Wrestling superstar and WWE Hall of Famer Sgt. Slaughter visited Hickory on Saturday as part of the Hickory Crawdads game against West Virginia.
During his time at the game, O-N-E Sports Editor Cody Dalton spoke to Slaughter and interviewed him on a variety of topics.
Q: Were sports something you played growing up?
SS: I played a lot of baseball growing up. I did the pony league, little league and the Babe Ruth league, Legion ball in high school. I played football, too.
Q: How did you transition that into a professional wrestling career?
SS: We really didn't have a wrestling team until I got into the ninth grade. The school decided to have a team and hired a wrestling coach. We had an amateur wrestling class in physical education class. I ended up pinning everyone. I was sitting in history class later on that day and there was a knock on the door. They wanted to talk to me. Everyone thought I was in trouble. I went out to the hallway and it was my wrestling coach. He said "Did I hear you pinned everyone today?" I said "Yea." He said "I need you on my wrestling team." and I told him I didn't know anything about it. He told me to just come out and they would teach me about it. I had always watched wrestling on television. When I got there, I was a bit unaxious after I saw there wasn't a ring, ropes or turnbuckles. I stuck through it. I wrestled pretty well in school. I used sports to get into professional wrestling. It always helped to be a little athletic and agile. You learned in sports to never give up and no matter what the score is, it isn't over until its over. I was taught by coaches to give it 110 percent.
Q: You had mentioned watching wrestling growing up. Who were some of your favorites growing up?
SS: I grew up in the Minnesota area. A lot of the names I would say, some people wouldn't know. We had guys like the Crusher, the Anderson brothers — Gene and Ole. I remember Wahoo McDaniel coming in and wrestling, along with Johnny Weaver and the Blackjacks.
Q: You were born in South Carolina and live in North Carolina. Do you have any favorite sports teams in either of those two states?
SS: I was born in South Carolina, but my father was in the Marine corps. As soon as he got out, we went back to Minnesota, where they live. I basically grew up in Minnesota, but I was born down in Buford, South Carolina. I always rooted for the Minnesota teams. We didn't have football or baseball until I was in high school. The Minnesota Vikings and Washington Senators came in and became the Minnesota Twins. It was never much to watch for a while, but then they started getting better and better and won a couple of World Series. We had hockey — the Minnesota North Stars. We used to have the Minneapolis Lakers, until Los Angeles took our basketball team. I used to watch all the sports teams and always rooted for the Minnesota teams. Since I now live in North Carolina, I root for the Tar Heels. That is my favorite college team. I am an ACC fan. If Duke is playing someone and its not the Tar Heels, I root for Duke. It’s a win-win situation. I've been trying to follow the Carolina teams in football because I know a few of the players. It's hard for me to have time to sit and watch them. The New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox were the teams I could get on my transistor radio when I was kid. I listened to them when I was growing up. Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford. Those guys.
Q: Recently, the "Macho Man" Randy Savage, one of the icons of pop culture, not just wrestling, passed away. He had a big say in your first WWE title win. What is your favorite memory of him?
SS: Randy was a fun guy. I never got to know him real well. We were always in the same locker room, so we never wrestled one another. I think I maybe faced him two to three times in battle royals. He didn't last long in those. He was just too small. He brought a character that will always be remembered. With his promos, interviews and outfits, he spent a lot of money and put a lot of time, energy and effort into his outfits and matches. He always wanted to entertain as much as he could with the WWE fans and wrestling fans across the world. He is going to be missed a lot. I hadn't talked to him or heard from him in probably 15 years. It was a sad day.
Q: You main-evented Wrestlemania VII with Hulk Hogan. How much has Wrestlemania changed from the time you wrestled in it until now?
SS: It's changed a lot. The athletes are a whole lot different now. There is a lot more training involved. There is a "light at the end of the tunnel." We used to go on the road sometimes 70-80 days in a row without a day off. We worked two shows on Saturday and two shows on Sunday. Now, they have doctors, trainers and therapists. It is just a whole different sport right now. Vince McMahon made it so that guys aren't getting hurt as much with all the training involved. We lived in an age where after matches, we'd go out and have a little fun and party. They basically go back to their rooms now and play video games. It is a whole different athlete now. They are doing well though. Guys like John Cena, the Rock, Triple H and Randy Orton those guys are making in year with merchandise sales what I made in a year wrestling. It's a whole different sport right now, but it is all for the better. Their drug policy is next to none. It has really helped, especially after we lost Eddie Guerrero, the WWE decided to put in a drug policy that has really saved lives and made better athletes out of WWE wrestlers.
Q: You had mentioned video games. WWE's newest video game — "WWE All Stars" — has you in it. It features "old school guys" versus new guys. You did fairly well in the video game tournament they had for that. What's it like being a video game character?
SS: It's really quite a game. I never had seen it before. We did the All Star challenge at Wrestlemania, where they had the superstars of today taking on the legends of yesterday. I ended up beating all of the legends. I'm not sure how I did it. We had to play as our own character. I got to the end and faced Rikishi's son, Jey Uso. We went for quite a while, but he beat me. He wasn't in the game, so he used Randy Orton. He was able to get me in the RKO. Once that was done, that was it for the video game for me. I was the runner-up and I am pretty proud of that.