As we commemorate July 4, 2011, I think back to a match 27 years earlier that to me is the single most patriotic moment in WWF and WWE history. On June 16, 1984, Sgt. Slaugther finally defeated the Iron Sheik in a boot camp match at Madison Square Garden.
Slaughter had been a great heel in the WWF and NWA before a huge babyface turn in ’84 that made him among the most popular wrestlers in the country.
The set-up was simple: Slaughter was coming out for a squash match on Saturday morning Championship Wrestling when he met the Sheik face-to-face in the aisle. The Sheik –who was returning to the dressing room after his own match — wouldn’t let Slaughter by, and eventually Slaughter got in the Sheik’s face and forced his way around.
Later, the Sheik pulled a dastardly deed by attacking a young buck named Private Terry Daniels, who played the role of a Marine cadet (and for all I know, maybe he really was a Marine). Daniels always carried the American flag out to his matches, and during the Sheik’s attack, announcer Vince McMahon made mention that Daniels had never let the flag touch the ground.
Slaugher and the Sheik fought in arenas all over the Northeast that spring, but it is the MSG boot camp match that lives on because it was televised. It was a bloodbath that centered on both wrestlers using the Sheik’s “loaded” curved-toe boot.
The New York crowd sounded like it was in a frenzy the whole match, hoping to see Slaughter kick the Sheik’s ass. For those of you who weren’t around back then, in 1984 Americans still remembered the Iranian hostage situation that had ended about three years earlier. When Slaughter nailed the Sheik with the curved-toe boot at the end of the match, the cheer was immense.
At one point, as Slaughter was taking everything the Sheik could throw at him, announcer Gorilla Monsoon said, “The Sarge has got the intestinal fortitude, the guts, and the pride to be an American.”
Slaughter didn’t have to ask the fans to chant “USA, USA” for him. The crowd yelled those letters on their own because they connected with Slaughter’s performance that night. No matter what happens on Monday Night Raw this Independence Day, it will not match the emotion Slaughter commanded.