Welcome, one and all, to the glorious debut of the Rajah Debates! For years, the best and brightest minds of the Rajah forum have done battle with words about a myriad of fascinating topics from the wrestling world, seeking to answer the questions that plague the wrestling community. Is John Cena actually a good wrestler? What’s the greatest wrestling show of all time? Is anyone as good as Bobby Lashley? (No.) But for the first time ever, we’re bringing the debates to you and letting you guys act as judge, jury and executioner.
The way this works is simple. Each match will involve a maximum of 3 350 word posts from each participant going in order. At the end, you guys and our panel of judges will vote to see you moves on to the next round to get one step closer to Rajah immortality. Over the course of the next month you’ll grow to know and root for these brilliant weirdos until we eventually crown a grand champion.
Sound good? I thought so! So let’s jump right in!
The coin toss dictates that DEFROST will go first.
That’s how it started. Sheik and Blassie couldn’t stop themselves from being dicks. That’s all. So Slaughter decides to be a dick right back.
I know people have long since soured of Vince McMahon’s penchant for an American Übermensch taking down a dastardly foreigner. Often citing Slaughter vs Sheik as the template. As you can see that’s not the case at all. Slaughter was perfectly content to allow Sheik to say Iran was number 1 and spit on America forever. It wasn’t until he screwed with Slaughter that Slaughter got pissed at him. Amazing how different narratives can be from facts.
Now I know these days Sheik is best remembered as a random freak on a radio show that hasn’t been relevant since 1995, and most fans know Slaughter more from his early 1990s debacle of a run. However, these two guys could go. Slaughter’s bloody brawls make a case for him being one of the best workers of the first half of the 1980s. Sheik was a genuinely amazing athlete. He was an Olympian. They headlined MSG 3 months in a row. April, May, and June of 1984. Just check the matches out. They’re incredible including the Boot Camp match which is a strong MOTY contender for 1984.
When you think of the 80s, what do you think of?
The Intercontinental Title?
Well, of course the last one – naturally.
The 1980s was a boom in professional wrestling and whilst you have your Hogan and your Andre’s at the top, you needed a solid mid-card (and beyond).
You think of the recipe of a feud you want credibility, star power, wrestling and a huge payoff that both men benefit from (if you discount the politics after the event). This feud had all of these.
As prestigious as it is today (cough) the Intercontinental Title was a huge deal back in the 1980s and none held it in such high stead as when it was held by The Macho Man Randy Savage.
Savage had a plethora of feuds in the 80s but none produced “that match” as acutely as his run in with Ricky Steamboat.
Savage ramming Steamboat’s throat into the guardrail, and then continuing to work him over it, before even using the ring bell from the top rope to smite The Dragon. Steamboat was in dire straights from a despicable attack and this is just the beginning, a feud already so hot that Bruno Sammartino attacks Savage for it!
Steamboat almost retired due to the attack and you’d think that was the end of it – oh no.
The Macho Man’s title reign of terror continued, and came back to the boil with Steamboat after Savage pushed Ricky too far bullying George “The Animal” Steele (easily second choice for “best feud of the 80s”). This is six later and the fans went nuts for it and rightly so. It was “big news” with Steamboats rehab followed each week.
The two went on to wrestle at WrestleMania 3 for the Intercontinental Title – a match that was a classic and stole the show from a giant-slamming racist.
The best match at the best WrestleMania – admittedly a short feud.. but the best feud, raw, real and to the point. Capturing the hearts and minds of fans worldwide.
In hindsight ruined by politics, imagine what could have been.
And this my friends is exactly what I meant when I said some obvious choices were far too goofy in hindsight. Let us take a look at one of these rehab segments.
Wowza. Not exactly Laurence Olivier was old Dick Blood was he? That’s the kinda thing they did in between the two points everyone actually remembers which is the Superstars match with the throat angle and the Wrestlemania title change. There is a deep abyss in between those two peeks. You have that rehab video. You have the folding in of George Steele which gave the babyface an unfair advantage illogically. Not like Elizabeth was going to run in. Speaking of Elizabeth I feel the need to point out that the crux of the Savage vs Steele feud was whether or not a hairy old man was going to take a woman from her abusive boyfriend so he could have his way with her against her will. Not to mention the fact that bringing in Steele made little sense. That feud had already been blown off. Coming off the Steamboat angle Savage was feuding with Bruno Sammartino on tv and on the road.
So why exactly wasn’t Bruno Sammartino in his corner if they just had to have someone there?
There is no such logic issues with Sheik and Slaughter. It is simple. One guy says, “Fuck you.” Then the other guys says, “No, fuck you.” Then they fight. Or would have but in their first encounter Sheik laid Slaughter out from behind.
Which led to one of the most famous moments of Slaughter’s career the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance after running Sheik and Blassie off after a match.
Then they beat the unholy bloody hell out of each other in some of the best WWF matches of the 1980s as seen in my first post. Awesome.
By the way how can you say Savage vs Steamboat is the best feud when even you concede this? That seems a disqualifying flaw is it not?
