Acrylic on 24″ x 24″ wood
Sgt. Slaughter may be the best example ever of how the real world and the fictional world intersect to create something wonderful. Robert Remus was born on August 27, 1948 in Detroit, Michigan, and attended high school Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where he played football and wrestled. He served in the United States Marine Corps out of high school. Out of the service, Remus began wrestling under the name Sgt. Slaughter in the National Wrestling Alliance territories of the 1970’s. As Bob Slaughter he held the NWA Central States Heavyweight Championship on three occasions in 1977, ultimately losing the title to a young Ted DiBiase.
In 1980 Sgt. Slaughter began working for the World Wrestling Federation as a villain, initially getting heat with his ‘cobra clutch’ challenge which led to a notable program against the WWF Champion Bob Backlund. He also had a particularly brutal feud against Pat Patterson that culminated in the infamous Alley Fight in Madison Square Garden. After a brief stint in the NWA’s Mid Atlantic territory in 1981 where he won the NWA World Tag Team Titles with Don Kernoodle, Sarge returned to the WWF in 1983, reigniting his rivalry with Backlund. Early the next year he had a feud with the Iron Sheik, which saw him turn face to defend America’s honor.
In 1985 Slaughter debuted with the American Wrestling Association, riding high on his popularity both from the WWF and that he was now a character in the mega-successful GI Joe cartoon and toys. He quickly became the AWA America’s Heavyweight Champion, defeating Larry Zbyszko. He defended it against the likes of Kamala, Boris Zukhov and Nick Bockwinkel before the title’s retirement. He had notable rivalries with Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissey, The Road Warriors, Colonel DeBeers, and Stan Hansen.
Sgt. Slaughter returned to the WWF in 1990 for his most successful and easily most controversial run. He was now a heel who had turned his back on America, and as the situation in the Middle East escalated his character became an Iraqi sympathizer. This angle was so white-hot that Slaughter legitimately had to wear a bullet-proof vest and be escorted by security in public. At the beginning of 1991 he defeated The Ultimate Warrior for the WWF Championship at the Royal Rumble. He was immediately challenged by the winner of the Rumble, Hulk Hogan. The Iraqi sympathizer versus the embodiment of America was something everyone could get involved in. The Hulkster beat Sarge at WrestleMania VII, but the two continued to battle for several months. By the end of it, Slaughter saw the error of his ways and embraced America once more.
Slaughter quietly disappeared from in-ring competition, but returned in 1997 as the WWF Commissioner, trading tense words with D-Generation X’s Shawn Michaels and Triple H. He then became a part of Vince McMahon‘s entourage in Vince’s war with Stone Cold Steve Austin. By the end of 1998 he was largely gone as an on-air personality, making occasional appearances to this day to challenge the likes of Kurt Angle, Randy Orton, Cesaro, and to support Jack Swagger against Rusev.
About the piece: This was a straight-up love letter to my own childhood. I’m not really one for nostalgia, but I was a monster GI Joe fan as a kid, and had maybe every version of Sgt. Slaughter’s toys. When he became an Iraqi sympathizer, it really messed up the complex storyline I was building to with my toys. Was Sarge with Cobra now? Was he on his own? He definitely wasn’t with the Joes anymore. I of course had him and some Joes and Cobras break off on their own, forcing the other two factions to join together to take him down. I couldn’t really play with my Slaughter toys anymore after that, and got out of toys soon after. It got too real, man. Anyway! This is inspired by the paintings that would be on the cards attached to the toys, with the explosion in the background. It was fun revisiting those memories again while doing this!