Following the release of WWE’s documentary about its greatest superfan, Vladimir Abouzeide, one wrestler prominently featured in the short film, Sid — aka Sid Vicious, aka Sid Justice — has been the topic of some conversations here on Cageside Seats.
In his day, Sid was an absolute physical marvel. At almost seven feet tall and weighing over 300 pounds, Sid was a sight to behold, with an abundance of charisma that few could match. As an in-ring performer, he was far from being a technical wizard. But what Sid did, he did well, and fans believed in his character.
In 1991, Sid was a top star for World Championship Wrestling (WCW) when he began negotiating a deal with WWE, then the World Wrestling Federation. After having a series of discussions with WCW, Sid said he called then-WWE owner Vince McMahon and told him that he wanted Hulk Hogan’s spot, to which he said Vince replied, “It’s yours,” and that was the promise that sealed the deal.
At the time, Hogan was the biggest star in the industry, but his shine was beginning to fade after being on top of WWE for seven years. In 1988, Hogan took a break to film a movie, which allowed “Macho Man” Randy Savage to assume Hogan’s role as WWE’s leading man, but only until Hogan returned. Then, in 1990, Vince McMahon tried replacing Hogan with the Ultimate Warrior, but his run as the champion failed to meet the boss’ expectations.
So, when Sid came around, McMahon thought he had found his next mega attraction. Following the signing, wrestling publications picked up the story and began promoting the man WWE was calling Sid Justice as the second coming of Hulk Hogan.
Justice’s first angle in WWE was as the special referee for Hogan and Warrior’s match against Sgt. Slaughter, Gen. Adnan, and Col. Mustafa (the Iron Sheik) at SummerSlam. During the match, Warrior chased off Adnan and Mustafa and never returned. When Warrior got backstage, he was relieved of his duties as a performer by McMahon, stemming from an incident weeks before the show in which Warrior threatened to stay home unless he received a pay increase.
Meanwhile, Hogan summoned Justice to the ring, and the two posed for the audience. The anointing of Sid Justice had begun.
At that same SummerSlam, Randy Savage married his longtime manager, Elizabeth. Though the two were married in real life, their on-screen wedding was the culmination of what may be the greatest love story WWE has ever told. At their reception, the couple came under attack by Jake Roberts and the Undertaker until Justice ran them off.
Justice was to feud with Roberts until Justice suffered an injury that put him out of action until late winter. When he returned at the 1992 Royal Rumble, Justice got into an altercation with Hulk Hogan after eliminating him from the Rumble match. A sore loser, Hogan helped Flair eliminate Justice from the contest, costing his would-be successor both the match and the WWE Championship.
At WrestleMania VIII, Justice, now a villain, faced Hogan in what was teased as Hogan’s last match. Hogan won by disqualification but found himself on the receiving end of a two-on-one mugging until the Ultimate Warrior’s music hit. After ironing out his differences with the company, Warrior was back, storming down the aisle to save Hogan.
With Hogan sailing off into the sunset and Warrior back in the fold, Justice was to begin a program with the recently returned superstar. But after a couple of matches with the former WWE Champ, Justice said, “Deuces, I’m out.”
According to Sid, he was frustrated with WWE after the Rumble and was looking to move on after WrestleMania VIII. Instead, he stayed and worked a match with Warrior in Baltimore that Sid was unhappy with. According to Sid, Warrior’s idea was to hit Sid with a series of clotheslines and kick out of Justice’s big finish, the powerbomb, before gaining the decisive victory. In a shoot interview, Sid described the odd scene that took place when he countered Warrior’s proposed idea:
“I said, ‘No, Jim (James was Warrior’s birth name), this is what we’ll do. You’ll come out, and I’ll clothesline you. I’ll send you off, duck my clothesline, give you one clothesline. Then I’ll power, you shake all the ropes you want.’
“(Warrior) goes, ‘Well, the stars tell me that the Ultimate Warrior...’
“And this was a small dressing room in Baltimore. And I was like, ‘Where is this camera at? Somebody’s bullshitting me.’”
After speaking with an agent, he says that was indeed the plan. Sid agreed to do the match as outlined by the Warrior, but he wasn’t going to stand for a repeat performance, saying:
“So, we went to Boston the next night. I told them, ‘No, he’s not kicking out of my finish. If he kicks out of my finish tonight, I go home tomorrow morning and never come back. And that’s what happened.”
A short time later, Sid was gone. But the actual details about his departure remain uncertain.
There was a report that Sid had failed a drug test and thus was suspended, though Sid denied that. Another theory making the rounds was that Sid, an avid softball player, quit WWE so he could enjoy softball season.
On his podcast, “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard,” longtime WWE employee and current Executive Director of Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown, Bruce Prichard, spoke about Sid’s reputation for being an unreliable worker, saying:
“Sid could oftentimes be his own worst enemy and thinking that he knew better and that he understood a lot better and wanted to do things his way. And if he didn’t get things done his way, a lot of times, he would go on and do something else. So, that was just Sid’s M.O. And (he) got the reputation for softball season, then all of a sudden, he would have injuries that would pop up, and you wouldn’t hear from him. So, yeah, he wasn’t all that reliable all the time.”
Whatever the case may have been, Sid’s first run with WWE was disappointing, ending on a whimper after beginning with a bang. However, Sid returned several times to the company, winning the WWE Championship twice and headlining a second WrestleMania as the world champion against the Undertaker.
In 2001, Sid suffered a gruesome leg injury while working for WCW that effectively ended his full-time career. He made sporadic appearances in the ensuing years, with his last appearance for WWE coming in 2012, beating Heath Slater, as part of an ongoing celebration leading up to WWE’s 1000th episode of Raw.