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December 12, 2015

Sgt. Slaughter talks about his career, meeting presidents and more

Wrestling WWE
121215_SgtSlaughter_WWE WWE/for PhillyVoice

The legendary Sgt. Slaughter.

WWE ambassador and Hall of Famer, Sgt. Slaughter, spoke with PhillyVoice about his career in and out of the ring, his favorite moments, meeting presidents, NXT and more.

PhillyVoice: “Are you here for TLC and Monday Night Raw or are you taking part in the Army-Navy game, too?”

Sgt. Slaughter: “We have the Eagles-Bills game (Sunday). I’ll be with Harold Carmichael and we’re gonna do some things on the field. We’re gonna meet the players. And then Monday Night Raw is here at the Wells Fargo Center. We have a pretty packed weekend.”

PV: Are you heading to the Army/Navy game?

SS: “I’m gonna try. It’s pretty exciting. I don’t want to take anything away from the game. I want people to concentrate on the game. If we can sneak in there after the game starts that’d be great.”

PV: What kind of work do you do for WWE now?

SS: “Well, I’m the ambassador for WWE. I do a lot of the promotional things, promote the product, live events, pay-per-views, stuff like that. We keep getting bigger and bigger – we have NXT now, SmackDown and we have Raw, and it keeps me busy.

“We do a lot of charity work with MDA, Make A Wish, Special Olympics, and visiting the hospitals.”

PV: So you’re involved in all of that?

SS: “Yes, it’s great.”

PV: That’s awesome. Do you work with NXT at all?

SS: “I’ve only been to one NXT show. I’d like to get that number up. It’s a different type of a show.”

PV: Does the talent there come to you and the other veterans often for advice?

SS: “Yeah, some of the talents come over and ask me to watch a match and give them my opinion of what I thought about it. Of course, most of them talk about how they watched me, you know, when they were younger.”

PV: Does that get tiring to hear at all?

SS: “Never.”

PV: What was your favorite moment of your career inside the ring?

SS: “Oh, well, you know, I’ve had a lot of great matches. Madison Square Garden with Pat Patterson in an Alley Fight was kind of a hardcore match before hardcore. The Boot Camp Match with the Iron Shiek, where I got to hold up the flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance.

“Later on in my career, President Reagan invited me to the White House and flew the American flag over the Capitol in my honor for all my work and patriotism. It was a real honor.”

PV: That kind of transcends wrestling, doesn’t it? I know back then wrestling imitated real life a lot more [than it does now]. Something like that must have been surreal.

SS: “You never know who your fans are. You know, out of the several presidents I’ve met, three of them were pretty big wrestling fans. It was fun to talk to them about wrestling.”

PV: Before you retired, back in 1990-91, you became an Iraqi sympathizer character during a very volatile period in the United States with the Gulf War going on. Was that hard for you to do based on your character throughout your career up to that point?

SS: “It wasn’t hard for me to do. Vince McMahon came up with the idea and I thought when he called me because I just came out of G.I. Joe, I thought he was going to take the American Hero and make him a real, real, real America Hero. But he had other ideas. He wanted me to go to the L.A. Coliseum and break the record in Detroit [for WrestleMania III]. He showed me a diagram of the seating capacity – it was 103,000-104,000 [seats]. So, we worked real hard to get to there and then the security was so rough with all the death threats and bomb threats. They told me we had to clear the Coliseum, so we went to the other arena.”

PV: Up to that point, that was the largest grossing pay-per-view audience at the time, and with all the stars there, really made it a memorable event despite not being in the Coliseum.

SS: “I remember Willie Nelson was there singing “God Bless America,” Regis Philbin, Alex Trebek and Donald Trump – they all came up to me shaking their head and couldn’t believe it that Sgt. Slaughter was on the side of Iraq.”

PV: That angle lasted about a year and by the end of 1991, you were asking for your country back with the help of “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan.

SS: “Yeah, it was quite an emotional thing when I asked for my country back. I was on a platform in Boston and started singing “God Bless America” and people stood up and lit their lighters. It was great.”

PV: What’s been your favorite thing to do now that you’ve been retired from the ring?

SS: “Just meeting so many people. Going to the children’s hospitals and the veterans’ hospitals. Just seeing what’s going on with the [WWE] Network now, and new people seeing your matches. It’s just amazing how many fans are out there that never even were born when I was wrestling.

"It’s been quite an experience. I’m not sure any of us expected to be this big.”

PV: The goal at this coming WrestleMania in Dallas is to break the attendance record. Do you think they can do it?

SS: “I believe they will. I’ve been working hard down in Texas. I’ve visited several cities promoting it. The ticket sales have been really good. I know we’ll break the record. It’s been there for a long time. It takes a lot of work. It’s a big event. There’s a long way to go before we even get to WrestleMania.”

PV: Do you have any say in the storylines or the creative process? Or do you just leave that to the creative team?

“Part of my job, actually part of all of our jobs, is to find these talents. And I watch the shows and I give my input on what I’ve thought about certain things. Whether they use it or not is their call. Vince McMahon lets me hear feedback from them, too.”