As far as heel turns and character evolutions go, arguably none have ever been bigger than Sgt Slaughter turning back on America and becoming an Iraqi sympathiser.
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.
It was during this meeting that McMahon pitched the now infamous ‘Iraqi sympathiser’ angle. The idea being that Slaughter would now become a sworn enemy of America, using the current unstable political climate as fuel, leading to a big-money clash with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VII.
Recalling the meeting during a conversation with ‘Brisco and Bradshaw,’ Slaughter explained how the WWE Chairman convinced him to take on the gimmick. Revealing that he initially thought that Hogan would be turning 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.’
He said what do you think? I wanted to say you’re out of your mind, but I said ‘I like it. I can see that. It can really be a good one.’ He said ‘before you agree, go and talk it over with your family, because it could get a little dangerous.'”
Slaughter then explained how he went home to pass on the news to his wife who reacted exactly the same way that he did! After getting past the initial disbelief, she agreed with her husband saying he had always done everything in the interests of his character.
The gimmick would go on to become one of the most politically charged and contentious characters in the history of professional wrestling. Something brought into even sharper focus in 1991 as the Gulf War truly kicked into gear.
Reflecting on this period on his podcast, Bruce Prichard, who worked backstage at the time, revealed that there were plans for Slaughter to burn the American flag live on TV. However, the angle was changed instead to Slaughter burning a Hulk Hogan t-shirt.
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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