Long live the "Hot Rod:" In memory of Rowdy Roddy Piper

"Just when they think they have the answers, I change the questions."

When I found out that Roddy Piper had died, it truly set me back. I was a huge Dusty Rhodes fan, but Piper was something different, and a little bit more tangible for me. While both Piper and Rhodes traveled in the same circles, they rarely shared the same spotlight, which is odd. Both were really good at what they did, and while on the complete opposite sides of the spectrum, shared so much in common. They came from extremely humble beginnings, and while they didn't look the part, they sure as hell could talk the part.

But Piper, for me, was my youth. His run in the WWE was easier to find than Dusty's run in the NWA. Piper was there, every single weekend, and multiple times, if there was a Saturday Night's Main Event. I'm not sure I hated anything more than Piper from 1984-1986, and I'm not sure I loved a wrestler any more than when he turned into a good guy, literally in one day.

Who does that?

Rowdy Roddy Piper.

"Rowdy" Roddy Piper may truly have been the greatest heel in the history of the wrestling business, but even if you didn't think he was, he certainly was the most authentic. My first, true, great professional wrestling memory involved Piper, and as a youngster, it was one of the most shocking pure T.V. moments that I had ever seen up to that point. That moment was the first YouTube video that I sat down and watched with my kids when I found out that the "Hot Rod," "Rowdy" Roddy Piper had passed away at the age of 61, of cardiac arrest, yet another wrestling legend gone way too soon.

But that "incident" was so special, and with one smack of a coconut, a career was made. While Roddy Piper's wrestling career after his initial WWF run was series of short-term returns (mostly connected to Wrestlemania), he was a revolutionary and controversial performer every step of the way.

What a story he told.

The Coconut Incident

Piper, born Roderick George "Roddy" Toombs, had several career-defining moments over the years that would have been the pinnacle for any one wrestler's career, but there was nothing more quintessential in the both Piper's career and for professional wrestling overall than what Piper did with a coconut back in 1984.

I have to preface this story by mentioning that most people thought wrestling was a "real" sport back in the early 1980s. There were questions for sure, but the curtain hadn't yet been drawn back to open up the world of Sports' Entertainment. Perhaps the best example of how "real" people thought wrestling was back then was when the news program 20/20 found the need to run a show on whether or not wrestling was real in December of 1984. This was almost a year after Piper joined the WWF, and six months after the Piper/Jimmy Snuka "Coconut Incident" took place.

In that episode, 20/20 investigative reporter John Stossel was interviewing wrestler "Dr. D" David Shultz, and when Stossel told Shultz he thought it was fake, Shultz delivered two open-handed slaps to each side of Stossel's head, knocking him down both times. At the time, the WWE (WWF at the time) was in the midst of building the Rock 'N' Wrestling Connection between Cyndi Lauper and Lou Albano, which both Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper found themselves squarely in the middle of, but I'm getting way ahead of myself. The point here is that while professional wrestling has become a sort of sub-culture in today's pop culture-laden world, back then, it was much more prominent, and taken a lot more seriously.

Ask John Stossel.

I know what you're thinking, "Why are we talking about how 'real' wrestling was in a requiem to the life and times of Roddy Piper?" Because Roddy Piper was as real as it got.

The "coconut incident" that took place between Piper and Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka was during one of Piper's fantastic segments, "Piper's Pit," a pseudo-interview show that was years ahead of its time when the WWF introduced it back in 1984. Piper had recently been introduced to the World Wrestling Federation in January of 1984 after a historic run in the National Wrestling Alliance and both Mid-Atlantic and Georgia Championship Wrestling as one of their most popular wrestlers, and had begun a slow-burn as a heel in his early run with Vince McMahon's growing WWF.

Piper had worked mostly as a fan favorite in the NWA, and in late 1983, had wrestled in a series of brutal matches with U.S. Champion Greg "The Hammer" Valentine that culminated on T.V. in a dog collar match at the very first Starrcade on Thanksgiving Night. I'd seen Piper prior to this, but will never forget that match on one of the first true mega-card productions, and a predecessor to Wrestlemania. Piper supposedly ruptured his ear drum during that match, and judging from the blood that was spilt, I'd absolutely believe it. But I suspect it could have happened during any one of the house shows in December, while Piper finished out the last month of his Crockett Promotions contract. You have to wonder if Valentine and Piper didn't need blood transfusions on a nightly basis.

Piper began his WWF run as a heel manager, as it was rumored that he was still recuperating from the matches with Valentine. I don't 100% buy that explanation, as Piper made two appearances as a wrestler for Maple Leaf Wrestling on January 8th and January 22nd in 1984. Toronto's Maple Leaf Wrestling had been a part of Jim Crockett Promotions, but was transferring over to the WWE at the time, Neither matches connected in any way to the storylines being built during his early WWF run as a manager. If we're to be fair, Piper had some cuts on his face that were heeling up during his first month in his new promotion, so it could have been legit. Knowing Vincent K. McMahon, it equally could have been a choice he made after hearing the Piper could talk.

And boy could Piper talk.

Piper managed the trio of "Dr. D" David Shultz, "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff and Big John Studd, who were all given priority spots at both house and television shows. Piper, Shultz, "Mean" Gene Okerlund and Hulk Hogan all debuted on the same show in Allentown on January 3, 1984, cycling in a new era for the WWF, and pro wrestling in general. The WWF was expanding under the leadership the junior McMahon, who had bought the company from his father, Vincent J. McMahon in 1982.

The younger McMahon was in the process of "nationalizing" his product, hiring wrestlers from across the globe as a part of expansion plans. Piper was essentially a new hand in the WWF, other than one infamous appearance in Madison Square Garden in 1979, that went over like a brick in water after Freddie Blassie had stuffed his bagpipes with paper so that he couldn't play them once he walked into the ring. Piper's biggest foil over the years, Hulk Hogan, had been a part of the WWF prior, and was making his return as well, as the top good guy. In his prior runs, he'd been a heel.

