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Right Move/Wrong Move 06.04.10: Hulk Hogan & The Ultimate Warrior vs. The Triangle of Terror at SummerSlam ’91

June 4, 2010 | Posted by Matthew Davis


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Hulk Hogan & Ultimate Warrior vs. The Triangle of Terror at SummerSlam ‘91: The Match Made In Hell

The year was 1991, the WWF’s main event stars were still Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan and a three-on-two handicapped match was set to take place in Madison Square Garden against Sgt. Slaughter, General Adnan and Col. Mustafa at SummerSlam ‘91. It was billed as the Match Made In Hell. This was the third SummerSlam out of four that featured a tag team match as the main event. This match was the conclusion of pretty much every feud Sgt. Slaughter had been involved in throughout 1991. It gave Slaughter a chance to prove he still deserved to be WWF Champion if he could defeat the duo of the Hulkster and the Warrior, and it gave those two men the chance to get revenge on Sgt. Slaughter and his entire corps.


Let’s look at the group known as the Triangle of Terror…

Before the start of 1991, Sgt. Slaughter had made his return to the WWF as an American turncoat, and Iraqi sympathizer. He didn’t wrestle at the 1990 edition of SummerSlam, but did appear on the Brother Love Show during the event and made clear that he was back and seeking out American patriots, the first of which was the newly-turned babyface, Nikolai Volkoff. Around this time, Slaughter also added a new manager, General Adnan, a man who bore a striking resemblance to Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein. Slaughter made his first PPV appearance back at the 1990 Survivor Series, captaining his team of the Orient Express and Boris Zhukov (Nikolai’s former tag partner) against the Volkoff lead team of Tito Santana and The Bushwhackers. Slaughter was the last man remaining for his team against Tito Santana, the last man remaining for his team. Slaughter came close to victory several times, but eventually got himself disqualified. Keep in mind that during the 1990 Survivor Series there was a Grand Finale Match in which all remaining survivors would team up in the last match of the evening as the Good Guy Survivors vs. Bad Guy Survivors. The booking to have Slaughter lose in his elimination match was made with the intention that the WWF didn’t want him squaring off against Hogan and Warrior just yet since those two were the surviving babyfaces of the night (along with Santana, after the DQ). The next step in Slaughter’s career would take him to heights he never achieved before and never would again as a WWF superstar. It wasn’t all good though, for the former American patriot.

Slaughter was named the #1 contender to the Ultimate Warrior’s WWF Championship and a match was signed for the 1991 Royal Rumble. Slaughter’s rise to the main event had more to do with the real-life Persian Gulf War which had been taking place in the Middle East. Vince McMahon saw an opportunity to capitalize on the heat that would be sustained by having his number one villain side with the enemy, in this case Iraq. McMahon and Slaughter received criticism and even death threats before this angle came to an end, but much to Vince’s credit (or callousness depending on how you look at it), he was unwavering in his decision and proceeded with the storyline.

Not only did Slaughter become the company’s top heel during this time, he also became the World Wrestling Federation Champion by defeating the Ultimate Warrior at the Royal Rumble. As discussed in Right Move/Wrong Move #1, Slaughter stole the title from the Warrior thanks to help primarily from the Macho King Randy Savage and Sensational Queen Sherri. Savage had been feuding with Warrior throughout the fall, but had taken time off from in-ring work due to an injured knee. While the finish of the title match at the Rumble helped to intensify the feud between Savage and Warrior, it also allowed Slaughter a clear path to wrestle a new challenger. Later that same evening, Hulk Hogan eliminated Earthquake to win his second consecutive Royal Rumble Match and several weeks later was declared the new #1 contender to the WWF Championship. This was a natural feud that had been done several times in decades past, but always seemed to work: The American Hero vs. The Wrestler That Aligns Himself With Whatever Country the USA Is At War With. In this case, Hulk Hogan would now be fighting for America against Sgt. Slaughter and his allegiance to Iraq at WrestleMania VII.

