East, Europe, the Caribbean, Australia, and Africa. On March 12, 1974, he traveled all the way to New Zealand, where he captured the British Empire Commonwealth Title by defeating the nation’s champion John DaSilva. Abdullah also established himself as one of the premier attractions in Japan, where he competed as part of the round-robin tournament that ultimately crowned Giant Baba as All-Japan’s inaugural PWF Heavyweight Champion in February 1973. On October 18, 1978, Abdullah won that same PWF belt when he defeated European former AWA champion Billy Robinson; and then on October 13, 1980, he also beat Jumbo Tsuruta to capture the NWA United National Heavyweight Title. He also feuded with Terry Funk in Japan, and Funk claims to have had one of his top three all-time greatest matches with Abdullah the Butcher.
He arrived in World Class Championship Wrestling in 1986, where he defeated The Great Kabuki for the Texas Brass Knuckles Title and waged war against the equally wild Bruiser Brody. In Puerto Rico, he was declared the very first WWC Universal Heavyweight Champion in July 1982 following three reigns as the Puerto Rican champion between 1978 and 1981.
He was introduced in World Championship Wrestling in a giant, gift-wrapped box. This giant box was to be Sting's birthday gift from Cactus Jack. Sting unwrapped his gift and Abdullah attacked him, leading to both Abdullah and Cactus feuding with Sting after the incident. The feud culminated in a "Chamber of Horrors" match at Halloween Havoc 1991, in which Cactus accidentally electrocuted Abdullah in an electric chair, leading to a brief feud between the former allies.
In 1993, Abdullah arrived in ECW, where he participated in a storyline with Kevin Sullivan, Terry Funk and Stan Hansen, and wrestled at Ultra Clash and Bloodfest.
In late 2002, Abdullah made a one-night appearance in Ring of Honor as Homicide's partner, facing the Carnage Crew in a bloody Bunkhouse Brawl at ROH's Night of the Butcher.
In 2007, the WWE and Jakks Pacific released an Abdullah the Butcher "WWE Classic Superstars" figure complete with the blade marks on top of his head. A DVD was also released named The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Wrestling which included a bloody cage match between Abdullah and his famous rival Bruiser Brody.
The 2007, WWC's anniversary show was dedicated to Abdullah the Butcher's contributions to WWC. On December 13, 2008, Shreve wrestled against Balls Mahoney in Bayamon Puerto Rico during the annual event WWC Lockout.
During July 2009, he wrestled in Dragon Gate and Hustle. He also wrestled at the New Japan Pro Wrestling supershow Wrestle Kingdom IV in Tokyo Dome on January 4, 2010, as well as wrestling for Japanese independent promotion Osaka Pro Wrestling.
In 2009, Abdullah made an appearance at the Decatur Book Festival, facing off against author Michael Muhammad Knight. Abdullah pummeled Knight with chairs, forks, and a water cooler, not even stepping into the ring. Knight was taken from the festival in an ambulance and received 46 stitches. It was Right After Wrestling in March 2011, hosted by Arda Ocal and Jimmy Korderas, that Abdullah admitted his favorite wrestler to face was actually Lou Thesz.
On April 2, 2011, Abdullah the Butcher was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia.
Also in 2011, Abdullah returned to Georgia Championship Wrestling as a mentor and adviser to a local wrestler known as The Congo Warrior.
In early 2012, Abdullah the Butcher appeared on the Wrestling Marks of Excellence radio show and said that he had given away his Hall of Fame ring to his brother, saying that he had been in the business and drew people from all over the world and should have been inducted decades ago.
Shreve previously owned two restaurants (one in Atlanta, Georgia and one in Japan) called Abdullah the Butcher's House of Ribs and Chinese Food. Shreve was often on hand to meet fans and sign autographs. The restaurant and Shreve appear in the music video for the 2003 song "Damn!" by Atlanta hip hop group YoungBloodZ. It was referenced in the 2006 film ATL during a scene where three characters argue over a local barbecue. On July 24, 2016, it was reported that Shreve had quietly closed his restaurant in Atlanta.
Following Shreve's WWE Hall of Fame induction in 2011, Superstar Billy Graham requested his name be removed from the Hall, saying: "It is a shameless organization to induct a bloodthirsty animal such as Abdullah the Butcher into their worthless and embarrassing Hall of Fame and I want the name of Superstar Billy Graham to be no part of it." Graham's outrage was due to longstanding accusations that Shreve had infected other wrestlers with hepatitis C through sharing a blade and/or cutting wrestlers without their knowledge. In Shreve's response to Graham, he mentioned their earlier friendship, questioned his outburst, and claimed that he was not infected with the disease. The same year, Canadian wrestler Devon Nicholson, who said he contracted hepatitis C when Shreve bladed him without consent, pursued legal action. On June 3, 2014, an Ontario court ruled in favor of Nicholson and ordered Shreve to pay $2.3 million in damages. The Fulton County Court of Georgia ruled that the Canadian Judgement would be upheld in the state of Georgia where Shreve resides.
