Sgt Slaughter turning his back on the United States and becoming an Iraqi sympathiser in 1990 as the Gulf War kicked into gear still stands as one of the most controversial wrestling storylines of all time.
Slaughter’s career had rocketed in 1984 as he defended America’s honour by taking on the Iron Sheik, including a memorable clash at Madison Square Garden. However, Slaughter left the then WWF a year later, before meeting with Vince McMahon about a return to the company in 1990.
Upon returning, Slaughter’s new-found heel persona put him on a collision course with Hulk Hogan. The pair eventually met at WrestleMania VII in Los Angles where Hogan was victorious. However, the feud between the two continued after the show piece event, something which went against the grain at the time.
“Before the show I went to Vince and I said, ‘You always end WrestleMania with the hero being the victor, winning the title and that’s it. The programme’s over. Terry and I have hardly even wrestled each other. Why don’t you let me do something to him after the match and continue this thing?’ He said, ‘I don’t know, I don’t like to break away from tradition.’”
Slaughter explained that McMahon eventually came round to the idea, and that was when he pitched throwing a fireball in Hogan’s face.
“Finally, he came to me and said, ‘I gave it some thought, let’s do something. What have you got in mind?’ I said, ‘Well, what about a fireball? A fireball when he’s not expecting it. He’s coming back from the ring and I hit him with this fireball and do some damage to him, and we continue the program. He’s been burned and he’s the champion, but he wants me.’ Vince said, ‘I like that. Let’s do it.’”
The Hall of Famer recalled how they only had one take for the fireball to work, but when it was successful, he became more hated than ever.
“We set it up where Adnan and I were back in his locker room, and it’s a one-time thing—this was live. We had one chance to do it. He came walking to the door, and I hit him in the face with that fireball and he went down. He was yelling and screaming, and I was stomping on him. Those people hated me even more when I did that to him. So we carried it on—we had Desert Storm Matches, we had all these different types of matches.”
After his feud with Hogan came to an end at SummerSlam, Slaughter re-emerged as a babyface before effectively retiring from in-ring competition in 1992.
Slaughter remained a fixture on WWE television throughout the Attitude Era, appearing as the Commissioner. The former World Champion was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004, and has continued to make sporadic appearances with the company.