Piper was talented, but making a name for himself was a lot more difficult in the WWF than it had been in the smaller, local territories of the N.W.A. This was likely magnified by the simple fact that he wasn't wrestling. At 29, after already putting 14 years into the business, Piper was a manager, and at the time, the WWF was chalk full of some of the best managers in the history of the business. But like I said, Piper could talk. In his first WWF promo with Dr. D, you could see the anarchy that was about to take place. He'd conquered every territory he'd ever been in, and right off the bat, you could see why.

It didn't take long for the WWF to utilize Piper's talents. On a January 24th show, a mere three weeks after he had joined the company, Piper was a guest on "Victory Corner." This was a segment hosted by the Editor of Victory Magazine, Robert Debord. The show was originally called "Roger's Corner," and was hosted by Pro Wrestling legend Buddy Rogers, before he had retired from wrestling earlier in 1983. Debord certainly wasn't Buddy Rogers. In fact, Debord had the charisma of a stale piece of bread. It's not his fault, mind you, he'd been thrown into the job simply because he was the editor of the magazine that the WWF produced.

On that January 24th show, it was announced that "Victory Magazine" was changing over to the WWF Magazine, and that there would be a new column and show taking over for Debord's "Victory Corner." That announcement was a game changer. The column and show were both called "Piper's Pit."

"When RP talks brother, people listen. That's all I got to say." 
We're so glad that wasn't true, because he had a lot more to say. It was pure magic, from day one, and he was just getting started.

The same night in which Piper debuted his new show, he debuted in the ring as well, tagging with Shultz to beat a couple of jobbers with his sleeper hold. Piper was a three-headed beast. Not only was he wrestling and managing, but he had a microphone in his hand whenever the WWF was taping for T.V. spots. For a talker like Piper, this was a dream come true, and he never missed a beat.

The WWF certainly knew what they had in Piper, and they were giving him the ball to run with it.

Enter Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, who at the time, was one of the biggest fan favorites in the company, if not the biggest. While Hogan had recently won the WWF title earlier in 1984, Snuka's 'I Love You' "Superfly" Splash off the top rope was the most famous move in the business, and at the time, made Snuka one of the rare "hi-flyers."

In 1983, Snuka had infamously leaped off the top of a 15-foot steel cage in Madison Square Garden onto Don Muraco, cementing his place at the top of the WWF food chain. Snuka's fantastic feuds with his former manager "Captain" Lou Albana and Muraco, the Intercontinental champion at the time, had placed the Fijian as the face of the company, even without the WWF title. Snuka was named Wrestler of the Year in 1983, and there's no doubt that McMahon saw a gold-mine if he could find the right foe. Snuka and Piper were on a bee-line for each other.

Snuka appeared on Piper's Pit twice (The first segment was actually filmed twice on two different occasions, although I'm unsure when they were filmed, as there is footage for that Pit online). His first, less famous appearance set up his second, more infamous showdown with the bag-piper from Glasgow, Scotland. Piper's rant during Snuka-1 shredded the the people of the Fiji Islands in what can only be described as a bigoted rant. No, Piper wasn't a bigot, but his character sure was, and in the early 1980's, you could find this in many of the movies of the time (seriously, check out the Bad New Bears or Smokey and the Bandit, as two examples). This impromptu promo showcased what made Piper so special. Like Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes, Piper was dazzling on the microphone, and certainly thought went into each promo, but his ad-lib ability always took over. His building rage had a rhythm and purpose that was one of a kind.

Snuka's first pit appearance was filmed the same time Piper began wrestling as a single's wrestler, in March of 1984. His first two singles matches were nothing special, other than to note that Piper was now really gaining steam and taking his next step in his journey to the top of ranks in this talented promotion. Piper's Pit was a must see show, and Bob Orton Jr. joined his stable of wrestling, giving him four wrestlers that were all contenders for Hogan's WWF Championship. Later that month in St. Louis, Studd beat Hogan via count-out while Hogan was going after Piper outside the ring. It was the first time the two stars faced off against each other in any WWF capacity. It obviously wouldn't be the last.

With Piper finally in the ring as a competitor himself, Piper's Pit began to take a bit of a turn towards the physical side. Wrestler Frankie Williams guested in an episode that aired in early April with Piper attacked him, asserted himself as even more of a wildcard in the business. It was also during this stretch in which the second Piper's Pit was filmed with Snuka. It was clear that the WWF realized they had something on their hands when they saw this footage, and tabled the video until they could put something together, or even figure it out.

Remember, this was an era in which news didn't travel like it was today. The only source of reliable information were hand-written newsletters and monthly magazines, so there was no worry of any sort of leak of information to the general public. In other words, they had time on their hands.

The WWF initially only aired the spot in St. Louis because they were promoting two matches between Snuka and Piper at the beginning and end of May. In the meantime, Piper had also gotten into a brawl with the Rock's dad, Rocky Johnson, on a Pit after calling him "boy," and telling him he should be shining people's shoes. Piper's more immediate feud with Johnson took precedence because they already had a series of singles matches scheduled for house shows during the month of June. Piper's heat kept building, and seemingly on two fronts. On one side, he was creating one-on-one opponents by attacking them on the Pit. On another, he seemed to be the middle man of another angle that was playing out between Captain Lou Albano and Cyndi Lauper.

Don't worry, we'll get there.

To get back on point though, Piper was a one-of-a-kind heel, and I absolutely hated him. Everybody hated him at the time, especially after his Piper's Pit appearances with Snuka.

