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Former G.I. Joe and WWF champion Sgt. Slaughter was in Dallas this weekend to promote Wrestlemania Fan Axxess (tickets on sale now) and was kind enough to answer a few questions about his career, Wrestlemania 32, and if he ever had a sip of snake liquor.
Sgt. Slaughter is one of wrestling’s most iconic and larger-than-life personalities. His celebrity status went beyond the ring, as almost everyone who grew up in the '80s knows who Sgt. Slaughter is. When it comes to Wrestlemanias, Slaughter had interesting stories about his Wrestlemania 7 Main Event match-up against Hulk Hogan, in which the Sarge went all anti-American during the Gulf War. It was quite a different time in wrestling back then. Sgt. Slaughter is still involved with WWE today and plans on being in Dallas for Wrestlemania weekend in early April.
When you first became a wrestler, how excited were you to wear a tank top to work every day?
At first I didn’t wear the tank tops and I found out after a bunch of mat burns that tanks tops were the way to go. It saved a lot of wear and tear on the skin. I started to design my own style and it was fun to entertain the fans who came to see you.
Dallas has a rich wrestling history. Do you have any memories of World Class Championship Wrestling, the Sportatorium or The Von Erichs?
The only time I got to wrestle The Von Erichs was in St. Louis at the Kiel Auditorium and I went up against Kerry Von Erich. I never performed in WCCW and never got the chance to wrestle in the famous Sportatorium, but I did watch a few shows there as a fan. It was quite the exciting atmosphere and I know people were sad when it was torn down. The Sportatorium was very hot and it was a place that a lot of the guys enjoyed, but the guys knew that they’d lose five or 10 pounds in a match if they worked more than 45 minutes (laughs). Back then there were only four or five matches on a card so the matches would be longer.
Do you have any special memories or favorite matches in Dallas?
Dallas was always a place you enjoyed to come and perform at because the fans always understood what we were doing. So you always worked a little bit harder for them to remember your match. When we did the USA vs Iran angle, the chants were so loud. A lot of good memories and ones that are still with me.
How about the Fabulous Freebirds?
I’m hoping that the Freebirds get inducted into the Hall of Fame, especially it being here in Dallas. They try to recognize the local talents that the fans remember. I never tangled with the Freebirds themselves but may have crossed paths with Michael Hayes in a Battle Royale. Michael Hayes was just so good on the microphone. He loved to sing. I think his dream was to be a rock ‘n' roller.
Your biggest Wrestlemania moment was unquestionably when you were in the main event against Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 7. What was that whole experience like?
Around the time of the 1st Wrestlemania, Hasbro Toys wanted me to be the spokesperson and the first living G.I. Joe for their cartoon and toy line. WWE was elated but said they couldn’t let me be in the WWE if I went with Hasbro because the toy companies would be conflicting. So it was a big decision and I knew I could always be a wrestler but couldn’t pass up being the first living G.I. Joe. I missed the first six Wrestlemanias but when I came back I figured that Vince McMahon would want to take Sgt. Slaughter the American Hero and make him an even bigger American hero. McMahon had other ideas (laughs). He had planned to hold Wrestlemania 7 in the LA Coliseum and sell over 100,000 seats, and that was what we worked for. We wanted to break the WrestleMania 3 record. We started the program and I defeated the Ultimate Warrior for the title and then went into the feud with Hulk Hogan. We started to light things on fire and Vince gave me full reign. We did a lot of things to provoke the fans. I asked people to stand up and sing “Happy Birthday” to Saddam Hussein when it was his birthday. It got pretty rough — the fans would try to jump over the barriers. The music of my opponent would come on right before the crowd went into a frenzy. I don’t think there will ever be another gimmick like the Sgt. Slaughter Iraqi sympathizer; it’s just too over-the-line.
I would get death threats every night as we got closer to Wrestlemania. Vince called me and said someone called the office and threatened he would blow up Vince’s house, WWE headquarters and Sgt. Slaughter’s house. Vince didn’t take those threats lightly so WWE would give me extra security. I never flew on the same planes as the rest of the talent and I’d be escorted with more security. I never thought much of it, but it only takes one person who lost somebody in the war. We were careful. I wouldn’t arrive to the arena until right before my match so that nobody really saw me coming and going.
The FBI asked me to wear a bulletproof vest while I wrestled because of all the death threats. It was suggested that I burn the American flag, but there was no way I was going to do that. Instead I burned Hulk Hogan’s shirt and that may have caused an even bigger uproar than anything that we did. The threats kept coming so they told Vince that he had to up security at the Coliseum. Vince instead moved the event indoors to the LA Arena.
At Wrestlemania there were all these celebrities I was excited to meet and they wouldn’t even talk to me. Willie Nelson just shook his head when he saw me and said, “I can’t believe you Sarge.”
There's obviously lots of excitement about Wrestlemania coming to Cowboys Stadium. Do you think it will break the attendance record?
Absolutely. Anybody who goes is going to be a part of history. There will be more than 100,000 fans there.
What do you think about WWE’s current talent roster? Any favorites?
They are all sensational. They wouldn’t be there unless they earned the right to be there. I enjoy watching Brock Lesnar, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and, of course, John Cena. What Kalisto does in the ring is amazing. With these guys it’s incredible what they do today. The bar is set high. Paul Heyman is a sensational promo man. How Triple H finds time to be champion and work with the NXT roster is amazing.
Have you ever had snake liquor?
I have had many of those and it’s kind of a silent thing. You basically had to earn the right for a shot. Whatever you did to take that sip you enjoyed every moment of it. It felt like it invigorated you. I’d do a lot of Cobra Clutches after one of those.
What projects are you involved with now?
I work for the WWE as an ambassador and do a lot of charity work. I work with MDA and Make-a-wish, Special Olympics. We go around the country and raise money for those causes. I do a lot of work promoting WWE events. There’s so much to promote now that they need all hands on deck. You have to keep up with it.
Any predictions or hopes for the WWE Hall of Fame?
It is my favorite night of the weekend. I’d like to see Ray Stevens and the Fabulous Freebirds and Undertaker be inducted this weekend, although I’m not sure The Undertaker is done wrestling just yet. I’m a fan myself.
Of all the wrestlers in history, who would you most like to put in the Cobra Clutch?
Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar and John Cena. Cena reminds me of a younger Sgt. Slaughter. It’d be fun to get in the ring with those guys and tell the story. Maybe I could be the villain again (laughs).