Prior to writing this article, I had never seen the Boot Camp Match between Sgt Slaughter and The Iron Sheik. Of course, I’d heard of it, but I’d never taken the time to sit down and watch it. Going into it, I thought it’d just be another one of those slow, plodding 80s matches that contained about 5 moves in total.
I was right. And it was great. Let me explain…
Right from the off, you can tell how this match is going to go. Iron Sheik is out first, coming out to relatively quiet music whilst being guarded by security. The fans in that building would have killed him if they could. Conversely, Sgt Slaughter is paraded to the ring with a member of what I presume was US Military playing the trumpet. As the U-S-A! chants fill the arena, it’s clear what the theme of this match is: patriotism. Whilst modern audiences roll their eyes every time patriotism is used as a storytelling device, this wasn’t the case in the 1980s. The audience hadn’t been beaten to death with that trope, thus meaning that they were invested in this rivalry. A simple conflict between Iran and the United States.
BOWLING SHOE UGLY
Slaughter gets into the ring and immediately the pair start to brawl, with Slaughter gaining the advantage with a swagger stick and helmet. It’s all Slaughter early on, with The Iron Sheik not hitting any offense. This changes when Sheik counters an Irish Whip into the corner as Slaughter takes a Shawn Michaels-Esque bump to the floor. Sheik takes advantage, hitting Slaughter with a chair then whipping and choking Slaughter with his belt. This goes on for a while until Slaughter fights back and whips Sheik with the belt, which the crowd go mad for. Slaughter goes for his finisher, but Sheik counters with a bite to the forehead.
Noticed anything yet?
With the exception of the Slaughter bump to the outside, neither man has taken any bumps. There’s been punching, biting, kicking, whipping, choking but no bodyslams. No springboard moves. And there doesn’t need to be because the crowd are loving every second of that match. And I certainly didn’t notice it my first time around.
Far too often these days, you see wrestlers kill each other to no reaction. I don’t want to seem like that I’m saying ‘Vanilla Midgets are ruining wrestling!’ because I’m not. I love an Ospreay/Ricochet match as much as the next person. However, if a wrestler can evoke a reaction by doing less, why wouldn’t you? People talk about the Boot Camp Match to this day, which shows the effect it’s had on people, even though Slaughter and Sheik barely did anything.
The match continues as Sheik spits on Slaughter and continues to bite him. He goes for a shot with his loaded boot, but misses, and Slaughter takes advantage with a middle-rope big boot. Both men are bleeding as they go back and forth, getting near falls from the most basic of moves like a kick to the gut. But the crowd eat it up because they are invested in the story. In the end, Sheik goes for a shot with the loaded boot again and misses. Slaughter hits Sheik with the boot and wins.
WAS IT THAT GOOD?
I could go on and on about how nothing happens in the match, but that isn’t really the point. Sheik and Slaughter put on a classic match without having to do fifty Topes or go through fifty tables. They told a simple effective story and it worked to perfection.
The match hinged on the crowd reaction and luckily for Sheik and Slaughter, the crowd ate it up. If the crowd hated the match or was, worse, apathetic towards it, I would be discussing the match in a much different light, but the crowd was so receptive to the story that Sheik and Slaughter were telling that it made the match ten times more entertaining.
Let this be a lesson to any aspiring wrestlers out there. You can do much, much more by doing less.