73. SGT SLAUGHTER
Real Name – Robert Remus
Aliases – Super Destroyer Mark III
Debuted – 1972
Titles Held – WWE Championship; NWA United States; NWA Tag Team; NWA Canadian Heavyweight; AWA America’s
Other Accomplishments – WWE Hall of Fame inductee in 2004; Wrestling Observer’s Match of the Year in 1981 against Pat Patterson; former WWE Commissioner; GI Joe team member
In 1974, Sgt. Slaughter made his debut wrestling as an “enhancement talent” (jobber) in the AWA under his real name of Bob Remus. That didn’t last long as, by 1978, he had started wearing a mask and was competing as Super Destroyer Mark II, who was managed by Lord Alfred Hayes. (In actuality, the change was necessary. The original Super Destroyer (known in most regions as the Spoiler) left the AWA in the midst of a heated feud with the Crusher. Slaughter was obviously repackaged to keep the storyline going.)
The feud continued into 1979 as Lord Littlebrook and the Crusher teamed night after night to face Super Destroyer and Hayes until Crusher stepped away from the ring in July. In September of 1979, Super Destroyer Mark III joined the group. This lasted until December, when an uneasy alliance between Alfred Hayes and the Heenan Family fell apart. Hayes was the first to depart, allying himself with old foe the Crusher. The Crusher unmasked Super Destroyer Mark III (a wrestler named Neil Guay) and Mark II himself was unmasked in December of 1979 by Mad Dog Vachon. It didn’t take long for Super Destroyer II to join forces with Heenan and Nick Bockwinkel by attacking Mark III. Mark III wound up allying with Hayes, Crusher, and Vachon. In the end, Mark III left the AWA and by October of 1980, Heenan and Bockwinkel has turned on Mark II and driven him out of the promotion as well.
In October of 1980 the Destroyer signed with the WWF, where he became known as Sgt. Slaughter. With the Grand Wizard as his manager, Slaughter would remain in the WWF for about nine months. While there, perhaps his most memorable match was an Alley Fight he had against Pat Patterson.
Slaughter wound up jumping to the rival NWA, where he soon found himself wearing gold. In October of 1981, the NWA had consolidated the United States title (as all other promotions with their own versions of the belt had closed) and held a sixteen-man tournament to crown a new champion. Slaughter defeated Johnny Weaver and Jay Youngblood (earning a bye in the semifinals in the process) and defeated Ricky Steamboat in the finals.
Slaughter would lose the title to Wahoo McDaniel the following May, only to be awarded the belt the next month after McDaniel suffered an injury that put him out of action. Wahoo regained the title in September of 1982.
Slaughter did not remain without gold for long. Ole Anderson and Stan Hansen had joined forces to win the eastern branch of a World Tag Team title tournament and had actually won the entire tournament when the western winners (Wahoo McDaniel and Don Muraco) had split up. The title was vacated in September of 1982 and quietly awarded to Slaughter and Don Kernodle by announcing that they had defeated Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki in a tournament. Slaughter and Kernodle held the belts until they were defeated by Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood in March of 1983.
Again Slaughter would not go for long without gold. He would defeat Angelo Mosca for the Toronto version of the NWA Canadian Heavyweight title in July. (Mosca regained the belt in January of 1984.) However, Slaughter was no longer competing for the NWA in the United States. (Interestingly enough, the belt would be forgotten in July of that year when the WWF absorbed its home territory.)
In the US Slaughter had returned to the WWF, where he soon became a contender to champion Bob Backlund. Although he received multiple title shots against Backlund, he was never successful in dethroning the champion.
Slaughter’s goals changed in 1984 as he became a face for the first time. He also had a ready-made foe for his proud American character – the Iranian Iron Sheik. This feud caused Slaughter’s popularity to explode as he defended the national honor of the United States in boot camp and steel cage matches. Slaughter’s pro-American personality was exactly what the American public (who were experiencing an upsurge in nationalism) wanted to see – especially as he faced the evil Iron Sheik and his cohort, the evil Russian Nikolai Volkoff.