Here's Snuka's first appearance, which sparked a massive feud with Snuka that lasted until the "Superfly" left the WWE after Wrestlemania.

It was a brilliant heel promo by Piper, but it couldn't touch what was to come next between these two wrestlers.

Now, Snuka was never special on the mic. As Piper always said, "Jimmy didn't have to say nothin'. He just looked like he could beat you up." When he first came to the WWE from the Pacific Northwest and Mid-Atlantic (where Piper got his feet wet years earlier), Snuka was miscast as a heel in Lou Albano's stable. Part of that move was because of his similarities to Afa and Sika, the Wild Samoans, who Albano also managed. Mostly though, it was because he just couldn't talk. Still, his simplicity in that first promo worked so well against the complexity of Piper's ranting. Piper was like a gnat in Snuka's ear, and while it was clear that Superfly was annoyed, he refused to attack.

In wrestling, the most brilliant programs and segments are always the ones in which both talents are made the better for it. In Snuka-2, Piper single-handedly made himself, quite literally, the biggest bad-guy in the world, while in that same moment, Snuka's fan-favorite following grew to a fever pitch.

Here's the second, and perhaps most influential and remembered promo in the history of wrestling:

Like anything in wrestling, the true story of this promo is fairly murky. In multiple interviews with both Piper and Snuka, the tale of who knew what varies from person-to-person, and story-to-story. In Piper's book, "In the Pit with Piper," Piper said that the idea came from Chief Jay Strongbow, who was working on promos that day. They somehow got onto the topic of coconuts, and the suggestion to use one on the Polynesian Snuka came up. Strongbow sent someone to the store for pineapples, bananas and coconuts for the segment, and off they went. Snuka knew very little, got knocked out after the coconut exploded of the side of his temple, and was really never the same after.

In Snuka's book "Superfly," written ten years later, Piper had changed his tune in the forward he had written for his good friend. He said that he had, in fact, purchased all the fruit for the segment because Snuka didn't talk. He needed something to fill in the time, and figured props just might help. Piper said that Snuka knew that he was going to pop him before-hand, and did it, even though he didn't want to.

I've watched the video at least 100 times, and you can go both ways with it if you look at it enough. Was it real? Was it fake? Hell, Piper himself said both. So did Snuka, as a matter of fact. In December, before the publishing of his book, Snuka reportedly said that he didn't know what was going to happen. In an interview in January after his book was released, he said the exact opposite, that he had sat down with Piper and planned it "for hours."

What it was, in the end, was the true beginning of a wrestling boom that lasted for years in the WWF. While Hogan was busy running wild at the BIG events, Piper was playing every role he could get his hands on everywhere else, becoming the most recognizable week-to-week personality, both inside and outside the squared circle. People absolutely loathed him, passionately, and with Hogan's "The Real American" personality taking off, Piper proved to be the perfect foil.

It's hard not to mention "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, who passed away this past June, in the same breath with "Hot Rod." Both were unconventional in their look, and in the way that they became "stars" in this business. When you think of "The American Dream," you think of him standing in front of that camera, talking with that lisp, bringing whatever crowd was in front of him into a crescendo. 'The Dream' had a cadence and a performers quality that couldn't be duplicated. He had his own voice, his own background, and his own depth.

It was special.

Piper was the same in many ways. "Hot Rod" added another dimension to professional wrestling that truly hasn't been matched on any front since his debut. After the coconut, fans didn't know what to expect. On the microphone, while Dusty dealt in rhythm, Piper delivered anarchy. He often started slow, before driving to his point home with an uncontrollable fury, often ending sentences with small grunts and breaths to let you know he was going to fill in every silence with sound, to keep whoever he was talking to, or talking with, from stealing the stage from him.

Like Rhodes, Piper was a visionary, and they broke the mold with both.

"I was Rowdy, before Rowdy was cool"--Building the Foundation of the "Hot Rod"

Piper's life was a tough one. He had left home when he was 13, and according to Piper himself, he just never went back. Even in recent interviews, you could see the lost soul in his eyes. With Piper, his eyes often added depth to any story, and that wasn't a work. What's most interesting, and perhaps ironic to those of you that loved his heel side, is what Piper said he learned from leaving home.
"I learned how to have compassion, and not to be so judgmental." 
Somewhere along the way, he learned how to play the bagpipes, and while he doesn't remember where he learned them, he just "always knew how to play the pipes." While he was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and grew up on Winnipeg, Manitoba, he was mostly Scottish, which likely accounts for the pipes that Piper played at many wrestling events over the years, but especially in his early years.

His first match was against a storied wrestler, Larry "the Axe" Hennig, the father of 'Mr. Perfect,' Curt Hennig (and grandfather to Curtis Axel), and the fifteen-year-old lost in 10 seconds or so. After that match, Piper was asked to head down to Kansas City, and Piper said he'd be glad to, "as long as Hennig wasn't going too."

He really began learning and honing his craft on the West Coast, working for Gene and Mike LeBell's NWA Hollywood. It was hear that Piper brought out his true heel persona, in a feud with the famous Guerrero family. Piper was told that he could say anything he wanted, and that he did. Piper was relentless in his not-so-kind description of the Latino community, and there wasn't a wrestler more hated in any of the western territories.

In 1977, Piper receiving his second straight "most hated wrestler" award, with a special treat for the mostly Latino crowd when he smashed Chavo Guerrero's "Wrestler of the Year" award.

He also ventured up to the Pacific Northwest for a year, where he really honed his craft under the tutelage of promoter Don Owens, with whom Piper respected more than just about anyone else. It was during this time period that Piper had gotten his chance in New York with the WWF, and when it didn't work out, he headed down the Atlantic coast.

