Sgt. Slaughter was at one time America’s Greatest Hero whose WWE gimmick was a military drill sergeant who loved America so much he ended up part of the G.I. Joe cartoon.
However, in an interview with Sean Mooney (via WrestleZone), the WWE asked him to do something once that could have ruined his entire reputation and possibly marked the end of the WWE itself.
During the height of the battle between the United States and Iraq during the Gulf War, the WWE came up with a great gimmick where Sgt. Slaughter turned on America and became an Iraqi sympathizer.
He then beat Ultimate Warrior for the WWE world title and was the most hated villain in professional wrestling history. Finally, the Real American Hulk Hogan returned and beat Sgt. Slaughter to defend the United States.
This was an angle that brought out the worst in professional wrestling fans. Some fans, who still believed that the WWE was real life and not scripted entertainment, sent death threats to Sgt. Slaughter and his family.
A restaurant refused him service, the chef hinting that Sgt. Slaughter was really an American traitor.
However, the WWE asked Sgt. Slaughter to do something that could have made it even worse. Someone came up with the idea for him to burn the American Flag to get heat from the fans.
Thankfully, Sgt. Slaughter refused.
“Word came over to me, ‘They want you to burn the American flag,’” Slaughter said. “I said, ‘No. I’m not doing that. I will not burn the American flag.’”
Instead of just refusing, though, the former U.S. Marine brainstormed and came up with a better idea. He took a flagpole and attached a Hulk Hogan shirt to it. He then said that Hogan’s shirt represented Americana and he burned it.
“I think that was the best heat that ever was in the world of sports entertainment or professional wrestling,” Slaughter said. “If I had lit the American flag on fire, those people would have walked out and never come back. When they saw that Hulk Hogan shirt on fire, they wanted to come back and see him kick my butt.”
It worked perfectly and fans turned out in droves to finally watch Hulk Hogan win the title from Sgt. Slaughter at WrestleMania VII.