However, Slaughter would not stay put for long. Hulk Hogan was the one who took the WWF title away from the Sheik, and Slaughter was released later that year after problems developed with Vince McMahon. On McMahon’s DVD, Slaughter claimed that he was let go after he no-showed an event to protest McMahon’s refusal to give him six weeks of paid vacation.
Slaughter soon reemerged in the AWA, where he maintained his All-American persona. However, Slaughter was also gaining a great deal more fame through another, totally unrelated area.
In 1985, Slaughter received his own figure in the wildly-popular GI Joe series. Slaughter was initially only available as a mail-in exclusive, where he was named as the GI Joe team’s drill instructor. The response was so strong that in 1986 Slaughter was re-released with a tank and led his own sub-team Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Sgt. Slaughter and Slaughter’s Renegades. Slaughter’s figures would remain on toy store shelves until 1991. In addition to this, Slaughter also would go on to voice his own character in the cartoon and made live appearances in commercials and hosting the show.
Slaughter would remain in the AWA for several years. In addition to winning the AWA America’s title (which was retired in 1986), Slaughter would continue his feud with the Iron Sheik, as well as battling Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie and Colonel DeBeers. Slaughter would also be a constant threat to Larry Zbyszko’s World title, although he would never win that belt.
In 1990, Slaughter found himself as one of the three team captains in the Team Challenge Series. Ironically enough, Slaughter would leave the AWA before the Team Challenge was completed and would be replaced as captain by former foe Colonel DeBeers.
Slaughter returned to the WWF and was swiftly repackaged. Patriotic American Sgt. Slaughter was gone. Slaughter had now allied himself with Iraq.
To understand the shockingness of this event, we need to take a look at the political climate of the time. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had just invaded and conquered Kuwait. The international community was outraged. A US-led force had assembled in the Saudi desert under the name Operation Desert Shield and had given Iraq a deadline to withdraw. When Iraq failed to do so, the operation changed to Operation Desert Storm, which drove Iraq out of Kuwait and forced the Iraqi forces back within their own borders.
Considering that, the fans were furious when the All-American Marine from Parris Island jumped sides. Slaughter had just become the WWF’s top heel.
At the 1991 Royal Rumble, Slaughter finally captured the WWF World title by defeating the Ultimate Warrior (with a bit of help from Macho King Randy Savage). Slaughter would lose the belt to Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VII.
After the feud with Hogan wrapped up, new vignettes were shot. In these, Slaughter was appearing next to American landmarks and reaffirming his patriotism. Slaughter would go on to save Hacksaw Jim Duggan from an assault by the Nasty Boys, and the two would tag team until Slaughter finally disappeared from WWF television.
Slaughter returned in 1997 as the commissioner of the WWF. Commissioner Slaughter soon discovered that he had a major problem in the newly-formed D-Generation X. Slaughter battled DX at every turn (including fighting Triple H at the D-Generation X In Your House and handcuffing himself to Chyna during HHH’s European title defense against Owen Hart at Wrestlemania XIV), but DX would outwit him at every turn. Slaughter would wind up vanishing again in 1998, and would be replaced as Commissioner by Shawn Michaels.
Since Slaughter left the Commissionership, Slaughter has made sporadic on-screen appearances, although he continues to work backstage for the WWE. Some of Slaughter’s opponents have been Chris Masters (Master Lock Challenge), Edge, and Nicky from the Spirit Squad. Slaughter was also involved in the 2006 Diva Search as he led a Diva Boot Camp segment.
Slaughter was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.
So why is Slaughter on this list? Slaughter is one of the wrestlers (and to an extent Hulk Hogan was as well) who successfully rode the wave of American patriotism during the 1980′s. It’s equally impressive that he went from being a successful heel to one of the WWF and AWA’s top babyfaces with the gimmick.
Although it could be argued that Slaughter would have been better known if he had remained in the WWF, he still gained popularity that he still enjoys today by his appearances on the GI Joe cartoon and his action figures. (On a side note, a Sgt. Slaughter figure was reissued last year as a GI Joe convention exclusive.)
Slaughter gained notoriety through the entire Iraqi storyline, but he successfully overcame that to become a beloved legend – not only of pro wrestling, but also in popular culture.
The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.