WWE Hall of Famer Sgt. Slaughter will be at the Potomac Nationals game Saturday night to help celebrate Military Appreciation Night. I had a chance to talk to him about Roddy Piper, his take on today's product, as well as his memories of his Iraqi sympathizer character.
You just returned from the funeral of Roddy Piper, someone who was very close to you. What was the funeral like?
It wasn't a fun time. He was one of my best friends. It's still hard to believe that Roddy Piper is no longer with us. It's a very sad time in my life.
While his death is undoubtedly sad, is it somewhat uplifting to see how many lives he touched as the memorials are held for him, and people are telling all of their stories?
Yes. It's amazing to see how many people he touched. His death is something that you weren't prepared for, and it's something that you thought would never happen, but life sometimes throws those curveballs at you. To see the outpouring of calls and messages from people toward his family was certainly uplifting, though. Roddy was a very well-liked man.
What are some of your favorite memories that you have of you and Roddy?
Every moment that we were together is a memory when you're with Roddy Piper. The first time I met him, we were on a double-shot in North Carolina. We had a flat tire, and he was pretty bummed about that. I asked him, "What's so bad about a flat tire? We can fix that." He tells me that he had a flat last night, so there was no spare. So the first time I was with Crockett, I have a flat tire with no spare. Roddy somehow, though, manages to get it up, put the air into the tire and patch it himself, and off we went. Won't forget that.
What would you say his legacy in the wrestling business is?
He'll never be duplicated, that's for sure. He paved the way for many superstars of today and tomorrow, with Piper's Pit and the way he prepared himself for his promos and matches. He just was the type of athlete who gave everything he had every night that he performed. He just wanted to have the best match, and give the best promo, and he worked very hard at that.
Did his death feel even harder because Dusty Rhodes had died so shortly beforehand?
It definitely wasn't easy. Dusty was the American Dream. Before we even started to really feel his loss, we lose Roddy a month later. It's a sad time. It's the entertainment business though, so the show must go on. We all grieve in our own ways and there's no time limit on grieving. I know that both Dusty and Roddy will take a while for me to let go of.
Moving to a happier topic, do you still regularly watch today's WWE?
Yes I do. I'm the ambassador for WWE and part of my job is to watch the show and give my input, what I like and don't like. I look out for talent, and give recommendations, and even help scout talent sometimes. While sometimes you want to keep wrestling forever, eventually we get to a point where we can't continue doing what we did. Now we all have roles in trying to keep the product going. We want to keep WWE as the top in the industry. You're always working, it's a 24/7 job. I shouldn't say job, though. It's something that you always want to look after it, and help it improve.
What's your thoughts on today's product? Would you change anything at all if you could?
It's a really amazing product. Look at how many matches there are a week. One thing I'm really happy about is that the divas are starting to make their mark now. They're showing that they can be right there with the guys. ... These days you have to stay in great shape. Back when I was coming up, you didn't have the trainers and doctors and all the people that assisted you. You just had to take care of yourself. It's great that now if you have a strain or something, there's someone there for you, instead of just jumping in the car and getting to the next show. I tip my cap to everyone involved, from the writing and production team to the guys, because it's an amazing product.
I wouldn't really change anything. It's a new era now. This is the way they're trained from when they go down to Orlando by the producers and trainers. That's the way that the product is now. You have to keep up with the changes. I will say it's a faster pace than I would really like to see it. But that's the way the product is these days.
I'm not sure how much you have to do with the video game, but people noticed on the most recent WWE 2K16 roster reveal that General Adnan and Colonel Mustafa were listed on the roster. Are you going to be on the game as your Iraqi Sympathizer character?
I'm not sure. They don't tell us too much about those things. I did get a call asking for General Adnan's phone number, and they got a hold of him to use his rights. So I'm hoping that they'll have me involved in it. It will be exciting to see how they do it, whether it's after I asked for my country back or before. That was a pretty rough time, to be in the show as an Iraqi sympathizer. It was a very dangerous time for a character like that. We went ahead and did what we thought we should do. When we would go too far over the limit, they would pull back the reins. I'm very interested to see what they do with the video game.
We've seen foreign heels since then, most recently Rusev, but nobody has come close to the level of hatred you were getting for that. Do you think they could ever come close to what you created in 1990?
I don't know if they'd ever go that far again. We went so far, and then started pulling back when the war started and lives were being lost. I don't know if there will ever be a situation where they have to create a character like that again. I don't think anybody could ever do a character the way that General Adnan and I were doing it. To do a character like that in the height of a war, it was a tough time. We didn't have time to think, we just did what we had to do. We were working 24/7, and just went and did whatever was in the news that week. We followed the news, and our storyline would follow it. I don't know that anyone could do it quite like that again.
Besides being the ambassador to WWE and going to minor league stadiums like you're doing on Saturday in Woodbridge, Va., what else are you doing these days?
I still do a lot of autograph sessions and comic book shows and Comicons. I do baseball games and hockey games, like you mentioned. I'm just staying real busy with the WWE and a lot of their appearances and meet and greets also. I'm staying pretty busy.
What's it like to get to go to these games or these autograph sessions and interact with the fans?
It's great at baseball games, because people who may not normally come out to baseball games will get a chance to come to the park and see one. It gives them a chance to bring out their memorabilia and get it signed and meet you, shake your hand and get a picture. It's a great family-oriented situation. It's great to see the children who didn't get a chance to see me come up and maul me because their parents or grandparents had watched me. Now with the WWE Network, even more people get exposed to the past legends. So it's like I just stepped out of the ring when people come to meet me. It's truly a lot of fun. We take our time and try to meet everyone. It makes it a fun night. The one thing that always makes me nervous though is sometimes they have me throw out the first pitch. Sometimes I worry about getting it over the plate. It keeps you on your toes, though. It's a great time, and always worthwhile.
Many former wrestlers make the minor league circuit for days like Legends of Wrestling Night. You often appear on Military Appreciation Night, like you're doing on Saturday. Does that make your appearances any more special to you, that you're representing the military?
It's great to be able to say thank you and salute all those that served or are serving. I'm really happy to be part of anything that gives those people recognition. It doesn't matter what branch they served, it's all one. It just is a great night to give a salute and say thank you and watch a baseball game. To be able to give back, even a little bit, to them after all of the sacrifices they made for us is very special.
You can meet Sgt. Slaughter as part of Military Appreciation Night at Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge, Va, as the Potomac Nationals take on the Wilmington Blue Rocks. First pitch is at 6:35 p.m. You can find out more information at their website.
Thoughts? Questions? Leave them in the comment section, email me or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also find my podcast, Jobbing Out, at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/jobbing-out/id998790026?mt=2