When Piper entered the Mid-Atlantic wrestling in the late-70's, Ric Flair took notice.
"He brought a breath of fresh life," said the Nature Boy. "He walked into Charlotte and just took over...he helped put me on the map."
Piper was multi-dimensional in every territory he went to, and this was no exception, working as both a wrestler and a commentary at one point or another. His initial feuds with Flair were exceptional, as you might expect from two guys that could talk as good as they could, and were climbing into their prime. This promo was absolutely special, with Piper working the heel to Flair's face. The fact that both Piper and Flair may rank 1 and 1a as heels in the history of professional wrestling can't be lost here.

How good was Piper? He made Flair a face. Ponder this for a moment. In 1981, when Piper filmed this promo, he was 26-years old. He had already dominated the West Coast as their top heel for three years, did the same as a face in the Pacific Northwest for a year, and was now working with the Nature Boy Ric Flair.

And the best part of it all is Piper giving up the Mid-Atlantic Championship belt because it wasn't as good as the U.S. Title belt he was wearing. Then Flair following with the illegal object that Piper used in the ring.

Talk about building careers.

But when Piper turned face, it didn't get any better.

The first clip is pretty amazing. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine is facing off against a young Mike Rotunda (the father of both Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas). Valentine begins pounding on Rotunda's ear, in practice for his matches with Roddy Piper, who had a 'bad ear' at the time, as I mentioned earlier in this piece. This was the day when wrestlers actually picked body parts, and went after them, in an era that's long passed. Of course, if you're a fan favorite, you can't let this slide.

Piper and Flair make the save starting at the 1:45 mark, and I promise you, you don't want to miss this blazing promo at the end.

How many times have you seen anyone cut a promo that good, and take away time from the Flair? That was who Roddy Piper was. He didn't care who was in front of him, either as an opponent, or as a friend. When he was on camera, it was his show, and Piper was doing it with the best in the world, and stealing the show.

The Endless Summer indeed, if only that were true. Piper left us too soon...way too soon.

This was the preliminary run for Piper and Flair, heading towards Starrcade, and Piper's last hurrah for Mid-Atlantic before making that initial WWF run with Jimmy Snuka. Piper was done building his character. He knew who he was, what he could do, and who he could do it with.

While I wouldn't call him technical in the ring, he got the job done, and there may not have been anyone in the business at the time that could lay it all on the line the way he could. You might even be able to say that there was a time in the late 70's through the mid-80's that Roddy Piper understood the business better than anyone else.

It didn't matter if he was a heel or a face, he knew how to draw, and bookers were putting him with the best wrestlers in the game. That didn't stop in the Mid-Atlantic.

The Rock "N" Wrestling Connection and Hulk Hogan feud, let it begin

It's funny how great storylines begin, really. While I don't have any behind-the-scenes clout, I would love to have been a fly on the wall in Vince McMahon's offices back in 1984. He had brought in his "white-meat" babyface in Hulk Hogan, and had a whole list of "name" value to become top heels.

I'm not sure what he thought Roddy Piper was going to be when he hired him.

It's distinctly possible that McMahon thought that Piper was going to be the top heel from the start. As I mentioned before, back then, you could never tell if wrestlers were faking, or truthful. Take Piper's ear. I have no doubt that he lost his hearing, but if you're to believe Piper, it happened the night of Starrcade.

In the video above, you could see Valentine going after the ear of Mike Rotunda long before Starrcade. After the first edition of the NWA supercard, Valentine and Piper wrestled nightly for the rest of the month.

When Piper entered the WWF as a manager, he was banged up, and you could see the cuts on his face, but it's hard to say if it was a chance for Piper to heal up, or if it was just an angle that Vince could use to make him a manager. Whatever happened, Piper took the ball and ran with it about as hard as you could.

Piper's Pit.

Manager of four of the top heels in the promotion.

Top wrestler.

So how did Piper end up in this Rock 'N' Wrestling deal anyways? Was it on purpose? Was it by accident? Who knows. With Piper feuding with Rocky Johnson at the beginning of the summer, and moving into the Snuka feud, which lasted from July through the end of the year in one form or another (The Tonga Kid, billed as Snuka's cousin, when in reality, he is the twin brother to Rikishi, and the older brother of Umaga, nephew to Afa and Sika, the Wild Samoans, and a cousin to Roman Reigns, among a ton of others, took over for Snuka for a bit, then wrestled in several tag matches against Piper and Orndorff, Orton or Shultz), it would have been easy to say Piper may have been the busiest wrestler in the WWF already.

In the meantime, McMahon was using Piper's Pit to have a still heel Lou Albano work an angle with Cyndi Lauper. In this angle, Albano took credit for Lauper's success. Piper certainly wasn't just a bystander, but it really wasn't his angle...yet.

Thing about everything that Piper was involved with. Did McMahon really have Piper already booked in what was to come the following year with Hogan, or was he just using the Pit like a legit interview session?

Here's the first promo...

A couple of weeks later, Albano returned to Piper's Pit, sharing newspaper articles and magazines showcasing Lauper's rise to fame, and taking credit.

Piper: "Did you make her sexy?"

Albano: "Yes, I made her sexy."

Then, the following week, Lauper's manager, David Wolff, sent a letter threatening legal action, and Albano continued promising a Lauper appearance.

Albano still didn't deliver, but you have to appreciate Roddy Piper's outfield. "You tell me that RP can't be cool..."

And you have to love it when Piper calls Captain Lou, "Albino." Piper was pissed here, and turned it onto Wolff. "Nobody cries Wolf on Roddy Piper!"

Enter Dave Wolff.

Wolff was brought in simply because Lauper couldn't come in every week, and he played a big role in weeks and months to come. The next Piper's Pit showcased Piper nailing Snuka with the coconut, and the fact that it was coinciding with a Cyndi Lauper appearance certainly wasn't an accident.

