While Sgt. Slaughter was a character known as a patriotic American hero in the 80s–both as a wrestler and a GI Joe–his sudden turn in early 90s WWF to a villainous Iraqi sympathizer made him one of the most hated villains in wrestling history. So despised, in fact, that the FBI had to get involved.
That’s according to Slaughter on a recent episode of Table for 3 on the WWE Network (helpfully transcribed by WrestlingInc), where he described the genesis of the gimmick.
“I was working for GI Joe at the time, Hasbro Toys, and my contract was finished. And I got a call one Sunday afternoon. I picked up the phone, ‘Sarge?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Vince.’ ‘Hey, Vince.’ You know who that voice is. He says, ‘I hear your contract is up with Hasbro.’ I said, ‘yeah, funny you should know that.’ He goes, ‘are you ready to go back to work?’ I said, ‘yes, sir.’ He said, ‘I’ve got an idea for you.’ And he already had a, this was right after WrestleMania 6, he already had a layout of the Los Angeles [Memorial] Coliseum that would fit 104,000 people. And he said, ‘I want you to be in that main event and we’re going to shatter the record for [WrestleMania 3].’ But he said, ‘it’s not going to be a simple task.’ He wanted me to be an Iraqi sympathizer because of the overtake of Kuwait. ‘You go home and talk to your family before we say ‘yes’ to all of this’ and, of course, I was like, ‘yeah, I’m going to do this. Of course, I’m going to do this!’ And I got back and of course my wife said, ‘you’re crazy – you can’t be an Iraqi sympathizer.’ So we went ahead and did it.”
“The night I beat Ultimate Warrior in Miami [Florida], pretty much everything kind of hit the fan. Jay Strongbow was there and he was one of the backstage talents and he said, ‘have you talked to your wife today?’ I said, ‘no.’ He said, ‘have you talked to Vince today?’ I said, ‘no.’ He said, ‘well, give them a call.’ So I call my wife. There was nobody home. I call Vince [and ask] ‘what’s going on?’ He said, ‘well, someone called the wrestling office and didn’t like the way you won the [WWF World Heavyweight] Championship and threatened to kill you and kill me and kill our families, blow up the wrestling office, blow up the studio, blow up our homes,’ and he said, ‘I took a precaution just to call your wife and to have her get out of the house till I can get security around the house.’ So I got back home and the FBI, they’ve got this truck up into my driveway, and when I got there, they all came over, they all [wore] suits, and they showed me they were packing and they said, ‘we’re going to walk the perimeter of the property 24/7, we’ll take your wife to the grocery store, and take your kids to school, and whatever has to be done.’ I said, ‘no, we’re not going to do that. We’ll be fine.'”
Protection from the FBI wasn’t the only attention Slaughter got from the federal government, either. Slaughter met with several presidents, including George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon. His most memorable encounter, however, was with Ronald Reagan, who apparently wanted to see if he could stand up to the Sergeant’s signature move.
“[Reagan] was a big fan of mine. We were in this big room, about 200 celebrities and my wife and I were the last two to be in line and Secret Serviceman came over to me and said, ‘excuse me, will you follow me?’ So we go around the corner, and we go through this door, and there is President [Ronald] Reagan standing there, saluting me, and he said, ‘I’ve always wanted to meet you. I thank you for all the work you do for patriotism and I flew the flag over the capital in your honor’ and he handed me the flag. And he said, ‘in fact, I would like you to put me in The Cobra Clutch. Secret Service, Secret Service said, ‘no, no, Mr. President, we don’t think that’s a good idea.’ And he said, ‘well, how about a pushup?’ ‘No, no, Mr. President. How about just a handshake and a photo?’ And so we took a photo.”
Wild times from a bygone era of wrestling. What’s your favorite Sgt Slaughter moment? Let us know in the comments, or over on Facebook!