Sgt. Slaughter (1985)

I thought the mail-in Sgt. Slaughter was a pretty nice looking figure as a kid. I actually didn’t even have him until years later, but my best friend had sent away for him. I remember being impressed with the size of the figure, as the Sarge towers over pretty much every other GI Joe figure of the time.

The paint job was another aspect of the toy that made it stand out from the other Joes. From the USA tampo on the shirt to the stripes on the legs, Slaughter appeared to be something special, and worthy of extra attention. It’s a flashier look than later versions of the character, and makes him seem like he’s more like a mascot or PR figure than a Drill Instructor. Why is this? Most collectors know the story of Hasbro’s failed attempt to secure the rights to bring Rocky Balboa into GI Joe. I imagine the thinking was that if a famous fictional boxer couldn’t be in the toyline, why not a professional wrestler?

The extra attention to detail, and the unique features serve to make this figure one of the best mail-ins produced in the 80s GI Joe assortments. Even if you find the concept of Sgt. Slaughter, or his portrayal in the Sunbow cartoon to be the shark jumping moment of the Real American Hero era, the toy itself stands out not only in its design, but overall quality. I’m one to poke fun at the Sarge myself, but there’s no denying that this is a really nicely done figure.

The Sarge’s appearance in the aforementioned cartoon didn’t reflect this figure, but rather the repaint that was later included with the Triple T tank. This outfit bears more resemblance to something his wrestling persona might have worn. In fact, LJN, the makers of the rubbery WWF wrestling action figures in the 1980s, produced a Sgt. Slaughter that looked incredibly similar to this GI Joe toy. How was that possible? The lawsuits would probably fly faster than you can say “camel clutch” if a rival toy company tried something like that today.


  • I was never a fan of the Sarge. Now he is my son’s favorite character even though he wouldn’t know a pro wrestler if one was standing next to him. Go figure.

  • I didn’t have the figure myself but I remember thinking how awesome he looked in the insert. Was he a brand new Hasbro or Marvel character? Would he show up in the ’86 cardbacks? Since Duke hadn’t quite lived up to his promise of “shaping up” the Joes at the time, I thought it would be cool to have a drill sergeant that actually looked the part.

    It was only later that I learned that the Sarge was a real-life wrestler. His cartoon portrayal made Shipwreck look subtle by comparison. I think he only showed up a couple of times in the comic as a more generic character which Larry Hama seemed to have little interest in using. I could sympathize there.

    The figure, though, was very cool. This is still my favorite version to date, even more so than the iconic Triple T/Sunbow look.

  • I’d say that this was a good publicity move on Hasbro’s part–wrestling was at its peak of popularity in the 80’s….

  • I didn’t really know who Sgt. Slaughter was when this mail away came up, but I had to have him. I called the 1-900 number to get the promo code so I could save a ticket and get him that much sooner. I liked the figure when I got him, but the Triple T version ended up being the version that got the most use.

  • Twenty years ago when i was an nieve 7 year old, i thought Sgt Slaughter was the best character as i always judged characters/figures on how “tough” they looked [when buying Transformers, i always picked the one which had the highest strength rating] but now i couldnt care less about Slaughter. My Mother loves him though šŸ™‚

    If i might put my head on the chopping block so to speak. I’m one of the few [probably the only one] who thinks the second Sunbow season is far superior to the first [sink the montana, computer complications, not a ghost of a chance] but the problem with those episodes is that Sgt Slaughter makes very bad decissions [such as starting a gunfight at a comic convention and charging headfirst into the enemy camp in ninja holiday] and Serpentor is the worst leader cobra ever had. Cobra commander had four victories but Serpentor had none. God i hate Serpentor

  • I just wanted to point out that the big Sgt. Slaughter wrestling figure was actually put out by Hasbro, not LJN. It was an exclusive mail-away premium from Hasbro Direct, fully compatible with the LJN WWF figures. The ads for the figure actually featured the Slaughter figure standing over LJN figures. Those WWF figures were known for their toughness, but Hasbro made the Slaughter figure somewhat bigger and much heavier than the LJN toys.

  • My guess is that the trademark of Sgt. Slaughter was owned by the WWE (WWF at the time), and they could sell the “likeness” to any manufacturer that wanted to play ball. After all, the Sarge was a character just like any other wrestler, and when you make a toy form of a character, you have to obey certain guidelines to stay within that framework (like any toy manufacturer has to abide by how Superman look, because the deal they signed with DC probably states as much, because DC can’t afford the brand of Superman to go off the rails). Pretty simple.

  • I’ve forgotten how nice the original figure looks.

  • @Skymate: I liked the second season as well. The animation in most episodes is far better than the previous year and some of the stories were very well done. Continuity was nicely handled, such as the matter of the monster lurking underneath the ruins of Destro’s castle.

    I think it would have worked a lot better without the inclusion of Serpentor, but the quality was good enough to warrant a post-movie third season. It would have been cool to see how the Twins became the main bad guys and whether or not the Coil had the chops to replace Cobra.

  • @Clutch. I hear that, especially if they put Serpentor in his place [six feet under]

  • I like the figure but not being exposed to the WWF in the UK he was just a GI Joe character, without any other baggage.

  • IIRC Rocky was proposed for the 1987 series, and the Fridge that was done instead. Rocky’s only official GI JOE appearance was in Marvel’s ORDER OF BATTLE mini-series along with early appearances of 1987 GI JOE additions, then the next issue makes a retraction “Rocky Balboa is not and never has been a member of G.I. JOE” or something like that.

    There’s also the myth that Rocky’s toy was the basis for Big Boa, but if you can find the test sculpt for Rocky’s figure, you can see they’d share very few parts, the upper arms at most. Big Boa was likely always indended as Rocky’s opponent.

  • @NegaT
    I heard the reason Rocky was never included was due to Kenner having the rights to the Rambo toys [or something like that]

  • I was also blown away by the GI Joe logo on his leg, the USA letters on his chest, and the sergeant stripes on his boots… it was more detail than I’d see up to that point. I for one enjoyed his persona on the Sunbow cartoon, even though his voice did get old.

  • At the time, Sgt. Slaughter owned the rights to his own character and the deal with G.I. Joe happened after Slaughter’s stint in the WWF in the ’80s was over. Sgt. Slaughter was wrestling primarily for the AWA (American Wrestling Association) during the time that he was working with Hasbro and he didn’t return to the WWF again until the early ’90s, by which time, the deal with G.I. Joe was pretty much over.

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