For us kids of the 80's, MTV was at it's height in 1984, back when it was actually Music Television, with videos on all day long. Lauper's video's were highlighted often back then, and in 1984, she was at the peak of her powers as a performer that could draw. Every one of her videos back then included a wrestler, including Piper in the old Goonie video.

While I'm not sure she seems like a big deal now, then it was HUGE.

Here comes Lauper.

Piper: "We are both #1 at what we do."

Lauper: "I love Lou, but he's not my manger."

Albano: "Tell them how I wrote the words for Time after Time."

Here's where things really get fun.

The following week, Piper headed off to Lauper's recording studio to get an apology, and we get a fantastic look at Albano with chips all over his stomach, but Piper is, well, being Piper.

"You would not even believe what this ungrateful wench said."

Lauper sets the challenge for what ultimately turned into the first MTV special, "The Brawl to End it All," and it essentially ended Piper's affiliation with this match-up, as he entered his summer feud with Snuka.

Lauper ultimately chose Wendi Richter as her challenger, while Lou Albano selected The Fabulous Moolah as his. Moolah had "held" the WWF Women's championship for several years prior to this, and what's memorable about this match-up to me was three fold. It was going to be live on MTV, and live matches of any magnitude were never shown on free TV, it was at Madison Square Garden, the mecca, and a Woman's match was going to be the main event.

Oh, Piper still cut promos, and we were all the better for it. What a tie-in to the Richter/Moolah/Lauper/Albano storylines, and of course, the letter from Jimmy Snuka's kid. Brilliant.

Richter went on to win the belt from Moolah in a big storyline, and the "Rock 'N' Wrestling connection" seemed to be over, especially for Piper, who didn't even have a match on that card.

Boy was I wrong.

Piper was full bore as a single's wrestler at this point, and while he still showed up on occasion in the corner of his former stable, his manager days seemed a thing of the past. Now Piper had graduated to the big-time. He had faced off against Intercontinental champion Tito Santana after his feud with Snuka slowed down, then faced off with Andre the Giant in several house shows, which was a good sign that things were picking up for the Canadian Scottsman. Still, the Snuka storyline played on in the background. In a Piper's Pit with the Dynamite Kid, Piper received a letter from a Snuka relative saying he wanted to be on the show.

Perhaps my favorite Piper's pit, as 1984 headed towards 1985 was with Greg Valentine, who had joined Piper in the WWF. Valentine's manager at the time? You guessed it, Captain Lou Albano. This was the first promo with Valentine and Piper since their Dog Collar run in Mid-Atlantic.

In October, Piper took the next step in reaching the pinnacle of the sport. In the Boston Garden, on October 6, 1984, Piper faced off against the WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan, and beat him via count-out, beginning a rivalry that really never culminated. They wrestled again several times that year, setting up their major feud in 1985.

In November, Piper introduced Bob Orton Jr. as his bodyguard, Ace, then proceeded to beat the hell out of Marino.

This is when things started to shift, and the "Rock 'N' Roll Connection began to take center stage once again. Piper once again brought in Lou Albano, but this was a completely different interview than the several in the past. Albano is still in heel mode, but you can see Piper taking all the credit. On top of that, Piper didn't let Albano get a word in edge-wise.

"I'm Roddy Piper, and you're not...Lauper."

This is where two stories began to develop, once again, which would be a trend with Piper's Pit going forward. Albano began to turn face, and in an interview a week after this with Vince McMahon, Piper ranted and raved about Lauper not deserving any sort of WWF award, while Albano began changing his tune. In the Pit, a storyline began to develop with Piper and "Big Jim," who later became "Hillbilly Jim." Piper offered to be his manager. Jim backed off, and in a Piper's Pit with Gama Singh, Hillbilly Jim showed up to announce that he was going to be trained by Hulk Hogan, who then walked out and addressed Piper in public. And here we go.

At the end of the year, Dick Clark presented Cyndi Lauper with a WWE award at the Madison Square Garden. Albano was there in full face mode at this point, as was David Wolff, Hulk Hogan and Wendy Richter. Enter Piper, now peaking.

Piper kicked Cyndi Lauper (with approval) and power slammed David Wolff, and in that one instant, Piper not only was cemented as WWF's top heel, but was hated across the country, in several circles.

This match culminated in a second MTV special, "War to Sette the Score," which was another full Madison Square Garden card. Only this time, the Main Event match was a World Heavyweight Championship match between Hulk Hogan and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. Once again, only the main event was shown, which was unfortunate, because it was a really good card. Wendi Richter lost her belt to Leilani Kai, who was trained by Moolah, but the Hogan/Piper match set up the next two Wrestlemanias.

It absolutely had a big-game feel to it, other than the idiot, Alan Hunter, from MTV, announcing. Now imagine this though. Piper was coming into this match after kicking a woman. Much of Piper's shtick as a heel is absolutely taboo today.

As we moved into 1985, and headed towards that match, Piper continued his on-fire house show feud with Jimmy Snuka, and was tearing up arenas. Then came an on-site Piper's Pit with Mr. T. It was filmed about a month before the War to Settle the Score took place, but was aired a couple of days before the February 18th live match took place.

My goodness, watch Piper in this promo. "I am an equal opportunitist..."

Here's War to Settle the Score in its entirety.

What impressed me the most about Piper is that he was a cool heel back then, but fans absolutely hated him, and for good reason. You'll see a lot of people writing about people cheering Piper back then, and that's simply not true. HE. WAS. HATED. That said, Piper was no weak heel. He played that at times in his interviews, but for the most part, Piper was a gung-ho wrestler. He rarely played afraid, and you can see it in just about every match that he ever took part in. Piper went right after his competitors, which was rare. He was the aggressor in the Hogan match, and methodical.