I don’t think it does disqualify it, no – it just allows you to wonder if the feud could have gone longer and gotten even better had it not been for petty McMahon antics. A lot of feuds were good until Vince ruined it, that’s like – the entire history of WWE. Built on the shattered dreams of fans.
And yes, the rehab vids are goofy and Steamboat’s wife has a voice that Vickie Guerrero would be proud of but this is the 1980s. This is what the fans responded to. Clearly.
Steamboat was touted by the doctors as not being able to wrestle again.It’s goofy but you cannot deny its effectiveness, the crowd were crazy for his revenge on Savage. It worked. It would still work today, let’s be honest.
Why wasn’t Sanmartino there? Because his feud with Savage ended, with him winning no less – he’d proven his point. A feud in which he teamed with Steele at times.
Steele was hell bent on rescuing Elizabeth from the insane Macho Man, is that not noble enough? Also, have his way with her? He wanted her to be his…….”man-a-ger!?”
Again, this was the sort of story people responded to. It works. Steele was big after that, a big hairy man who’s “insane” becomes a babyface icon (almost) because of his tenuous involvement in “goofy” feud with Steamboat and Savage. Clearly the heat transferred through, proving the strength of the feud at the time.
I have no issues with Sheik/Slaughter and it makes it difficult for me to slate it – the thing that ruins the legacy of that feud was Hulk Hogan. Slaughter won, yes, but the potential for more and further matches was there. Instead Sheik ends up part of another “evil foreigner” team and Slaughter can’t stand in Hogan’s shadow.
Slaughter and The Sheik beat the snot out of each other and the crowd loved it, then they forgot about it. They remember…
Steamboat beat Savage and that stands the test of time to this day.
Oh hey it’s George!
Yes Steamboat was touted as forever injured, but the WWF in the same period would push this idea in a far less goofy manner.
That Summerslam drew the same # of PPV buys as Wrestlemania.
But I come not to tear down, but to build up. The Sgt Slaughter that people remember is not the Iraqi sympathizer. It is as the famous patriot who after defeating the villainous nation of Iran set his eyes on a far graver threat. That of COBRA.
Everywhere Slaughter had been prior to the feud with Sheik he was a heel. Coincidentally including the famous Slaughter/Kernodle vs Steamboat/Youngblood that was such a success that it led to the first Starrcade. It was his feud with Sheik that got him over so much he became a character in the greatest Reagan era projection of American Pride a cartoon called G.I. Joe. Hell if it weren’t for Sgt Slaughter Dwayne wouldn’t even have had that movie to be in.
So in summary this is the list of everything Slaughter vs Sheik has going for it. A simple and logical lighting of the fuse when two pricks act like pricks at each other. Smart escalation when their first match, btw all this stuff happened at the same tv taping, was a schmoz that never got off the ground. This led to a famous angle that was talked about for years solidifying the Slaughter face turn. Off the back off that angle they headlined the WWF’s main building in the era of Hulk Hogan three months in a row putting on great matches every time. Then the feud had such historical significance that Sgt Slaughter became a literal cartoon character as opposed to a figurative one pretending he can’t talk anymore. On a side note why would being a mute prevent Steamboat from wrestling? Hell they let Jake Roberts wrestle Martel blind. Hell they let Kerry Von Erich wrestle without a foot and that was a shoot.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re a saint. I mean really, Sargent Slaughter practically made The Rock in Hollywood – that’s just a fact now.
Hey Dwayne, you’re nothing compared to Slaughter!
He knows you’re right. Deep down he knows. He always knew.
Let’s not dwell on the fact that Slaughter was more popular in the 90s both as the Sympathiser and as the spitting Commissioner to the point where no one remembers his feud in the 80s with Sheik.
Steamboat and Savage was the best feud of the 80s. It didn’t use cheap tactics like riding seemingly never ending wave of fierce American patriotism that benefited Slaughter (and Sheik) thanks to the Iranian hostage crisis.
It was based on a “real” (kayfabe) burning desire of revenge on the mind of The Dragon. To face, and defeat, the man who put him on the shelf. The man who tortured poor George Steele who wanted to do what was right. Goofy, at times, but then what angle isn’t? The feud not only elevated Savage and Steamboat but also Steele as well, as a woman-stalking face too – that’s a powerful reaction.
When it was said and done it was also about the Intercontinental Title. The second most prestigious title in the company. The title wasn’t simply shoe-horned in or hot-shot around neither. It was the end of a maniacal year-plus title run for the Macho Man which was fuel to this feuds fire.
It’s a fact that the best match in WrestleMania history came of it. It helps that it involves two of the biggest names of the 80s. Super hot all the way through. And people remember it. They’ll always remember it.
When it came crashing down and Ricky hurt in side, he wanted to return he had no will to hide, Savage hurt The Dragon’s friends and he hurt his pride, he had to be a man and not let it slide. Steamboat literally fought for his life, fought for what’s right – and I think we all know that is a real American.