Leading upto the event Slaughter had been asked to burn the American flag on WWF television. Much to Slaughter’s credit, he refused to do so and instead, torched the famous Hulk Hogan tank top that he said “symbolized America”. The two men had their confrontations before the big show, most of which saw Slaughter getting the best of Hogan with the help of his manager, General Adnan. Slaughter had been bragging that he was “playing with a new set of rules” and hinted at purposely getting himself disqualified or counted out at WrestleMania if that’s what he had to do to keep his WWF title.

Now before we get to the Stars & Stripes WrestleMania, let’s back up a bit and talk about something that is always an interesting topic, but heavily debated. Back in the 80s and 90s, it was common practice that after WrestleMania concluded each year, the bookers or writers would immediately start penciling in the main event for next year’s WrestleMania. In fact some WWE Creative members have stated that even today that this practice is still loosely used. Many wrestling insiders have made the claim that shortly after WrestleMania VI ended, the scheduled main event for WrestleMania VII was Hogan vs. Warrior II. Since their first encounter packed the Toronto Sky Dome, a rematch was thought to be able to do equal business if not more, and so the WWF booked the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for 1991’s WrestleMania, a venue that could hold an estimated 93,000 people if necessary. At some point in late 1990, Vince McMahon decided to take the WWF title off of the Ultimate Warrior and put it on Sgt. Slaughter, thus changing the plans for the main event of WrestleMania VII. Due to the change in booking plans that saw Sgt. Slaughter defeat the Warrior for the title, tickets for the April event were not selling at the pace the WWF had expected. Hogan vs. Slaughter wouldn’t do nearly the amount of business as Hogan vs. Warrior II would, considering how well their first feud came off. Even with “the support of America” behind Hogan, the match’s anticipation paled in comparison to the hype created by the previous WrestleMania’s Ultimate Challenge. So the venue was changed from the Memorial Coliseum to the LA Sports Arena. Now Vince McMahon would have you believe that the WWF had received bomb threats for the original venue due to intense heat the Sgt. Slaughter character had created amongst wrestling fans and Americans worldwide. While this may be true, many believe that the real reason for the venue change was due to the fact that ticket sales had been poor and the WWF didn’t want to put on their biggest show of the year in a half-empty house. Regardless of who or what you believe, WrestleMania VII was held indoors at the LA Memorial Sports Arena with an official attendance of 16,158; much less than WrestleMania VI’s 67,287.

WrestleMania VII came and saw the Immortal Hulk Hogan win the WWF Championship for a third time. He pinned Slaughter in the middle of the ring after the boot and the leg drop. Following the match, Hogan was walking backstage celebrating the title win when Slaughter snuck up and attacked and burned him. Over the next several weeks on WWF television, a “new” wrestler began competing who was know as Col. Mustafa. Obvious to any wrestling fan of the early 80s, this new wrestler was not new at all. In fact, he was a former World Wrestling Federation Champion, although not billed as such since the WWF was not recognizing this competitor as the former Iron Sheik. He sided with Slaughter in the war against Hogan and the odds were now stacked even more against Hogan. Or so the WWF would have liked you to believe.

We all know what happened the night of August 29, 1991 and that is the Ultimate Warrior was fired from the WWF after threatening to not work the main event unless he was paid the alleged sum of $500,000. Any and all future plans involving the Warrior had to be changed. The Warrior had little involvement in the tag team main event and the last time he was seen was chasing Adnan and Mustafa to the back with a chair. Sid Justice counted Hogan’s cover on Slaughter and then posed with Hogan in the ring, almost instantly replacing the Ultimate Warrior as an upper card babyface. Or so the WWF hoped…

Slaughter would go onto turn babyface again, leading up to the 1991 Survivor Series. In a series of vignettes, he was shown “asking for his country back” and teamed up with the ultimate American, Hacksaw Jim Duggan at the Survivor Series. He took on and defeated his former manager General Adnan and Col. Mustafa, The Berzerker and Skinner. Adnan and Mustafa were seldom used after this, although Mustafa did make an appearance in the 1992 Royal Rumble. Slaughter also made an appearance in the ’92 Royal Rumble and also in an eight-man tag at WrestleMania VIII, but was not long until he was removed from active competition. WrestleMania VIII was Slaughter’s last televised match as an active competitor in the WWF.

