How Sgt Slaughter Became The Face Of GI Joe

In 1985, Sgt. Slaughter became the first real-life personality incorporated into Hasbro's "G.I. Joe" franchise — an accomplishment that resulted in his departure from the WWF. In interviews given to and Inside the Ropes, Slaughter recalled Hasbro inviting him and his lawyer to their Pawtucket, RI, headquarters in a camouflage limousine with U.S. flags on the front fenders while wearing a camouflage sports coat, a campaign cover and sunglasses.


"When the meeting was done and I got up to leave, I said, 'I'll tell you what, gentlemen, my name is Sgt. Slaughter and I am the real G.I. Joe — you're looking at G.I. Joe,'" he recalled. "I gave this little promo and walked away. My attorney said their mouths all dropped open."

Hasbro called his attorney's office while they were still traveling home to go forward with the deal. Slaughter wanted to share the news with Vince McMahon in person, but he was surprised at McMahon's response.

"He said, 'Friday, I just signed a multimillion-dollar contract with LJN,'" Slaughter continued. "They're our toy company now and that would be a conflict of interest.' I said, 'A conflict of interest? To hell with conflict of interest, this is huge, man! Hasbro is the biggest toy company in the world, especially boys' toys, and you've got Barbie — what more do you want?'"


According to Slaughter, McMahon was unmoved, declaring, "'Sarge, if you want to do it, go do it — but you can't be here.'"

A Florida miracle

After a discussion with his family, Slaughter opted to go with Hasbro and depart WWF — a decision McMahon turned into a fight.

"Next time I saw him I said, 'Sorry, I'm leaving,'" he said. "He goes, 'No, you're not.' It started to get pretty rough with lawsuits and all kinds of things. He was saying that he owned Sgt. Slaughter and that I couldn't use it to be G.I. Joe. We had big arguments back and forth in his office with my attorneys and his attorneys."


Slaughter's attorneys eventually forced McMahon to back down, and Hasbro's G.I. Joe version of the Slaughter character would become one of the franchise's most popular figures. Slaughter recalled a later incident involving his connection with the action figure that bordered on the miraculous.

"One time down in Florida, I went to a children's care center, and there were about 10 or 12 children in this room," he said. "I remember this one little boy had a helmet on and he was hanging on to a chalkboard. I walked in, totally in character, and he turned around, looked at me and gave me a hug on my leg. He was probably about four or five, maybe even younger. The whole room got quiet. I picked him up, and he was smiling and touching my face. A couple of the nurses came over and I said, "He's a nice little boy." One of the nurses said, 'You don't understand. He's never walked before.'"