One of the most beloved babyface wrestlers of the 1980s, Sgt. Slaughter made a successful and controversial heel turn in 1990 when he started portraying the character of an Iraqi sympathizer, doing so during the first Gulf War. Appearing on the WWE Network's Table for 3 show, Slaughter credited WWE Chairman Vince McMahon with coming up with the concept of the heel character.
Speaking with Nikolai Volkoff and Jim Duggan on a Table for 3 episode called WWE Superpowers, Slaughter recalled that McMahon pitched the idea to him after Slaughter's contract with Hasbro and GI Joe expired in 1990. Slaughter had left WWE in 1985 over a dispute with the promotion, which, at the time would not allow Slaughter to sign a contract with the action figure line.
"This was right after WrestleMania VI. He already had a layout of the Los Angeles [Memorial] Coliseum that would fit 104,000 people. And he said, 'I want you to be in that main event and we're going to shatter the record for [WrestleMania 3],' " Slaughter recalled. "But he said, 'It's not going to be a simple task.' He wanted me to be an Iraqi sympathizer because of the overtake of Kuwait. 'You go home and talk to your family before we say 'Yes' to all of this' and, of course, I was like, 'Yeah, I'm going to do this. Of course, I'm going to do this!' "
Accepting the job over the protests of his wife, Slaughter noted that the character became so hated by fans that he started receiving death threats after defeating Ultimate Warrior to win the WWF World Title at the 1991 Royal Rumble:
"The night I beat Ultimate Warrior in Miami, pretty much everything kind of hit the fan. Jay Strongbow was there and he was one of the backstage talents and he said, 'Have you talked to your wife today?' I said, 'No.' He said, 'Have you talked to Vince today?' I said, 'No.' He said, 'Well, give them a call.' So I call my wife. There was nobody home. I call Vince [and ask] 'what's going on?' He said, 'Well, someone called the wrestling office and didn't like the way you won the championship and threatened to kill you and kill me and kill our families, blow up the wrestling office, blow up the studio, blow up our homes,' and he said, 'I took a precaution just to call your wife and to have her get out of the house till I can get security around the house.' So I got back home and the FBI, they've got this truck up into my driveway, and when I got there, they all came over, they all [wore] suits, and they showed me they were packing and they said, 'We're going to walk the perimeter of the property 24/7, we'll take your wife to the grocery store, and take your kids to school, and whatever has to be done.' I said, 'no, we're not going to do that. We'll be fine.'"
Slaughter returned to his patriotic soldier gimmick before 1991 was over. He was enshrined into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.