Slaughter’s cobra clutch challenge peaks with an attack on Patterson

One of the most intense WWF angles from 1981 was the culmination of Sgt. Slaughter’s “$5,000 cobra clutch challenge,” which ended up with Pat Patterson beaten and bloody during a TV taping.

It should come as no surprise to those who’ve read my earlier blogs about Patterson that his selling and emotion made the angle come alive. The gist of the cobra clutch challenge was simple:  Slaughter said no one could break the hold, which is similar to today’s “million dollar dream” submission.

Each week, some jobber would sit down in a wooden folding chair in the middle of the ring and allow Slaughter to apply the hold, and inevitably after a struggle, the challenger would “pass out.” Slaughter would often refer to his fallen prey as “maggots.”

In a memorable build-up, the late “Quick Draw” Rick McGraw struggled for nearly two minutes before collapsing. Meanwhile, Slaughter and manager the Grand Wizard would taunt color commentator Patterson, asking him to try out the hold, which Patterson refused to do.

Finally, during one segment in which Patterson was interviewing Slaughter, the Sarge called Patterson “yellow” and smacked him, which led to Patterson accepting the cobra clutch challenge on the spot.

Slaughter put the clutch on a seated Patterson, who immediately got up, pushed off the top turnbuckle with his feet, and drove Slaughter back towards the middle of the ring, nearly breaking the hold.

Just as Patterson was about escape, Slaughter let go and then attacked Patterson, cracking with him with chair, after which Patterson bladed. Slaughter then re-applied the cobra clutch, which was an unforgettable scene, as Patterson – in his street clothes and now bloody – began to spit up and froth at the mouth as other wrestlers came to rescue him.

The matches that followed were old-school WWF brawls. For some reason, the two never fought at the Boston Garden. They had a couple of matches each at Madison Square Garden and the Philadelphia Spectrum, although all would agree that the big blow-off was their alley fight on May 4, 1981, in MSG, which Patterson won.

This gory match is well worth watching on You Tube (you have to watch two grainy segments to see the whole thing). Slaughter and Patterson go at it right from the start, which you rarely see during WWE feuds these days. The ending is violent, even by modern standards, with Patterson pummeling a bloodied Slaughter with a cowboy boot.

That was one hell of a match in any decade.


  1. Pingback: My first time on the WWE Network: Watching Backlund, Hansen, Patterson, and Slaughter from MSG in 1981 | Boston Garden Balcony
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  3. Pingback: I finally found video of the Pat Patterson cobra clutch challenge « Boston Garden Balcony
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