WrestleMania VII was meant to be the biggest WrestleMania in history, headlined by Sgt Slaughter vs. Hulk Hogan in front of 104,000 people at the LA Memorial Coliseum.
However, by the time that the show rolled around on March 24th 1991, it played out in front of 16,158 at the LA Memorial Sports Arena.
Sgt Slaughter had returned to the WWE less than a year previously, taking on the role of an Iraqi sympathiser, in one of the most politically charged and controversial angles of all time. The end result was supposed to be Hogan defeating Slaughter outdoors in LA in front of the biggest WrestleMania crowd in history.
Over the years, there have been various theories behind the venue switch, ranging from security concerns, to reports that tickets simply weren’t selling.
Speaking on Stories with Briscoe and Bradshaw, Slaughter himself has now attempted to shed some light on the issue.
“That was the worst day of my life, when Vince called me and said ‘Sarg I’ve got some bad news… The LA Coliseum wants me to secure the coliseum, it’s going to cost between 4 and 5 million dollars, and I just can’t do it. So we’re going to move the show indoors to the arena.’ I said ‘No! No!'”
“When you look up the records of matches, and you see LA Coliseum, Hogan and Slaughter, sold out, 104,000. That’s a badge… It was just heart-breaking”
Slaughter went on to address the rumours that tickets weren’t selling, explaining that he still got a mighty fine looking pay off after the show.
“There was all these rumours that it wasn’t drawing, but when I got my damn paycheque, it drew. [laughs] It was the biggest paycheque I ever got. I’d never seen that much money.”
“I’m going by what Vince told me, they wanted to secure the venue.”
Gerald Briscoe added that, that’s the story he was told. That if the event went ahead outdoors it would have needed a huge military and security presence. This was in large part due to concerns over the Gulf War which was currently being fought in the middle east, and the huge anticipated crowd.
Elsewhere in the conversation, Slaughter described how Vince McMahon convinced him to take on the Iraqi sympathiser character. The Hall of Famer said that when the idea of a match between himself and Hogan was pitched, he presumed Hogan would be the heel.
“I walk in and here’s a diagram of the LA coliseum, a prototype. There’s big-screen TV’s on both ends and both sides, and he says that’s where WrestleMania VII is going to take place. I said really? Outdoor.’ He said yeah ‘104,000 people, I want to break the Detroit record.’ I said ‘great, unbelievable. I think you’ll do it.’ He says ‘I know I’ll do it! I’m going to have you do it with me.’
I said ‘what do you mean?’ He goes ‘you and Hulk Hogan will sell that out.’ I said ‘Me and Hulk Hogan? How are you going to make Hulk Hogan the villain?’ He gets right in my face and goes ‘Hulk Hogan? No… You! GI Joe are going to be the villain.’
‘Here’s my idea, you’re coming back from, we don’t have to say GI Joe, and you’re angry, you’ve got a chip on your shoulder. What is wrong with America? They’re weak, they let little countries like Iraq take over Kuwait, take all the Iranian… control the world and you’re angry at your military and your country.’”
After his feud with Hogan ended, Slaughter once again became a fan favourite. He continued to appear throughout the 1990’s as commissioner and more sporadically in the 2000’s.
Sgt Slaughter was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.
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