Within a year of this match, all three members of the Triangle of Terror were off of WWF television and no longer active members of the roster. Though the Iron Sheik and Slaughter would return to the ring for different roles over the years, including wrestlers, SummerSlam ’91 was definitely one of their last hurrahs. Hogan got his revenge on Slaughter, and technically so did the Warrior. The SummerSlam event would have probably benefited from two singles matches like was done the previous year, rather than a joint cluster 3-on-2 handicap with a 6’9″ special referee


Now let’s look at the two biggest babyfaces of 1991…

Hulk Hogan had just ended his feud with Earthquake by tossing him over the top rope and onto the floor to win the 1991 Royal Rumble. WWF President Jack Tunney announced on the next edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event that the challenger for Sgt. Slaughter’s WWF Championship at WrestleMania VII would coincidentally be the winner of the 1991 Royal Rumble, Hulk Hogan. The match was set and Hulk Hogan would attempt to make history by becoming the only man in Federation history to win the WWF title for a third time. He had lost it exactly one year ago to his eventual SummerSlam tag team partner, and this would be his first chance at recapturing the gold since WrestleMania VI.

WrestleMania VII was a memorable one for many reasons, but the show was capped off by Hulk Hogan defending the pride of America and capturing his record-setting third WWF Championship reign.

While WrestleMania VII marked the end to the Warrior’s feud with Randy Savage, the feud between Hogan and Slaughter had only just begun. WrestleMania VII went off the air with Hogan celebrating his third Championship in the ring, his face covered in blood while waving Old Glory – the way Vince McMahon probably wishes every show would end. What wasn’t seen was the aftermath and the ambush Hogan received on his way back to the dressing room. The following week on Wrestling Challenge and WWF Superstars, footage aired that showed Hogan walking in the backstage hall with Mene Gene Okerlund when Slaughter came from out of nowhere to burn Hogan’s face with a fireball and then pummeled him with a chair.

For the next several weeks anytime Hogan appeared on WWF television, he wore a large bandage on the right side of his face, selling the burns he received at the hands of Sgt. Slaughter. Their feud continued throughout the Spring and Summer where Hogan and Slaughter would compete in Desert Storm Matches all across the house show circuit, until finally getting the big stage once again in Madison Square Garden for SummerSlam. It was announced on WWF television that at SummerSlam, Hogan would team with his former foe and current friend, The Ultimate Warrior, to take on Sgt. Slaughter, General Adnan and Colonel Mustafa (the new gimmick of the Iron Sheik) with Sid Justice debuting as the special guest referee. It was called the Match Made In Hell, while Randy Savage’s marriage to Elizabeth would also take place this night known as the Match Made In Heaven.

The Warrior’s involvement in the Match Made in Hell stemmed from Slaughter’s victory over him at the 1991 Royal Rumble. After Savage helped Slaughter take the title off the Warrior, a Career Ending Match was signed for WrestleMania VII between the Macho King and the Ultimate Warrior. Warrior defeated Savage at Mania and his next move was to take on The Undertaker, a superstar that had been waiting to challenge the Warrior since before WrestleMania.

In 1991, there were only four Pay Per Views each year and there was a four month layoff between WrestleMania and SummerSlam. Many matches weren’t announced until 5 or 6 weeks before the date of the Pay Per View. Many feuds could have started, ended, and changed all during those four months so the fallout from WrestleMania wasn’t always what fans would see at SummerSlam. The Ultimate Warrior was a case where the WWF really misused him on the card of SummerSlam for several reasons.

