WWE News

Sgt Slaughter Discusses Tensions With WWE Over G.I. Joe Deal

Sgt Slaughter

Sgt Slaughter has discussed the split caused between him and Vince McMahon due to Slaughter signing a deal with Hasbro to become the first living G.I. Joe.

Slaughter had competed for Vincent Kennedy McMahon’s father in the early eighties where he feuded with Bob Backlund and Pat Patterson. A turn from villain to hero soon came and Slaughter declared war on The Iron Sheik. As the younger McMahon stepped into the hot seat and set the company on course for the first WrestleMania, he did so without Slaughter.

Speaking exclusively to Inside The Ropes’ own Kenny McIntosh for issue 6 of Inside The Ropes magazine,, Sgt Slaughter discussed what caused him to walk away from the WWF and how it all started with an offer from Hasbro to be the new spokesperson for G.I. Joe:

“Hasbro started talking about how G.I. Joe was going to go in a new direction and they wanted a real-life spokesperson who could do interviews and things, and a mutual friend told me that my name had been mentioned. So they arranged to have a meeting with me and my attorney.”

I had a camouflage limousine at the time, so we drove up to their headquarters in Pawtucket and right before we got to the building, I told my driver, ‘Stop the car.’ I jumped in the back of the trunk and I put flags on the front fenders of the car, and I said, ‘Drive real slow about four or five times around the block here and, when I tell you, we’ll pull up into the headquarters.’ The slower he drove, the more people came out of the buildings and out of the offices, and the restaurants, and the supermarkets, the drug store—wherever they were at. They saw this camouflaged limousine with the American flags on the fenders and ‘Sgt Slaughter’ written on the side of the door, and the ‘USA, USA’ license plate. It was pretty obvious what was going on.”

The built-up entrance certainly seemed to work as those inside the Hasbro offices were eagerly watching and waiting for Slaughter to come inside:

“Hasbro had this entrance where you went underneath a canopy, so I said, ‘Okay, go on up,’ and my attorney was just laughing and laughing. I said, ‘I’m going to wait a couple of seconds before I get out.’ When my attorney finally opened the door and I got out, I had my camouflage sports coat on, and my campaign cover and sunglasses. I was decked out to the stars—I was ready for a Hollywood movie première.”

“I looked in through the windows of the headquarters and all of the people inside were glued up against the windows, jumping up and down and cheering. I made my way into the big boardroom, but I didn’t say much. I heard what they had to say, that they wanted a spokesperson and a real-life character and this and that, and I was someone that they were interested in. They kept going but they didn’t want to commit to anything.”

“When the meeting was done and I got up to leave, I said, ‘I’ll tell you what, gentlemen, my name is Sgt Slaughter and I am the real G.I. Joe. You’re looking at G.I. Joe.’ I gave this little promo and walked away. My attorney said their mouths all dropped open.”

The promo from Sgt Slaughter certainly seemed to have done the trick as Hasbro could barely wait to offer him the deal:

“On the way back from the meeting we stopped for some dinner. We didn’t have cell phones back then, so my attorney found a payphone to get his messages from being gone all day. When he came back he said, ‘You won’t believe this; Hasbro has called my office three times already and said they want to sign us up. They’re convinced this is it. They want to go with it.’”

All that was left was for Sgt Slaughter to share the good news with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. However, this is when McMahon threw a spanner in the works as he had just inked a deal with Hasbro’s rivals, LJN:

“After the deal was made I couldn’t wait for the Allentown TV tapings to come up again so I could tell Vince. I didn’t want to call him and tell him, I wanted to tell him in person. I saw him come out of a meeting, and he was all happy because everything was on fire. I said, ‘Hey, I’ve got some great news: I’m going to be the first living G.I. Joe.’ I went through the whole thing. I told him what happened, how I did it. He was just laughing and having a great time.”

“Finally, after I got done, he shook my hand and he said, ‘That’s great, Sarge, but I can’t let you do that.’ He patted me on the back and went to leave. I grabbed his arm—that’s like grabbing a tree trunk—and I pulled him back around and said, ‘What do you mean, we can’t do it?’ He said, ‘Friday, I just signed a multimillion-dollar contract with LJN. They’re our toy company now and that would be a conflict of interest.’ I said, ‘A conflict of interest? To hell with conflict of interest, this is huge, man! Hasbro is the biggest toy company in the world, especially boys’ toys, and you’ve got Barbie—what more do you want?’”

“He goes, ‘I know, I know, I wanted Hasbro, but they didn’t play ball with me so I went with LJN, they gave me the best deal. I appreciate you going out there and doing that, but I can’t let you do it.’ And I said, ‘No, you’re kidding.’ ‘No, I’m serious.’ I was going, ‘No, no, no! This has got to happen! There’s no way!’”

“So, we battled and battled. I kept talking about it. ‘I know, Sarge. I know, but you can’t do it.’ So, finally, he got fed up with me and said, ‘Sarge, if you want to do it, go do it—but you can’t be here. We’re working for WrestleMania, though. We’re heading that way, in that direction.’ I was selling out with Sheik in one building each night and Hogan was selling out the other building. Everything was just red hot. I didn’t know what to do.”

