WWE Hall of Famer Sgt. Slaughter sat down with philly.com during his visit to Xfinity Live on Saturday morning.
Slaughter was there to promote Monday Night Raw, which will be at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday and to take part in the Army-Navy game festivities at Lincoln Financial Field.
Editor's note: This interview took place before Saturday's Army-Navy game. Navy defeated Army for the 14th year in a row, 21-17, Saturday before 69,722 fans at Lincoln Financial Field.
Vaughn Johnson: So, what are you doing in Philadelphia today?
Sgt. Slaughter: Well, I've got to support the Army-Navy game. It's a big rivalry. Of course, we have Monday Night Raw coming up at the Wells Fargo Center. It should be a pretty exciting night. We're going to the Eagles-Bills game tomorrow, so we're just all over the place here at WWE.
VJ: What does this Army-Navy game mean to you since you served in the military and you played a military character most of your career?
Slaughter: Being in the Marines, I've got to root for the Navy. We've been doing pretty well. They're picked to win by a pretty big margin, but you never know. I've seen a lot of upsets in my career not only in football, but basketball and hockey and in my career, too, in wrestling. But I'm going for the Navy.
VJ: Do you feel bad about Army losing every year to Navy?
Slaughter: I think they've lost the last 13 games. Yeah, it's bad. They were pretty close last year. I thought they might pull it off, but they never gave up and showed that we're all in safe hands.
VJ: Obviously, you've been to Philly a lot during your wrestling career. What are your some of your wrestling memories in Philadelphia?
Slaughter: Well, I've had a lot of great matches here in Philadelphia back in the old Spectrum.
VJ: I think we're sitting where the Spectrum used to be, actually.
Slaughter: Yes, probably pretty close to where the ring used to be. It was just a great place to perform because the Philadelphia fans were really into it. They wanted to be entertained, and the more you entertained them, the louder they got. Of course, a lot of them got a little rambunctious. Back then, we didn't have guards around the ring or anything like that, so many times you were not only fighting your opponent but fighting the fans of Philadelphia, too.
It was always a great time to be here. I wrestled Bob Backlund in a cage match and I felt safe in the cage although I had to face Bob Backlund. Later on in my career, we went against the Iron Sheik here and did it all for America and got kind of a payback for what Iraq and Iran did to us. You never really got to punch Ayatollah in the nose. It was a good time in our career, in my career and the United States.
President Reagan invited me to the White House and we watched the matches I had with the Iron Sheik. He wanted to honor me at the White House, flew an American flag over the capital in my honor for my work with patriotism.
VJ: How crazy is that? He was doing that for a wrestling match?
Slaughter: Yeah, you never know who your fans are. Of the seven presidents I've met, three of them were big fans. They said they watched a lot of my matches, and when I finished my matches, I did the pledge of allegiance and they said they would stand up and say it with me.
VJ: One of the first times you did the pledge of allegiance after a match was not too far from here in Allentown. What made you start doing that?
Slaughter: I don't know why I did it. I just thought that was the proper thing to do and to get the people to recite with me and we were off to the races. They knew that I meant business and that the Iron Sheik was in trouble.
VJ: What was it like coming to Philly on a monthly basis during the 1980s and performing in front of this fan base knowing you were coming right back the very next month?
Slaughter: You just kind of went out there and did what you had to do. You never know if the same fans are in there or new fans, so you've got to get in there and make them want to come back and bring people with them to enjoy the entertainment of the WWE. We just enjoy doing that. It's pretty much a 24/7 job. We're always on, especially when you're a character.
VJ: Talk about your role with the WWE right now. You've been an ambassador of sorts. What do you think about that?
Slaughter: Yes, I'm an ambassador for the WWE and I get to do events like this, promote the product, promote Raw and Smackdown and NXT and all of the pay-per-views and the television live events and go to children's hospitals and veterans' hospitals. I do a lot of Make-A-Wish and Special Olympic programs.
It's something that I suggested. My career as a performer was coming to an end, so I went to WWE and [Vince] McMahon and asked the question, "Who do you have out there that could be a better ambassador than Sgt. Slaughter?" It didn't take him long to think about it. He said, "You're right," and I've been doing that for quite a while now.
VJ: Were you one of the first people to assume this role?
VJ: Now, you see a lot of people doing it. What do you think about that?
Slaughter: There's a lot of territory to cover. There's a lot of places to go and a lot of people to see. It's good. It gives some of the superstars and the talent something to do and enjoy and promote WWE.
VJ: What does it mean to you that fans still come up to you and recognize your career and recognize your achievements?
Slaughter: It's unbelievable. This is my 42nd year in professional wrestling and just to walk out there and here people yell out your name and want to get a picture with you and talk about your matches and how you influenced them -- some of them say they joined the service because of me and wanted to serve their country. It means a lot. It's hard to describe what that feeling is like.
VJ: I see you have your WWE Hall of Fame ring on. What does that mean to you? When you look at that ring, what goes through your mind?
Slaughter: Well, it was something I wasn't expecting and it was a unanimous decision by the people who vote for it, which really made me feel great. In 2004, I was still actively wrestling full time and I was inducted into the Hall of Fame. I'm glad they did it when I was still performing.