In February, 2015, Shreve announced on his Facebook page that he would be selling his WWE Hall of Fame ring. The statement accompanying the video posted read "I'm selling my Hall of Fame ring because I've been in the wrestling business for fifty-two years, and was given the ring three years ago. Vince has been selling my tapes for many years, and I have not gotten a dime from him. He's filling his pockets off our hard work and the ring is useless to me. I build my career without Vince and the ring. With my track record and legacy in the wrestling business, I am a hall of famer in my own right, and I don't need Vince's ring to determine who and what I am. Abdullah the Butcher made himself with God and the help of my fans. Thank you."Finishing moves
Bottom rope splash
The Freight Train / The Butcher's Axe / Sudanese Meat Cleaver (Running pointed elbow drop to the throat)
Diving double foot stomp
James J. Dillon
Paul E. Dangerously
Harley Race and The Sheik
Adnan El Kassey
Gentleman Jim Holiday
The Grand Wizard
The Cuban Assassin
Sir Dudley Clemens
"Honest" John Cheatum
"Playboy" Johnny Lee
The Mysterious Sheik
The Great Mephisto
"Kuroi Jyujyutsushi" (Japanese for the Black Shaman)
"One of These Days" by Pink Floyd (Japan)
All Japan Pro Wrestling
NWA International Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Ray Candy
NWA United National Championship (1 time)
PWF United States Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
PWF World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
Champion Carnival (1976, 1979)
January 4 Korakuen Hall Heavyweight Battle Royal (2008)
Big Japan Pro Wrestling
BJW Deathmatch Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
Central States Wrestling
NWA Central States Tag Team Championship (2 times) - with Roger Kirby
Georgia Championship Wrestling
NWA Georgia Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
NWA Georgia Television Championship (1 time)
NWA Macon Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
International Wrestling Association
IWA International Heavyweight Championship (3 times)
Canadian International Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
Midwest Wrestling Federation
MWWF Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
NWA All-Star Wrestling
NWA Canadian Tag Team Championship (Vancouver version) (2 times) - with Dr. Jerry Graham (1) and Armand Hussein (1)
NWA World Tag Team Championship (Vancouver version) (1 time) - with Dr. Jerry Graham
NWA United States Heavyweight Championship (Detroit version) (1 time)
NWA World Tag Team Championship (Detroit version) (1 time) - with Killer Tim Brooks
NWA New Zealand
NWA New Zealand British Commonwealth Championship (1 time)
NWA Texas Hardcore Championship (1 time)
National Wrestling Federation
NWF Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
NWF International Championship (1 time)
Pro Wrestling Illustrated
PWI ranked him # 35 of the 500 best singles wrestlers of the "PWI 500" in 1991
PWI ranked him #54 of the top 500 singles wrestlers of the "PWI Years" in 2003
NWA Canadian Heavyweight Championship (Calgary version) (1 time)
Stampede North American Heavyweight Championship (6 times)
Tokyo Pro Wrestling
TPW Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Benkei
Popularity Award (1978, 1980)
Match of the Year Award (1979) with Tiger Jeet Singh vs. Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba on August 26
World Class Wrestling Association
WCWA Brass Knuckles Championship (1 time)
World Wrestling Council
WWC Caribbean Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
WWC North American Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
WWC Puerto Rico Heavyweight Championship (3 times)
WWC Universal Heavyweight Championship (5 times)
Trinidad and Tobago Wrestling Association
Trinidad & Tobago Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1996)
WWE Hall of Fame (Class of 2011)
Shreve has appeared in Japanese TV commercials for Suntory, Daikin Industries, Denon, and Sapporo Ichiban.
Shreve starred with Hiroyuki Sanada in the kung fu action film Roaring Fire.
Characters in Japanese anime or manga are frequently designed to resemble Abdullah the Butcher, often with his signature scars. Examples include Abdullah from Kinnikuman, Abdullah the Criminal from One Piece, and Mr. Heart from Fist of the North Star.
The character of Butcher in Tiger Mask 2 is inspired by Shreve.
Abdullah the Butcher appeared in the Acclaim video game Legends of Wrestling II and its sequel Showdown: Legends of Wrestling as well as Spike's King of Colosseum.
The character Saladin in the 1997 Nintendo 64 game WCW vs. nWo: World Tour is based on Shreve's likeness.
The character and final boss, of the Genesis game Wrestle War, Grand Kong, is based on Shreve.
In the 1994 Super NES game HammerLock Wrestling Abdullah appears as "Sid Bieniek". In the Japanese version, he is known as "Killer."
In the 1994 Super NES game "Super Fire Pro Wrestling 2" and "Special" Abdullah appears as "Abdoll The Danger".
Abdullah also appears as a hidden Create-A-Wrestler template in Super Fire Pro Wrestling X & X Premium
In the 1985 Arcade port of "Yie Ar Kung Fu" the character "Buchu" is based on Abdullah.
The Pokémon characters Machop, Machoke, and Machamp were inspired by Abdullah. All three have prominent ridges on their heads, resembling Abdullah's scars.
The character "A. Buchie" from the 1984 Arcade Wrestling game "Appoooh" is based on Abdullah.
The character "Karnov" from Data East's Fighter's History series was also inspired by Abdullah The Butcher.
In the PC Engine shooter "Hana Taaka Daka" Abdullah appears as the boss of level one.