Eventually, Slaughter says he tried to give his notice to McMahon but McMahon didn’t want to hear it:

“Finally, I said, ‘Well, I’m just going to have to give him my notice and go.’ We were at the Garden and I went up to Vince and said, ‘I’m giving you my notice.’ He started laughing in my face. ‘Your notice? I don’t accept your notice. I’m never going to accept your notice, now get out of here, get away from me.’ I said, ‘No, I’m leaving.’ He wasn’t having it. ‘No, you’re not. Come over to Cyndi Lauper’s party. She’s having a party in New York after the TV taping.’ I said, ‘Okay, all right.’ I went there and nothing was being done, so I said, ‘I’ll see you,’ and I blew him a kiss goodbye.”

“He came running over and said, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Let’s go have our meeting.’ He took me to the back of the restaurant and he said, ‘Now, what is this thing, you’re giving me your notice?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve got to go. I have to do this.’ He said, ‘No, you can’t do this. You have to stay.’ He started saying, ‘My father’s sick, you can’t leave me, he’s dying, and I need you,’ blah, blah, blah. I said, ‘Okay, I have personal problems too that I have to take care of, and this is a way for me to help take care of them. He offered to give me more time off and he kept going through all these things.”

A conversation with his wife then set Sgt Slaughter on what he needed to do – walk away from the WWF despite the company being red hot:

“Finally, I got back home and I was at the dinner table with my wife and she asked me, ‘What is wrong with you? You are like a different person.’ I said, ‘Honey, I don’t know what to do. Hasbro is giving me this great offer to be the first living G.I. Joe and be their spokesperson, Vince is wanting me to stay, his dad’s sick and they’re going for WrestleMania. He’s put everything he’s got out of his bank account to make this work and I don’t know what to do.’”

“She said, ‘Well, it’s pretty simple. Bob, you can always be a wrestler. You can’t ever get the opportunity again to be the first living G.I. Joe. What’s the problem?’ And I looked over to her and I said, ‘Honey, that’s why you get the big bucks.’”

This is when things start to get messy between Slaughter and McMahon as an argument begins over who owns the rights to ‘Sgt Slaughter:

“Next time I saw him I said, ‘Sorry, I’m leaving.’ And he goes, ‘No, you’re not.’ It started to get pretty rough with lawsuits and all kinds of things. He was saying that he owned Sgt. Slaughter and that I couldn’t use it to be G.I. Joe. We had big arguments back and forth in his office with my attorneys and his attorneys.”

“Finally, one afternoon, my attorney and I were in his office and Vince was madder than a hornet. He said he didn’t want any attorneys involved in any of this. Eventually, he got fed up and he pointed at my attorney, right in his face with his finger, and said, ‘You attorneys, I hate you attorneys. I don’t know why you get involved in these things. I own Sgt. Slaughter. I don’t even know what you’re here for. I’m just giving you the time of day, but I own Sgt. Slaughter and I’ll do what I want with it. If he wants to go to G.I. Joe, he can’t go as Sgt.
Slaughter.’”

“My attorney—who was a former NCAA amateur wrestling champion—looked up at Vince and grabbed the index finger that was pointing in his face and he started pushing upwards on it—Vince was on his tiptoes. My attorney said, ‘Number one, Vince, get your ‘effing finger out of my face.’ Then he went into his briefcase and showed Vince a piece of paper. ‘Second of all, you don’t own Sgt. Slaughter. Robert Remus owns Sgt. Slaughter.’ Vince looked at the paper and he went berserk. ‘This meeting’s adjourned.’”

Unfortunately for McMahon, all of this came after he had already given the go-ahead for LJN to make Sgt Slaughter action figures:

“What we didn’t know was that Vince had already ordered the first action figures from LJN and had already given them the okay to make mine. When I first went to Hasbro, I told them about the action figure LJN had made that Vince okayed. Vince, I was told, had said, ‘Put the Sgt. Slaughters in the warehouse.’ I told Hasbro about that and they said, ‘Oh, is that right?’ So they went ahead and made a G.I. Joe Sgt. Slaughter action figure that went into Vince’s wrestling outfits—but maybe just a little bit bigger—just out of spite for what Vince did.”

“The ad for it was you couldn’t buy the Sarge on a shelf, but you could get him through mail order. They had an ad where I was stood in the middle of the ring with my boot on Hogan’s throat. The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff and all the WWF Superstars were all lying in the ring, and I was standing proud. They sold a heck of a lot of them just by doing that. That made Vince even madder at me.”

Sgt Slaughter concluded by discussing how his own run-in with McMahon over the rights to the Sgt Slaughter character still reverberates to this day in WWE:

“But the fact is, I had owned Sgt. Slaughter since 1974 when I trademarked my name. A friend of mine, who was a major in the army, had said to me, ‘You know, Sarge, you should patent your name. Someday it could be something you want to have the rights to.’ And he took care of it all for me. All of what you see [with WWE] today is because of my attorney and I. Nobody can do anything in the WWE without . . . If they have their real name, they have to give it up while they’re there. Vince pretty much creates every other name so he owns them and he just brings in the wrestlers to be those characters.”

To read the full interview with Sgt Slaughter then you can order issue 6 of Inside The Ropes magazine here or subscribe to get great wrestling interviews, features, and a whole lot more delivered to your door or available to download every single month.