WZ Retrospective: Sgt. Slaughter Turns His Back On The USA, Captures WWF Championship At 1991 Royal Rumble
The character of Sgt. Slaughter is one of the most revered in the history of wrestling. Between his patriotic entrance music and referring to everyone as a maggot, Slaughter demanded and earned the respect of the fans and his opponents. The former NWA and AWA star made another return to the WWF in 1990 after a few years away, however this time, Vince McMahon wanted him to return as a heel.
Sarge ditched the marine gimmick that was adored by fans, turning his back on the country he stood so proudly for by siding by becoming an Iraqi sympathizer. The former face of the USA in professional wrestling would cut scathing anti-America promos with General Adnan, even receiving a pair of boots from Saddam Hussein himself while causing a stir thanks to the ongoing Gulf War. Receiving audible boos, changing his ring attire and adopting the Camel Clutch as his finishing move, his turn into a villainous defector helped him earn a WWF World Heavyweight Championship match against Ultimate Warrior at the 1991 Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
Warrior and Slaughter got the match started with the champion breaking Slaughter’s Iraqi flag while hitting a few clotheslines. Warrior, having won the championship at the previous Wrestlemania, had the odds stacked against him throughout this match thanks to the involvement of Adnan, “Macho King” Randy Savage and Queen Sherri.
Sherri, who joined forces with Savage after his heel turn, made her mark early in the match by grabbing Warrior’s leg, causing a chase up the aisle before the champ was attacked by Savage. Savage hit Warrior with a spotlight, allowing the challenger to take advantage for most of the match. However, the champion would regain control, setting Slaughter up for his finishing press slam before launching Sherri into Savage on the outside.
This moment of distraction allows Slaughter to hit a knee to the back, allowing Savage to strike the champion with his royal scepter before Slaughter would hit an elbow for the win to become the new champion. The ultimate heel with wrestling’s top prize, Slaughter’s celebration didn’t last long as he had to face off with a “Real American” in Hulk Hogan. Slaughter would be immediately challenged by Hogan, the 1991 Royal Rumble winner, for a match at the upcoming Wrestlemania VII, bringing the real world fight between Iraq and the USA between the ropes.
The ultimate goal of a heel turn is to make the fans hate someone they used to adore, which is what makes Slaughter’s turn from an American hero to an Iraqi supporter one of the best heel turns in the history of the business. When one thinks of the greatest heel turns in the history of professional wrestling, the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin in 2001 and Hulk Hogan in 1996 come to mind, but Slaughter deserves to be right up there with them.
Slaughter would go on to have continued success throughout the rest of his WWE run, earning a Hall of Fame induction in 2004 and acting as commissioner during the beginning of the Attitude Era. But on this fateful night, the Iraqi sympathizer would blend real life with professional wrestling, capping off a heel turn that would lead to one of the most influential and patriotic matches in Wrestlemania history.
‘80s Wrestling Con will be bringing its ‘80s WRESTLING VIRTUAL SIGNING SERIES back to WrestleZone on Monday, October 19th from 7-10PM ET with former WWF World Heavyweight Champion Sgt. Slaughter. Not only will Slaughter be signing your photos and items, but he will also be answering your questions. We will also be doing a live auction that night, where you can bid on rare items signed by Slaughter including a Drill Sergeant Hat, Camouflage Hard Hat, Classic Superstars Figures, magazines, and more.
Photos and own item opportunities for our Sgt. Slaughter Virtual Signing are available now on 80sWrestlingCon.com. For more information on ordering photos or to send your items in to be signed, contact [email protected].
Due to the current pandemic and not being able to go to signings in-person, ‘80s Wrestling Con and WrestleZone will bring the signings to you! For all info on these events and to join the mailing list for upcoming events contact [email protected]