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It is truly hard to believe that it has been 6 years since we suddenly lost Roddy. I figured now would be a good time to look back on some of the highlights of his career. There are so many guys that are called legends but there are so few true legends and Roddy was one of the truest ones. It has been well documented that Roddy didn’t have the best childhood and left home at a early age and had a strained relationship with his father. Roddy was homeless and lived on the streets. You would think that hard childhood would make Roddy be bitter and hate the world but based on everything I’ve heard about Roddy and from actually meeting him, he was so nice. Before becoming homeless, Roddy amateur wrestled and was golden glove boxer so needless to say Roddy knew how to take care of himself in a fight which he’d be in several in and out of the ring.
Every promotion that Roddy Piper performed in was in a much better place after he performed in that territory. Long before that though his first match involved wrestling little people in Canada at the age of 15 and then going to the AWA to be a jobber but in the AWA was where he got the Rowdy Roddy Piper name and the bagpipe entrance music. He would eventually leave and go onto California and Portland where he truly started to become the Roddy Piper that many of us would eventually know globally in the WWF. One the infamous California stories from Roddy’s biography, Roddy was feuding with Chavo Guerrero Sr. and he disrupted a trophy ceremony with the Guerreros and assaulted family members including slapping noncombatant family members. If that wasn’t bad enough attacking the beloved Guerreros in front of a large Latino audience, the next week he comes to the ring to “apologize” by playing the Mexican national anthem on his bagpipes and instead playing “La Cucaracha”. Chavo had said he never seen anything like it the crowd was so enraged that they literally ripped up bolted down seats and began hurling them towards the ring. No one could generate heat like Roddy, throughout his career he would master the art of generating heat to a truly dangerous level. What I mean about that is, Roddy was legitimately stabbed by fans on three occasions. This is why Roddy began wearing the leather jacket which unknown to the fans was lined with Kevlar. Roddy loved working in Portland working for Don Owens to the point even when he went to the WWF years later that he refused to wrestle there as WWF was expanding into the Portland market as he would not compete against Don’s promotion until Don told him its ok Roddy.
Roddy would go to the Georgia/Mid-Atlantic territory where he would wrestle Jack Brisco, Sgt. Slaughter, Bob Armstrong and Don Muraco to name a few. His feuds with Flair and Greg Valentine were truly special as there are some guys you just have a special chemistry with and these men had it together. As pictured above, Roddy’s most infamous match in the territory was at Starrcade 83 in a Dog Collar match. The match was so brutal and so real that Roddy’s left eardrum was busted and he lost 50-75% hearing from that ear permanently.
It wasn’t long after this match that Vince McMahon came calling to bring Roddy into the WWF as he viewed him as a crucial piece to his plans to expand the WWF nationally. Now it is important to point out in 1979 Roddy went to the WWF for an audition with Vince McMahon Sr. and the boys were cruel especially Freddie Blassie who stuffed Roddy’s bagpipes with toilet paper and embarrassed Roddy when he tried to play them in MSG and needless to say McMahon did not bring him in. However, this was 1984 and a different McMahon and he knew he needed Roddy to go against his top face, Hulk Hogan.
McMahon would make the best use of Roddy’s abilities and that was on the mic as he gave him his own interview segment show, Piper’s Pit. From humiliating jobber Frankie Williams to the above picture of Piper destroying Snuka with a cocoanut and to pissing off Andre the Giant, every piper’s pit was unique and memorable. There has always been that question on whether or not Snuka knew what Roddy was going to do because Roddy would say in interviews Snuka would go after him for years in hotel lobbies but as Roddy’s kids point out in his biography that Snuka wore a hard shell headband and they believe that it was because he knew what was coming. Roddy knew how to keep the illusion going years after leaving the doubt if it was planned or not. Vince trusted Roddy enough to essentially do and say whatever he wanted on the Pit because Piper made it work. Piper would go on to start a feud with music superstar Cyndi Lauper that would lead to a massive special on MTV, the War to Settle the Score, where Hulk Hogan would defend Lauper’s honor and take on the villainous Piper. McMahon wanted Hogan to beat Piper cleanly but Roddy rightly argued that will kill a return match and McMahon agreed and Hogan won by DQ.
This would setup a return match at the first Wrestlemania, where Hogan and Mr. T. would face Piper and Paul Orndorff. Piper was not a fan of losing to a TV star and there was legit heat between Piper and Mr. T. There was one other problem Roddy wasn’t actually signed to a contract and as Roddy stated in his autobiography he was the last star signed for Wrestlemania. Orndorff took the pinfall loss in the match but the picture in all the papers were Roddy getting airplane spinned by Mr.T. Roddy knew what he was doing and knew that was the shot all the papers would show the next day. As would continue throughout most of his career Roddy almost never lost to anyone cleanly because he knew and promoters agreed with him that he was such a heat magnet that by beating him cleanly would kill the return match momentum. Piper would box Mr. T at WM 2 again to a DQ finish. Piper’s Pit would be the place to setup a massive WM 3 match with Hogan vs Andre. Piper would wrestle Adrian Adonis in a hair vs hair match which Roddy won and was billed as his “retirement” match as he left to go film the cult classic “They Live”.
