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At the start of 1991, the United States had rallied together its Armed Forces to liberate Kuwait from the tyrannical hand of Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein. But one of America's own—a star-spangled role model whose lifelong patriotism had earned him worldwide support (not to mention universal fame as an animated series character and subsequent action figure)—decided to turn his camouflage-shirted back on his country. Supported by commanding officer General Adnan, Sgt. Slaughter chose to spread the word of oppression and hate in his own backyard. And as its champion, he'd use all of World Wrestling Entertainment as his very public forum.
To say WWE fans everywhere were outraged by the Iraqi sympathizer's hostile acts would be a gross understatement. Before capturing the WWE Championship from Ultimate Warrior at January's Royal Rumble (thanks to a scepter-smashing assist from "Macho King" Randy Savage), Slaughter had spent the latter half of 1990 basically spitting on his once-proud American heritage, as well as anyone who opposed Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. While a United Nations-mandated coalition of 30 nations prepared for war in the Middle East, "maggot" WWE Superstars who didn't fall in line with Slaughter and Adnan's regime had little to no chance of getting out from under their thumb, especially once the Sarge wore the WWE gold.
Thankfully, WWE fans refused to salute the Iraqi sympathizer's new order. And neither would the icon proudly declaring "Superstars and Stripes Forever"—a "Real American" who won the 30-Superstar, over-the-top-rope Royal Rumble, thereby enlisting himself to decommission Slaughter's championship reign at WrestleMania VII: Hulk Hogan.
Officially named as Slaughter's WrestleMania challenger during Saturday Night's Main Event in February, Hogan vowed there would be no retreat, no surrender on his part until he became WWE Champion once again. Yet even the most patriotic Hulkamaniac had reason to question his declaration of independence, especially considering the treacherous Sarge had preemptively struck the "Immortal Slime" with a chair earlier that evening, forcibly informing him that he, his "Pukeamaniacs" and all of WWE now ten-hutted under his rules.
Even as the Gulf War started to wane by late February, the tunnel-visioned turncoat continued escalating hostilities, burning a bright yellow "Hulk Rules" banner on television—an act nearly as monstrous as igniting Old Glory herself—and insisting that Hulkamania would "go up in flames." Then, a week before treasonous titleholder and championing challenger met at WrestleMania, the seditious Sarge sneak-attacked Hogan in the ring, knocking him senseless with the WWE Championship. As WWE officials eventually wrested the motionless Hogan from Slaughter's agonizing Camel Clutch, General Adnan waved the Iraqi flag and WWE Title around the squared circle, fully believing that his sergeant's WrestleMania victory was inevitable.
While Operation Desert Storm fronted U.S. headlines every day, Sgt. Slaughter's about-face on the U.S. grew as a source of irritation both in and outside the sports-entertainment industry. Death threats, public rejection, even refusals of service in restaurants had become part of everyday life for the Iraqi sympathizer. And with the Gulf War elevating threats of domestic terrorism and security issues to then-unheard of levels—bear in mind, this was a full decade before 9/11—WWE, concerned over WrestleMania VII's emotionally charged main event, wisely altered its planned venue. Instead of a planned outdoor event drawing 90,000 fans to the Los Angeles Coliseum, the company moved the grandest stage of them all next door and indoors, to the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.
To hear the live pay-per-view on a television screen, you wouldn't know that the sold-out Sports Arena held over 73,000 less than what was anticipated for its next-door neighbor. The deafening WWE fans were in full vocal support of the Red, White and Blue that night, as well as the yellow and red-clad colors of The Hulkster. But Sgt. Slaughter wasn't concerned. He reminded WWE interviewer Sean Mooney backstage that, if need be, he could get himself disqualified or counted out; Hogan "would win the battle…but not the war"—meaning the title would not change hands. "I am the [WWE] Champion, Hulk Hogan," he said, "and there's nothing you can do about it! We are playing by my rules!"
Before heading out to the ring, Hogan emphasized to "Mean Gene" Okerlund that Slaughter's earlier torching of the "Hulk Rules" banner could never scorch the dreams of his Hulkamaniacs. "And as far as you hanging onto the [WWE] title," he added, "you'd have to tear Hulk Hogan and America's heart out to remain the champion! Oh say can you see, by the dawn's early light, Sgt. Slaughter, that I'll be the new [WWE] Champion, and you'll just be a victim of Twilight's Last Creaming!"
Hogan proved true to his word at WrestleMania VII, miraculously capturing the WWE Championship for a then-record third time as well as restoring pride to the U.S. of A. Slaughter, meanwhile, continued waging war with Hogan (and Ultimate Warrior) well into the summer of '91, until he eventually rediscovered the patriotic self-esteem he had once so proudly carried. To this day, WWE.com salutes the Sarge's properly realigned allegiance, though we—and you—should rank and file this emotional landmine in sports-entertainment history as the No. 6 Most Rugged Road to WrestleMania. And that's an order.