WWE.com recently spoke with Hall of Famer Sgt. Slaughter about being a ‘real life GI Joe’, working with Hasbro, his best memories of working with the brand, and more. You can read some highlights below:
Sgt Slaughter explains how his relationship with G.I. Joe happened:
Hasbro approached my attorney and suggested that they would like to talk to me about being the first and only real-life character in the G.I. Joe animated series and toy line. So I had a meeting in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and just before we left the meeting, I said, “I appreciate you letting me come in and talk to you, but just remember, I’m the real G.I. Joe.“ They all kind of stopped and looked around. At the time, I had a camouflaged limousine and we drove that right in front of the offices there, and had American flags on the fenders. After I said that, I got in the limousine and drove off.
Did they get the message?
They did. About halfway back, we stopped and had some dinner, and my attorney called his office. We had gotten some calls — you know, cell phones weren’t really big back then — and [Hasbro] wanted to go forward with it. So we were really happy with it.
Slaughter talks about how he had to chose between WWE and Hasbro / GI Joe:
So I, of course, went to Vince McMahon and told him the good news. He said, “Well, that’s great, Sarge, but I can’t let you do it because we have another toy company involved, and working with Hasbro would be a conflict of interests.” I was let down on that, so he came to me later and said, “If you really want to go, you go ahead and go. You’ll always have a spot here.
I had to give that a lot of thought, because we were really doing some great business with WWE then: Two shows a night and we were just selling out all over the country. We were working up to WrestleMania 1, so I sat down with my family and talked it over, and decided I could always be a wrestler, but I couldn’t always be the first real-life character in G.I. Joe. Vince wasn’t really happy with my decision, but he shook my hand and we parted ways.
Did Slaughter know how popular GI Joe was going to be?
Just like with WWE and WrestleMania and all the pay-per-views, I knew it was going to be special. When I saw the first action figure and I saw the first animated episode I was in, I knew it was going to be really special because it was so well done. It was done with great technology. And just like how WWE presents its Superstars, G.I. Joe was larger than life. To be a real-life version of G.I. Joe, that made it more special, because children and adult fans could see you and know you were the real thing. The real guy. That made it even more special. I use special a lot, but it really was.
What are some of Slaughter’s favorite memories of being a GI Joe?
One time down in Florida, I went to a children’s care center, and there were about 10 or 12 children in this room. I remember this one little boy had a helmet on and he was hanging on to a chalkboard. I walked in, totally in character, and he turned around, looked at me and gave me a hug on my leg. He was probably about 4 or 5, maybe even younger. The whole room got quiet. I picked him up, and he was smiling and touching my face. A couple of the nurses came over and I said, “He’s a nice little boy.” One of the nurses said, “You don’t understand. He’s never walked before.” That was a pretty special thing to have happen, not only for me, but for him and everybody there.