Sgt. Slaughter on Edward Snowden, Discovering The Undertaker, and Real American Heroism
As Sgt. Slaughter climbed into the ring to face the Iron Sheik in a professional wrestling match in 1984, there were at least two American presidents watching.
courtesy of WWE Sarge! Look out behind you!
"When I met Presidents Reagan and Nixon later on," Slaughter tells Cultist, "both said they had seen it and had stood up and did the Pledge of Allegiance with me."
It should be noted that, unlike Sgt. Slaughter, neither man ever had his own action figure that sold in the millions.
Nearly 30 years after that first of nearly six dozen confrontations with his arch rival, Sgt. Slaughter (USMC, Ret.) still wrestles in 12 to 15 matches a year, despite being months away from eligibility for full social security benefits. The tidy mustache is exactly where you remember it being. He shaves his head clean now but he still wears camouflage fatigues and a collegiate wrestling singlet. When he competes in charity golf tournaments as part of his role as World Wrestling Entertainments' global ambassador, he wears combat boots with golf spikes on the soles.
"Being sent somewhere to play golf was the last job I ever thought about doing," he says. "I could body slam you or put you in a Cobra Clutch, but golf was never one of my specialties."
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Once, when throwing out a first pitch at a baseball game, Slaughter realized he might not be able to reach the plate after having injured his shoulder in a match not long before.
"So I did it Sgt. Slaughter style," he says. "I acted like the ball was a grenade and pulled the pin out with my teeth. Then I lobbed it up high to the catcher. The place went wild."
Robert Remus really was a Marine drill sergeant before he became a professional wrestler. He really was known as "Sgt. Slaughter" by his Marines. These days, however, that's how most everyone knows him.
"If they yell 'Robert,' I'm not sure if they're talking to me," he says. "But if they say 'Sarge,' I know exactly who they want."
Before he was a G.I. Joe action figure, before he was defending democracy from oiled-up men in bulging Speedos, Slaughter was just a Marine home on leave in Minnesota.
"On my last leave from the Marine Corps, I was with one of my friends, a sportswriter," he remembers. "He was doing a story about a pro wrestling training camp not far from where we grew up. So I went with him.
"It was in an old barn on a farm and there was a ring in the middle and a little light bulb swinging overhead. Chickens were walking around. Some of the guys in the ring, three or four of them, I recognized from high school football, wrestling and baseball."
Slaughter recognized them because he "used to be them all the time." One of the wrestlers was Ric Flair, who would also go on to be one of the biggest professional wrestling stars of all time. At the time, however, Slaughter remembered him from little league.
"And our high schools always played baseball, football and wrestled against each other. And we always beat them," Slaughter says. After the trainers realized that Slaughter had wrestled, they asked if he would volunteer to get in the ring.
"Anyone who ever served in the Marines knows that 'volunteer' is not a word that is not very good to hear; it means you're in trouble," he says.
Dutifully, Slaughter got in and allowed the other wrestlers to practice their holds on him. After having his fill, Slaughter said, "If you won't let me defend myself, I'm leaving."
The trainers were confused and he explained that he didn't realize he was allowed to fight back.
"You want to try?" they asked.
And so Slaughter quickly beat the first three wrestlers, one after the other. Finally, he got to Flair, who Slaughter says tried to talk his way out of the match.
"I've got a bad arm, coach," only got Flair the chance to start with Slaughter already in a hold.
"So I pinned him," Slaughter says. "Next they put a pro against me. I went on all fours and he threw his shin against me in a way that I knew he was trying to break my leg.
"It was 'the mud and the blood and the beer.' We went at it pretty heavy until the match was stopped and they took me outside the barn. One of the trainers, who'd been a world champion, asked me where I'd learned to fight like that. So we talked and he gave me his number."
The trainer asked Slaughter if he'd ever thought about being a professional wrestler. He hadn't but the trainer said to call him.
Slaughter said, "I don't want to wait that long. I want to get the guy who tried to break my leg."