But pay attention to the buzz in that arena. Piper had created every second of it. This isn't a knock on Hogan. His name, at the time, was huge in wrestling. Thing is, you can't be a face without a massive heel, and I honestly believe that Piper, at the moment this match took place, may have been at the pinnacle of his profession.

Madison Square Garden was insane at the end of the match, and with the first Wrestlemania looming in a month, that match ended with the main event set to go. The Hollywood duo of Mr. T and Hulk Hogan faced off against the hot heels in Roddy Piper and "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff. Seems odd to have a tag team match as a main event, without the World Title on the line, but you could see from that MTV match that this was going to be big.

Oh, and remember that 20/20 segment I mentioned in which David Shultz had popped John Stossel? The War to Settle the Score aired on a Monday, and that segment aired that Thursday. Wrestling was absolutely the hottest ticket on the planet at the time, and it seemed that Piper was becoming the flag-bearer of a hate movement, and he couldn't have been a better choice.


Perhaps Piper was brought to the WWF for Wrestlemania. If you've read this far, you are a true wrestling fan, and realize that Vince McMahon had bet the company on this Wrestlemania. He shrewdly tied his product into MTV, and it was successful. He brought in a babyface that everyone loved, from Rocky 3, and then placed Mr. T, also from Rocky 3, but most recently, from the A-Team in as well. It was pretty well thought out. He had brought in a series of bad guys, and it's possible that David Shultz was set to be that guy. 

On the flip side, Piper had built himself into one of the most hated men in professional wrestling in just over a year. That' couldn't have been an accident.

The build-up to Wrestlemania may have been better than the main event itself.

Then came the live Piper's Pit at Madison Square Garden with all of the participants of the Wrestlemania Main Event in the ring. I was a Mr. T fan back then from A-Team, but it's clear from this promo that he didn't have a chance against Piper in the microphone.

Piper hated Mr. T, and it wasn't fake. Mr. T was an outsider, and Piper didn't want him in the match. but being the true professional that he is, Piper really helped put him over leading up to that first Mania. This live Piper's Pit was downright special.

Oh, and Father T. Watch Piper while Orndorff is talking.

Hogan and T won at Wrestlemania 1 in a not-so-great-match, which was too bad. It would have been fun to see Piper and Hogan go at it in a long-form title match at an event that would have given it justice.

Unfortunately, it didn't happen. McMahon was playing it safe, with Hollywood stars. It's hard to judge a man now that we're about to head into Wrestlemania 32 season.

The post Wrestlemania fall-out saw Orndorff turn face directly after Wrestlemania, in the first ever Saturday Night's Main Event. Orton had clocked Orndorff by accident, allowing Hogan to pin Mr. Wonderful. At SNME, Piper and Orton clobbered Orndorff, and the face turn was on for Orndorff.

Hogan and Piper continued their feud at some house shows. Piper's feud with Snuka continued as well, and other than a few matches, these were Piper's most prominent opponents, and Orndorff joined the fray as well, as the summer kicked into gear.

Piper's Pit continued in full bore that year, with Piper still shining. The Macho Man Randy Savage joined the WWF earlier that year, and one of the big 1985 story lines was his free agency. Macho Man announced Miss Elizabeth as his manager on the pit.

Later that month, Piper did a Pit with the great Bruno Sammartino, that ended pretty typically.

This led to a series of matches between the two during the second half of the year, which had to be a thrill for the Rowdy one, and really speaks to his prominence as a heel. It had to be frustrating for Piper not to have a legit shot at the Heavyweight title. His brilliance drawing heat hurt him, because he was just a good a draw without the belt, as he was with it.

Would have been nice to see him nab it once though.

In 1986, the run to Wrestlemania was on, and Piper and Orton began a boxing angle with Bob Orton. Boxing Bob Orton began offering an open contract, which led to a match between Orton and Mr. T on Saturday Night's Main Event. Hogan made an appearance on Piper's Pit to sign the contract. Piper had to really be pissed.

Which led to a boxing match in a wrestling match. Oh joy, but Piper's working hard on the outside of the ring, before ultimately entering it.

Instead of a Main Event run, Piper was relegated to bringing Mr. T into the fold, but he did everything he could to make something out of this.

There's really no point to actually showing this match, because it was a dud. Let Piper tell the story of their heat.

The Flower Shop

In early 1986, Adrian Adonis had turned over a new leaf on Piper's Pit, giving up his trademark leather jacket for his new persona, as "Adorable" Adrian Adonis. It was sorta scary, and little did we know, things were going to come full circle, and this led to a face turn for the WWF's biggest heel. Was it the right move? Who knows, but Piper sure got over quick.

After Wrestlemania, Piper took a much needed leave of absence, that became a trend from this point on. He had a couple of matches in between Mania and his first appearance on Adonis's Flower Shop, but nothing of consequence. It was clear when Hot Rod returned here, that things weren't quite the same. My goodness, Adonis was so good, and he was joined by his new partner, a pink-hatted "Acey."

Piper came out the next week and wrestled the great jobber, A.J. Petrucci with one-armed tied behind his back. In one week, Piper had become a fan favorite already, without doing a thing. Part of that has to goto Adonis, who was hated, as well as Vince McMahon, who really worked to get him over. But it was after the match when things got fun.

Which led to the return of Piper's Pit, with announcer Ken Resnick, but really, who didn't see an interruption coming.

Which led to Piper's Pit vs. the Flower Shop.

and Piper's retaliation.

The rest of the year saw Piper feuding with Moroco and Orton, while Adonis was out from October until December. He returned in Piper's last 1986 appearance with the company, which set up yet another run to Wrestlemania.