While the WWF was obviously building to the blowoff match of the Sgt. Slaughter war on America angle, the Ultimate Warrior found himself encompassed in an angle involving both The Undertaker and eventually, Jake “The Snake” Roberts. The feud with the Undertaker had been brewing since right after WrestleMania and the two were competing in Bodybag matches in house shows during the Spring and Summer. The vast majority of these matches ended in a disqualification and so no man came out looking like the true winner; a blowoff match was begging to be booked. The most famous moment in their feud came when the Undertaker locked the Warrior inside a coffin on an episode of Paul Bearer’s Funeral Parlor. This showed the Warrior as vulnerable to the Undertaker and that he needed to find a way to defeat the man who seemed inhuman. Instead of scheduling the more logical Ultimate Warrior vs. Undertaker match at SummerSlam, the WWF threw Warrior into the Hogan/Slaughter match. Furthermore, the Warrior had little reason, from a storyline perspective, to reignite his feud with Sgt. Slaughter since Slaughter was no longer the WWF Champion and had already suffered some form of revenge thanks to Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania. Instead of focusing on the Triangle of Terror now that the Handicapped Match had been announced, the Ultimate Warrior continued his feud with The Undertaker. Add to that the fact that the Iron Sheik, or Colonel Mustafa, was well past his prime and General Adnan wasn’t even a wrestler, and you have two more reasons why this main event should not have happened. Neither Adnan of Mustafa should have been main eventing, while Hogan, Warrior, Undertaker and even Slaughter still felt believeable in that role.

Now as the Summer progressed and we got closer to SummerSlam, Jake Roberts had entered the angle involving the Warrior and The Undertaker. Jake “The Snake” had offered his services to help the Warrior understand and conquer the Dark Side. Since the Warrior’s sole efforts up to this point had not been successful against The Undertaker, he cautiously accepted Jake’s help. A series of vignettes were shot where Jake was seen in a much darker fashion as he was testing the Warrior’s will and preparing him for The Undertaker.

Enjoy the vignettes:

As brilliant as these vignettes were, the question remains – what exactly was Jake preparing the Warrior for? There was no match scheduled between the Undertaker and the Warrior (aside from house shows which do not factor into this logic), so why was he needing to conquer the Dark Side? I understand that the whole point of these vignettes was to transition the Warrior from feuding with The Undertaker to feuding with Jake, but there was a big piece missing here. Had The Warrior been preparing for a singles match against The Undertaker at SummerSlam, the vignettes makes more sense. Now before the haters rip me for criticizing these vignettes let me say something. These vignettes were very memorable and Jake did an AWESOME job in them, the last one which saw Jake turn heel was some of the best work of Jake’s career. I’m not bashing the vignettes; I am saying that the whole Jake/Warrior angle could have started off even hotter had the turn taken place live. Instead of a really good series of vignettes on pre-taped footage, Jake could have turned on him during a match between the Warrior and the Undertaker at, say, SummerSlam?

Eventually, Roberts turned on the Warrior when he sealed him in a room with a King Cobra that ended up biting the Ultimate Warrior. By doing the turn in-the-ring, you lose the whole “snake bitten” concept, which certainly ended up reappearing in Jake’s feud with Randy Savage. So although Jake’s snake doesn’t bite the Ultimate Warrior, Jake himself could easily have facilitated the heel turn with a DDT on the Warrior during his SummerSlam match. Weeks and months had been invested in the Undertaker/Jake/Warrior angle and the obvious way to go was an Undertaker vs. Warrior match at SummerSlam. Needless to say, this didn’t happen as the Warrior tagged with Hogan and Taker and Roberts were left off the card. Kayfabe, the Warrior probably still wanted revenge for Slaughter stealing the WWF title from him back at the Royal Rumble, but you have to think that, like Randy Savage, The Undertaker and Jake Roberts were more enticing to the Warrior at this point than a tag match with Slaughter and his cronies. Had the WWF booked the main event differently, we could have had Ultimate Warrior vs. The Undertaker and Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt Slaughter with Sid Justice as the referee in a Desert Storm Match, or some other sort of gimmick match. This double main event would reflect the formula of SummerSlam ’90 which was a successful event, instead of a non-title tag match involving the WWF Champion that had already been done before (SummerSlam ’88, SummerSlam ’89).

The Ultimate Warrior was infamously fired immediately upon returning to the dressing room from his SummerSlam match. Vince eventually forgave him and he made several more returns to the WWF before Vince ultimately gave up on him in the Summer of 1996. SummerSlam ’91 was Hogan’s las SummerSlam appearance in 14 years. Hogan continued his reign as WWF Champion and traded the belt with The Undertaker in the fall of 1991 before “retiring” at WrestleMania VII.



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Matthew Davis

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