Wrestling fans all over the world have Sgt. Slaughter memories. Whether it be his immortalization as a GI Joe, his all American teaming with a long-time friend "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, or his WrestleMania VII feud with Hulk Hogan, the WWE Hall of Famer is forever entrenched as one of wrestling's all-time greats.
On a recent edition of the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast, Sgt. Slaughter opened up to guest host Bruce Mitchell and revealed some lesser-known facts about his legendary wrestling career.
Join us as we take a trip down memory lane in 5 things you didn't know about Sgt. Slaughter.
#5. He made quite the first impression on the McMahons
People say that first impressions go a long way. When Sgt. Slaughter made his first impression on Vince McMahon Jr., it didn't look like he'd belong in the WWE. The WWE CEO would be the first to interview Slaughter when he made his WWE debut in 1983.
McMahon had never met Slaughter and when he tried to introduce him, he was met with one of Slaughter's legendary catchphrases, "Shut your hole, puke," only at that time it wasn't legendary. Slaughter sprayed spit on McMahon and demanded answers, "Who gave you permission to speak?"
Slaughter ordered McMahon to stand at attention and put his chest out. Slaughter then chastised McMahon's wardrobe, paying careful attention to McMahon's shoes. Slaughter also heard that McMahon was the regular recipient of $200 haircuts, so he decided to run his hands through McMahon's perfectly coiffed hair. This agitated the famously quick-tempered future WWE CEO, but that didn't stop Slaughter, who asked, "Who cut your hair, Ray Charles?"
McMahon famously hates smoke and that fact wasn't lost on Sgt. Slaughter, who puffed on a cigar and proceeded to blow smoke into McMahon's face.
Slaughter told Bruce Mitchell,
"Vince hates smoke. The worst thing you can ever do in your life is even smell like a cigarette or cigar, or have it anywhere near him. He was turning purple and red. He was just shaking."
When Slaughter made his way to the back, the wrestlers around him acted as if he would soon be future endeavoured, but Vince McMahon Sr. saw things differently. He confronted Sgt. Slaughter backstage and although Sgt. Slaughter expected to be reprimanded, Vince McMahon Sr. expressed jubilation,
"That's the greatest character I've ever seen in my life. Even my son hates you. You've got to start tomorrow."
#4. Vince McMahon Jr. Helped Turn Him Into An All American Hero
Vince McMahon, Sr had no intentions of ever turning Sgt. Slaughter into a babyface. Slaughter was so impressive as a heel that he found himself pigeonholed as a villain.
After Vince McMahon, Sr. praised Sgt. Slaughter's heel work, Slaughter replied, "If you think I'm such a good villain, you ought to see me as a hero."
The WWE CEO replied,
"Sgt. Slaughter as a hero? No, you could never be a hero. That character can never be a hero."
Slaughter disagreed and proposed an angle that fit the political climate of the early 1980s,
"You've got the Iron Sheik from Iran. You've got the hostage situation, the killing of the Marines at the Embassy, Ayatollah Khomeini, Blackhawk's going down. I said, 'We never really got to punch Ayatollah in the nose. He kind of drifted off into the sunset and got off without any punishment. Why don't you let Sgt. Slaughter of the Marines go after the Iron Sheik?'"
The elder McMahon wouldn't budge, but Sgt. Slaughter could see that Vince McMahon, Jr. was much more receptive to the idea and would become WWE CEO in less than two months. It wasn't long before Vince McMahon, Jr. was pushing Slaughter as the all-American hero he was born to be.
#3. Sgt. Slaughter Was A Victim Of His Own Success
All-American babyface Sgt. Slaughter was becoming a mainstream draw and attracting thousands of fans. Wrestling fans from all over the world showed up to WWE events in droves just to get a glimpse of Sgt. Slaughter.
Slaughter's newfound success didn't go unnoticed and the WWE Superstar soon drew attention from the Hasbro company, manufacturer of G.I. Joe toys. The company wanted Slaughter to become its spokesperson and to make the all-American hero into a G.I. Joe.
There was one significant problem, however. At the time, WWE had a deal with toy manufacturer LJN and Vince McMahon told Slaughter that if he pursed a deal with Hasbro, he would have no choice but to fire him.
Slaughter went to his wife for advice and she told him,
"You can always be a wrestler, but you can't always be G.I. Joe, the all-American hero."
Slaughter chose to sign with Hasbro, in a move that ultimately cost him his job with WWE and the first six WrestleManias to go with it. This included the main event of the very first WrestleMania, where Sgt. Slaughter was set to team with Hulk Hogan against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff.
#2. He Was Dangerously Over As A Heel
Once Sgt. Slaughter's Hasbro deal had come to its completion, Slaughter was welcomed back to WWE. Only this time, Vince McMahon had different plans. Instead of being a babyface, Slaughter would become wrestling's most despised heel. Just as the company had previously used the political climate to boost Slaughter as an all-American hero, WWE would use the 1991 Gulf War to boost Slaughter's newfound heel character.
McMahon wanted Slaughter to turn against the United States and join forces with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Slaughter obliged, but the terrain was paved with danger. Fans were incensed. How could Sgt. Slaughter turn his back on the country he once fervently loved and defended?
The country united in support of the troops and the Gulf War. Patriotism was at an all-time high. Unfortunately, jingoism, patriotism's evil cousin, was also prevalent and this proved menacing for Slaughter.
Many fans had difficulty deciphering between scripted entertainment and reality. Tensions rose and Slaughter's life was soon in jeopardy. The WWE Superstar was refused service at restaurants and even received death threats.
Slaughter described a conversation with Vince McMahon during that era,
"Somebody called the wrestling office this morning and threatened to kill you, kill me, kill our family, blow up our houses, blow up the office, blow up the studio, and I just thought it would be a good precaution to get your wife out of the house."
Despite the threats, Slaughter remained steadfast and brave. He defeated The Ultimate Warrior for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble and would go on to main event WrestleMania VII against Hulk Hogan.
#1. Slaughter Tearfully Asked America For Forgiveness
After the Gulf War ended, the Sgt. Slaughter turncoat character had completed its run. Slaughter was ready to return home to being the all-American hero fans once readily embraced, but feelings were hurt and hearts were broken. Appealing to the fans' sympathies wouldn't be easy.
Slaughter; however, received encouragement from WWE CEO Vince McMahon, who promised that the fans would forgive him,
"Sarge, no matter what you do, they will always accept you back once you ask for their forgiveness."
Slaughter had been cutting tearful promos where he'd look directly into the camera and plead, "I want my country back," but fans kept booing. Slaughter's repentance didn't really register with the WWE Universe until he grabbed the microphone and in an impromptu moment sang, "God Bless America."
Nothing was scripted and the song came from Sgt. Slaughter's heart. As he sang through tears, the audience knew that they were all witnessing something special. Soon people stood up to honor their country and their returning hero. Sgt. Slaughter had come full circle.
That didn't keep Vince McMahon from joking once he saw Slaughter backstage,
"How about you attack Hacksaw during the match tonight?"
Readers are encouraged to listen to Wade Keller's Pro Wrestling Podcast in its entirety below: