Sgt. Slaughter Says He Was Supposed To Be Hulk Hogan’s WrestleMania 1 Opponent

Sgt. Slaughter
Sgt. Slaughter

WWE Hall of Famer Sgt. Slaughter was the latest guest on Sam Roberts’ Not Sam Wrestling Podcast. During the discussion, Slaughter went in-depth about his relationship with Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation from the late 80’s through the early 90’s.

Slaughter had several runs with WWE. He first worked for the company in from 1980-81, returned from 83-85 and later had a run with the WWE Championship in 1991. Slaughter told Sam Roberts that he was initially supposed to main event the very first WrestleMania against Hulk Hogan.

Of course, that was not meant to be – and he explains why. “I went for six years with G.I. Joe and left the WWE,” he said. “For the first WrestleMania I wasn’t there and I believe it was supposed to be Hogan and I in the main event for WrestleMania I.”

Hogan instead teamed up with Mr. T against the team of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorf. That feud generated so much mainstream attention for WWE it’s hard to imagine the alternate scenario where Hogan faced Slaughter instead.

Slaughter’s deal with the G.I. Joe franchise eventually led to a falling out with WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon. “I made this deal with Hasbro and I thought that Vince would be happy about it, but he wasn’t. He said, ‘I just signed with LJN and that’s a conflict of interest.'”

He continued, “Being the great leader [Vince] is, he figured I’d say, ‘Let’s go to WrestleMania,’ but I said, ‘You can only be a G.I. Joe once in your life, as far as a real live GI Joe cartoon.’ Out of all the G.I. Joe cartoons and action figures, I was the first living one. That was a big deal. It is today. I declined. I said, ‘I’m going,’ and he wasn’t too happy about that. I don’t regret it. I missed being in those first six WrestleManias, but in the long run I’m glad I did it.”

Slaughter said he didn’t speak to Vince McMahon for many years after that falling out. He didn’t watch WWE programming and actually made more money working around the world and from promoting G.I. Joe. He heard back from Vince McMahon in 1990 after WrestleMania VI. Slaughter told Vince he was very impressed with the WWE product, although he wasn’t crazy about Hulk Hogan’s match against The Ultimate Warrior.

Slaughter recalled that fateful phone call with Vince McMahon. “‘Sarge? It’s Vince.’ There’s only one Vince. I sent him a little handwritten note about WrestleMania VI. I wasn’t crazy about the match between Hogan and Warrior, The Ultimate Puke and Pukamania, but I said, ‘The production is unbelievable, the cameras.’ Vince said, ‘I got your note. I appreciate that. I never got that type of thing. It’s usually, ‘That was a great match, great show, but I never heard about the production end of it.’

Vince had heard through the grapevine that Slaughter’s deal with G.I. Joe and Hasbro expired. He asked Sarge if he was ready to get back to work. He was and Vince invited him over to his house the next day to pitch a big idea.

The idea was to turn the all-American hero into an Iraqi sympathizer. Slaughter loved the idea, but questioned how Vince would be able to make Hulk Hogan into a villain.  Vince replied, “Hogan? No, I’m not making Hogan a villain. I’m gonna make you a villain.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Slaughter returned to the WWE in 1990, betrayed his country and captured the WWE Championship from the Ultimate Warrior at the 1991 Royal Rumble. He would later face Hulk Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania VII, where Hogan prevailed. Better late than never.

Listen to Sgt. Slaughter on the Notsam Wrestling Podcast:

(H/T to Michael McClead for the transcribed quotes)