Due to space restrictions, I wasn’t able to include my entire interview with Hall of Famer Sgt. Slaughter into the WWE Championship book. Here are just a few of the more interesting items that were omitted from the book:
Considering how many children looked up to you, how difficult was it to turn heel and become an Iraqi sympathizer?
It wasn’t difficult for me to make the transition. I had left WWE to go work for Hasbro to be a GI Joe. When that contract was over, Vince McMahon called me and said “are you ready to go back to work?” Come to my home tomorrow; I have an idea for you. I was thinking that he was going to take the real American hero to all types of different avenues that have never been reached with Hasbro. I sat down with my family that night and told them it was going to be a big meeting and I’m sure when I get back, we will have all sorts of things to celebrate. When I got to his house, he had the complete opposite idea. He wanted to make me the worst bad guy of all time because he needed an opponent for Hogan for WrestleMania VII. So I listened to what he had to say. He said he wanted me to be an Iraqi sympathizer and side with Saddam and look at the Americans as weak.
Here we are the most powerful country in the world and here’s a small country like Iraq pushing them around. It sounded good to me. The more he talked, the more I liked it. He told me to go home and talk to my family because it was going to be pretty rough. I talked to my family that night and they all thought I was crazy. They said it was impossible for Sgt. Slaughter to do that. I said that anything is possible in sports-entertainment. Plus Vince told me that the fans would always forgive you when you ask them to.
So we went for it … I didn’t have any particular direction that I was going. Then all of a sudden the ultimate puke and Randy Savage were in a program and Randy was trying to get the title and Randy broke his arm or wrist or hand and so all of a sudden Vince came to me and said I hope you’re ready.
How great was it to beat the Ultimate Warrior, somebody who had a less-than-stellar reputation in the locker room?
He was anything but a business person. All he thought about was himself and what was best for him. I was always taught by people who trained me that the respect you have for you fellow combatants and that your badge of honor is to never hurt anybody. Ultimate Warrior didn’t care…
He didn’t have the ability to do what everybody wanted him to do. I had to work around his ability. I was one of the fortunate entertainers who could work around anybody’s ability. To be given the nod to take the title off somebody like that, everybody was happy for me because everybody was going to make more money with a ring general and storyteller as WWE Champion. That meant money for everybody.
Was there ever a point in your career that you thought you would never become WWE Champion?
You don’t really think like that once you go away and get on the road and understand what your job is … to entertain and make money and put food on the table was holidays. Those were the big nights. We wanted to work on those holidays, especially in the main events. A lot of people were there on the holiday shows … the thanksgiving shows, the Christmas shows. So you had to say goodbye to your family. There were times when I drove five or six hours after a match just to be home with my family. It’s part of the business. One thing I really regret is that it was the reason why I got divorced. I wasn’t a wrestler when she married me, then all of a sudden, I was gone. I moved her to different parts of the country and she was by herself. After years of that she let me know that she wasn’t happy with that lifestyle so we decided to go our separate ways. I told her whatever she needs just let me know. We actually used the same attorney.
Were there any stresses associated with representing WWE as its champion?
I never felt any pressure having the title for the company because I knew I was good enough to be the champion and could do nothing but good for company. The pressures are when you’re on a plane circling and you need to be somewhere and there is no way to communicate that you were going to be late.
The pressures at home … I had a wonderful wife who was both mother and father. She did everything that she cold to keep everything good at home so that when I got home, there wasn’t anything that I had to worry about. The stress was being gone. When I first met her, we were at home every night together. Then a couple years later, I had an opportunity to go to a pro wrestling training camp and after I was successful, I had to off and learn my trait. We were living in Minnesota and I had the opportunity to go to Charlotte or Vancouver. I chose Vancouver. I loaded up everything I thought I needed and left my home. It was the first time I was out of the state of Minnesota. It was very difficult being by myself. The only person you can really trust in the beginning is yourself. I was all business. I became a loner; I traveled by myself. I didn’t have to worry about anybody. And I couldn’t wait to be home with the people I loved and trusted.
From a business standpoint, though, there wasn’t any pressure. I knew I was a talented entertainer and that I could put asses in the seats and make money for the company.
Related: Sarge on the Monday Night Wars