10 Superstars who served in the U.S. military
As we reflect on the sacrifices of our troops on Memorial Day, WWE.com salutes 10 Superstars from different eras who fought for their country before battling in WWE.
As the mouthpiece of The New Age Outlaws, “Road Dogg” Jesse James broke out as The Attitude Era’s most boisterous degenerate. The son of WWE Hall of Famer “Bullet” Bob Armstrong, Road Dogg has always had sports-entertainment in his blood.
After competing in his first match in 1986, Road Dogg made the selfless decision to put his career on hold and join the United States Marine Corps. After serving a tour of duty, the former Intercontinental Champion made his return to sports-entertainment, competing in WCW and Smokey Mountain Wrestling before joining WWE.
Zeb Colter is so uncompromisingly vocal about his beliefs and is never afraid to say what's on his mind — so much so that he’d make Rush Limbaugh ill at ease. One detail of Colter’s typical tirades, however, is 100 percent accurate — he served in the Vietnam War.
Before embarking on a career in professional wrestling by wandering along the roads of U.S. Route 190 — and long before he started pushing his cultural views on the WWE Universe — Colter served as a member of the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division. After serving in Vietnam for a year, Colter returned to the U.S. and found his calling in professional wrestling.
The WWE Universe remembers Jesse “The Body” Ventura as the colorful commentator calling the WWE action alongside Mr. McMahon in the 1980s. Ventura later became governor of Minnesota and has never been one to shy away from investigating a conspiracy.
Before he became a WWE Superstar, “The Body” served in the U.S. Navy. Ventura graduated from the physically and mentally demanding Basic Underwater Demolition School or BUD/S — one of the elements of Navy SEAL training. Though not a SEAL, Ventura served as a UDT Frogman — a group that was eventually merged with the SEALs — and was stationed in the Philippines during the Vietnam War.
Third-generation WWE Superstar Randy Orton is one of the most accomplished competitors in modern WWE history. The youngest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history, Orton accomplished more before he was 25 than most Superstars do in their entire careers.
Before Orton followed in the footsteps of his father “Cowboy” Bob Orton and his grandfather, Bob Orton Sr., however, The Viper enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. Orton did not adapt well to military life and left the service a year later. It did not take him long to find his calling and surpass the legacies of both his father and grandfather in becoming WWE’s Apex Predator.
Former WWE Champion Sgt. Slaughter’s persona as a tough-as-nails Marine drill instructor was no fluke. After graduating from high school, young Robert Remus joined the United States Marine Corps where he earned the moniker “Sgt. Slaughter.”
It was after his time with the Corps that Sarge began his in-ring career in AWA. Initially, he wore a mask and competed under the name Super Destroyer II. In 1980, he let his military pride shine through and became Sgt. Slaughter — one of the most popular competitors in WWE history. In addition to his WWE Hall of Fame induction, Sarge was immortalized in cartoon form as part of the G.I. Joe Universe.
WWE Hall of Famer “Classy” Freddie Blassie is one of the greatest managers of all time who guided many legends, including The Iron Sheik, Hulk Hogan and even Muhammad Ali. Blassie was also an accomplished competitor in his own right during the 1950s and 1960s.
Outside the ring, Blassie was a World War II veteran who served in U.S. Navy. Stationed in the Pacific Theater for more than three years, Blassie won the 7th Naval District Championship for boxing and wrestling while serving. Discharged after the war in 1946 as a Petty Officer Second Class, the WWE Hall of Famer initially began his wrestling career as “Sailor” Freddie Blassie before he became The Fashion Plate of Professional Wrestling.
Before embarking on a career in sports-entertainment, Kevin Nash was an accomplished NCAA basketball player and also played in Europe. While competing in Germany, however, an injury ended Nash’s basketball career and he decided to enlist in the U.S. military.
Big Sexy joined the 202nd Military Police Company and was stationed at a NATO facility. After serving overseas, Nash returned to the United States where he emerged as one of the top big men of his generation.
In the 1990s, Perry Saturn won championships in the three major sports-entertainment organizations — WWE, WCW and ECW. Saturn was a no-nonsense competitor who often left his actions speak for himself inside the squared circle. The military-style business demeanor of Saturn could be attributed to his time serving in the U.S. Army.
Enlisting at age 17 and serving for four years, Saturn pushed himself to the limit to become an elite U.S. Army Airborne Ranger. After leaving the Army, Saturn decided to become a professional wrestler and trained under the tutelage of the legendary Killer Kowalski.
Verne Gagne is a pioneer in professional wrestling whose influence is still felt to this day. The WWE Hall of Famer was a 10-time AWA World Championship and trained many former WWE Champions, including The Iron Sheik and Ric Flair. Gagne was also an accomplished athlete outside the squared circle and was recruited to play football at the University of Minnesota in 1943.
Like many young men of his generation, Gagne answered the call of duty and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. After serving as a Leatherneck for a year at the end of World War II, Gagne returned to the University of Minnesota and became a successful NCAA amateur wrestler before beginning his professional wrestling career in 1949 in NWA.
During the 1980s, Sgt. Slaughter wasn’t the only WWE Superstar embracing his military background inside the squared circle. Corporal Kirchner displayed pride in his service and competed in WWE, including a memorable victory against Nikolai Volkoff in a Flag Match at WrestleMania 2.
Before his career in WWE, Kirchner enlisted as a paratrooper with the elite 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He spent the remainder of his teenage years leaping out of airplanes and training for intense combat situations. Although he never went into battle, the young corporal gained the mental and physical tenacity of a soldier and used his skills to compete in WWE, Stampede Wrestling and Japan.