Again, following the prior trend, the WWF used Piper's Pit to set up another massive feud. This one was Hogan vs. Andre, and we got to see Piper play the middle man once again for a Main Event match, only this one was for Wrestlemania 3. Piper ushered in Andre the Giant's heel run, while he was also building his own name as a face in a completely different angle. It's stuff you just don't see today.

In the meantime, Piper had begun his house show feud with Adrian Adonis, leading to his own match at Mania. It turns out that Piper's match was a retirement match, and we'd later find out that it was a hair-vs-hair match as well. Piper needed time off, but also had his eye on Hollywood. I'm not sure anyone believed he would be gone for long, but he likely left longer than people thought he would.

Piper went on to win that match with the help of Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake," and true-to-his-word, disappeared as a full-time wrestler. Oh, he'd be back for several other runs that were special, but he was never again at the pinnacle of his run in the WWF from 1984-1987.

"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass--and I'm all out of bubblegum." Piper stars in "They Live"

Piper left the WWF for Hollywood, and starred in John Carpenter's "They Live," which has been a cult favorite for wrestling fans for years. What many didn't know is that Carpenter had been a wrestling fan for years. They met up after Wrestlemania 3 with a little help from Piper's manager. Who was his manager?

David Wolff.

Everything comes full circle.

Piper wasn't ever going to win an Oscar, but he did a great job in the cult classic. I only mention the movie here because I was such a mark for it. I had hated Piper during his run as a heel. It wasn't because I had any affinity for any of the folks on the other side of the ring, but he was that big of a heel. When he turned face, there wasn't a wrestler I bought into more.

The real Mr. Wrestlemania (sorry Shawn)

I know that Shawn Michaels is the real Wrestlemania, but Piper sure could make a case that his specialty was the once-a-year wrestling spectacle. Piper missed Wrestlemani 4, but came back for 5 in a segment with the blowhard, smoking talk-show host, Morton Downey Jr., which really wasn't much to speak of.

While Chris Jericho is known for his part-time appearances, Piper made them famous long before Jericho even became a household name. he came back again at the start of Wrestlemania season the following year, and had a small feud with Rick Rude prior to the Royal Rumble. He ultimately feuded with Bad News Brown, and this match was likely a bigger deal to Piper than it was for most, since it was in Canada. What a pop Piper got in his home country. The match is mostly famous for Piper's questionable half-black, half-white paint job, and I'm not sure that his explanation is all that great, either.
Nelson Mandela at that time had said something that really stuck with me.
"Nelson Mandela was put in jail for 20-some years for political crimes. Every morning, he was the first man when the guard came to extend his hand to the guard. What a hell of a man. At the same time, Cindy Lauper had 'True Colors' out. In my mind, what I was trying to do -- there is no difference. I needed material on Bad News Brown. I did something where I sang 'True Colors' and I did a thing about Nelson Mandela. But, they don't seem to remember that. [Laughs.] The thing I didn't do so well was when I came down, I pretended to be Michael Jackson. I don't quite dance like Michael does, I guess.But the reason I painted myself half Black was more the meshing. I did the Nelson Mandela, I did the 'True Colors'. Bad News Brown didn't take it that way. So, I'm glad you asked me."
Piper returned in 1991 in a bit more of a full-time basis, first feuding with Curt Hennig, the IC title holder, at house shows. Piper was also doing some commentating, but ultimately, was in the corner of Virgil, in a feud with Ted Dibiase. While Piper worked most of the rest of the year on house shows, his main job was as a commentator next to Vince McMahon. When Flair joined the WWF for the first time, they began an on-air feud for the first time in almost ten years, and Piper also found himself wrestling the Undertaker during several house shows.

Piper continued to wrestle through 1992, and had one of his biggest moments, beating "The Mountie" for his first (and only) Intercontinental Title run. It was long overdue.

If you don't think Piper was over, watch the crowd react to his title win. Pretty spectacular. It actually began an interesting house show run featuring Piper and Flair in title vs. title matches that usually always ended up in disqualifications. As Piper headed towards Wrestlemania, it was announced that he would be facing off against Bret "the Hit Man' Hart. Both were fan favorites at the time, but you tell me who got the bigger pop here?

What a run this was for Piper, who had to be loving life. He faced off against Shawn Michaels and Sensational Sherri on his way to Wrestlemania, and may have had some of his best matches of his career during this stretch. His match with Michaels wasn't a match of the year candidate, but what a story it told. Michaels was just starting his climb to the top, and Piper, still only 38, knew his role in the company. In what reminded me of his classic matches against Flair, Piper and HBK put on a solid ten minute match that had the crowd eating out of their hands. It was good to see Piper with fresh blood.

This may have been Piper's best WWF match.

Piper disappeared off of WWF TV until Wrestlemania 10 in 1994, when he was a special guest during Hart's World Championship match against Yokozuna. He went on to wrestle Jerry Lawler during the King of the Ring match, pinning the King in his only match of the year.

Piper disappeared once again because he needed to have hip replacement surgery. It was a surgery that he knew he'd have to have, but didn't need until the match with the "Hitman" after Wrestlemania 8. If you watch the full match, Piper throws Hart against the rope, lifts his leg, and Hart catches him full on. It wasn't a mistake or anything like that, but when you've had literally thousands of wrestling matches in your life, these things tend to come up.

Piper showed up on crutches in 1995 for an interview with Shawn Michaels in which Piper was still on crutches following his surgery, but like clockwork, at Wrestlemania 11, there was Piper, as the special guest referee in the Bret Hart, Bob Backlund I Quit match, in which Hart won once again.

Piper again disappeared until 1996, when he showed up as acting WWF President, in place of Gorilla Monsoon. Piper occasionally wrestled at house shows during this time period, but nothing too strenuous. He had some matches against the 1-2-3 kid, but the story of Piper's year was his match at Wrestlemania. Goldust, the Intercontinental Champion at the time batted in a Backlot Brawl match at Wrestlemania 12. What a match this was. It was clearly pre-recorded, but there were so many special moments, including Piper quite literally getting hit by a car.

While the match was as gimmicky as you could get, seeing Piper against new blood again was special. The one thing Piper always was, was a man's man. There wasn't a better foe for "Hot Rod" then Goldust. It actually brought back some memories to his old feud ten years prior with Adorable Adrian Adonis, but Dustin Rhodes took it to the next level.

Just Brutal.


I really don't want to talk too much about WCW. I was actually a huge fan of the promotion for a variety of reasons, and while I did get to see some fun matches between a heel Hulk Hogan and a face Roddy Piper, there was just something different about what I was seeing. Piper beat Hogan in a non-title match at WCW Starrcade '96, which was thrilling to see, but of course, the belt wasn't on the line.

At the follow-up match at SuperBrawl, of course, Piper lost.

Piper fought alongside the four horseman in the battle against the NWO, and eventually went up against Ric Flair for a nice little nostalgia run, beating Piper at Bash at the Beach, before disappearing in July, reappearing in October, and beating Hogan in a Steel Cage match. Piper lasted on and off in WCW up through 2000 before being released, and while he showed up here and there on the Indy scene, was out of wrestling for three more years until his return home.

Back to the WWE

Piper returned for a brief run in the WWE in 2003, as he showed up at Wrestlemania 19 in a run in, clubbing both Hogan in the head with a lead pipe. Piper was a heel manager-ish character to Sean O'Haire during this brief run that was mostly known for a mysterious new character on the program.

I'm not going to lie. I was more ecstatic to see Piper going crazy than to see fake Hogan walking down the ramp. It wasn't a bad storyline for Smackdown, to say the least, and it gave Piper something new to do.

Piper left later in the year, once again, and this time joined TNA for about 18 months, but the real fun was when he returned to the WWE in 2005. If we're to be honest, Piper was forced out of the company because of his HBO interview in which Piper talked about wrestlers dying, and pointed his finger directly at Vince McMahon. Vince was also on the HBO special, and was clearly surprised by the comments. No, this wasn't new for Piper, and Vince likely knew it was a temporary thing, but there's no doubt that his leaving in 1993 was via a kick by Vince.

WWE Hall of Fame..."The most gifted professional wrestler in professional man...THE HOT ROD...."

Enough said...

In Memorium...

In between 2005 and 2015, Roddy Piper has been in and out of the WWE pretty continuously, and there were some pretty cool moments in between, but if I'm to be honest, they all sort of blend together. What it all comes down to for me is when those bag-pipes played, and Piper walked out, I popped. So did everybody else.

Like all veteran wrestlers, we tend to take for granted the time we have left with them. Roddy Piper was so damn special in that ring, and it turns out, out of that ring too.

In recent weeks, Piper's name has been in the press once again, and as it turns out, for controversial reasons. Over the past year, Piper had been a force in the Podcasting circuit, which as it turns out, is a big deal these days. Piper got his own podcast, and I remember thinking, "this could be trouble."

But it was a fun podcast, and honestly, listening to Piper tell stories with his friends from his past has been a fun window to see opened up. In a recent podcast though, Piper had Will Sasso imitate Stone Cold Steve Austin and prank called "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan. While Sasso imitated others throughout the entire episode, it really turned into a sort of quasi-Austin roast.

It was pure Piper.

Austin, in a very un-Austin-like move, called the powers-that-be at Podcast One, and had them pull Piper's episode a few hours after it broke. Past that, Piper ended up leaving Podcast One, before putting all of his podcasts back up on Soundcloud a few weeks later, including the Sasso episode.

I believe that his WWE Legend's contract was also rescinded, although I'm not 100% sure. I recently heard an interview with Ric Flair in which he talked about the WWE pulling the plug on his contract because Austin still has such pull. Flair admittedly said he wasn't sure, but you can put the pieces together.

I'm not going to lie, it pissed me off. I listened to the episode, and it was pretty clear that they were just having fun. Was it at the expense of Austin? I didn't see it that way. It's not like people listening didn't hear Sasso to begin with.

Controversy and Piper go hand-in-hand.

The day before Piper passed away, he was talking of another podcast, and I had seen the tweet, and looked forward to another few stories from Piper. When I found out he passed away, I couldn't help but be pissed off at Austin. It turns out there was another Piper's Pit, and it will be released in the next week or so, which will be his final Piper's Pit.

Ironic, since I've gotten used to Piper leaving for periods of time, before another grand entrance.

At the same time, Piper's biggest foe, Hulk Hogan, has been mired in his own "sex-tape" bruhaha, having used excessively racist comments regarding his daughter's music executive. Hogan was fired from the WWE faster than you could say Piper's Pit, joining his former foe in controversy, albeit a hell of a lot more serious than a podcast squabble.

In the midst of all this controversy was a man, that through the years, has been there and done it all, and done it all full throttle. He's made people literally want to kill him, hug him, and everything in between. He was an amazing talker, but everything he did was off-balanced and brilliant.

He walked differently and talked differently and did everything differently than anyone who stepped foot in that ring. He was generally smaller than his competitors, and didn't have the wrestling skills that many of his opponents had.

But he was almost always better.

He's had hip replacements and beaten cancer, and wrestled in every federation of consequence in his career.

He was almost always the wrestler that people were paying attention to, because there was nothing he wouldn't do to draw a crowd. And sure, the "Hot Rod," The "Rowdy" one, Roddy Piper was always in the middle of something, but life didn't have anything on Piper. Like he always said...

"I'm trying to find a place with peace. And if not, then lets fill it with mayhem...."

Rest in PEACE Rowdy Roddy Piper, but I suspect heaven just found a bit more mayhem...
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