Roddy was such a star that he didn’t need titles to elevate himself but he would eventually win the IC Championship when he returned for another WWF run after a two year hiatus while filming movies in Hollywood. He would go on to feud with Ted Dibiase, Jake Roberts, Randy Savage, Bad News Brown, Ric flair and Bret Hart. Roddy liked Bret a lot as they were both Canadian and Bret scored one of the very rare clean pinfall victories at Wrestlemania VIII. Roddy wanted to elevate Bret and he knew a clean win over him would mean a lot to Bret and wouldn’t hurt Roddy at this point in his career. Roddy would play the fictional President of the WWF and would have a memorable Wrestlemania match against Goldust in a Hollywood Backlot Brawl that is still talked about today but Roddy was finishing up his WWF run as the company was moving more towards younger talent in 1996.
Like many of his peers of his generation, he would find a new playground to apply his craft and that was WCW. Upon his arrival, he immediately began at the top and reignited his feud with Hogan. Just like his WWF feud with Hogan, he never did win the world championship off of Hogan. Roddy would have various feuds over his WCW run but the company was so mismanaged that this run of his career is less than fondly remembered.
WCW would go under and Roddy made a shocking surprise return home to the WWE at WM 19 interfering in the match between Vince McMahon vs Hogan. Roddy’s home would always be the WWF/E. Despite disagreements between Roddy and Vince, there was always a clear sign of respect from both men towards each other. One story that was relayed by JR is that when he contacted Roddy about a WWE return, Roddy didn’t want to sign a contract to return. When JR told Vince this, Vince told JR if Roddy gives his word then that is good enough for me. The Vince vs Hogan match was built around who was more responsible for the success of the first Wrestlemania and it made perfect sense for the one major factor of that success wasn’t factored in by either man. Roddy always said he had more to do with the success of the first WrestleMania than Hulk Hogan because more people wanted to see me get my ass kicked than wanted to see Hogan do it. As someone that understands how the wrestling business works, I believe Roddy was correct.
Roddy would make various returns to the company for the rest of his life often interacting with the younger talent being it in the ring or during various Piper’s Pit segments. He would go into the WWE HOF in 2004 the first year that they decided to bring it back and make it an annual Wrestlemania tradition. He would also have a very short run with the tag titles with his old rival, Ric Flair.
Roddy was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and would beat it. Roddy continued to make appearances from various wrestling promotions around the country and TV appearances including It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, playing a wrestler named Da’ Maniac. He wrestled in one more Wrestlemania match teaming with fellow legends Snuka and Steamboat to take on Chris Jericho and would appear on WWE Legends House reality show, where the world saw Roddy fight with a blender. Roddy would also host a podcast.
I had the honor and privilege in August 2014 to meet Roddy, it was at a horror convention and Roddy was there for They Live but myself and pretty much everyone else was there because of his wrestling career. The line to meet him was literally wrapped around the building but no one complained and everyone was talking about Roddy’s best moments while we waited. I’ve only seen one other wrestler do this and that was Terry Funk, Roddy took the time to talk to every fan and made that fan feel like they were the most important person in the world to him at that moment and wasn’t concerned about the line at all because he would eventually get to everyone but for that moment he wanted to give you a special moment. Watching Roddy interact the same way whether it was a little kid that wanted to hold his HOF ring or a grown man that was marking out was great.
When it was finally my turn it was worth every minute of the wait because Roddy was so genuine and personable. He immediately told me he liked my shirt which of course was a Piper shirt and I said I had to wear it to meet you Roddy. A side note Roddy was the most reasonable meet and greet I have ever seen for someone at his level: $20 for a auto and $10 for a picture. About a year prior to meeting Roddy, I had bought an framed autograph piece online and I was telling Roddy about it because he inscribed it “I’m the reason Hulk Hogan’s got no hair”, Roddy stopped signing my autograph, smirked and said to me “I get in so much trouble for that shit”. We both had a laugh at that and he talked to me some more as I got my picture with him and treated me like he was a long lost friend and not just another fan. It was one of the coolest moments of my life and I will always cherish that experience. A lot of my favorite wrestlers have passed away over the years since I have been a fan but this one hurt the most for me because I actually had that experience with him and I truly cherish that I had that opportunity to meet him. I met a lot of legends at conventions but other than maybe Terry Funk none of them gave me that same interaction that Roddy did.
Roddy passed away July 31, 2015 and the outpouring of love for him was tremendous. WWE CEO Vince McMahon said, “Roddy Piper was one of the most entertaining, controversial and bombastic performers ever in WWE, beloved by millions of fans around the world. I extend my deepest condolences to his family.” Film director John Carpenter said, “Devastated to hear the news of my friend Roddy Piper’s passing today. He was a great wrestler, a masterful entertainer and a good friend.”. The next day I went to that same convention that I met Roddy at almost a year prior and myself and several other people were wearing Piper shirts in tribute to him. Ted DiBiase was there and he was crushed and he told me this one really hurts.
Over the years, Roddy’s legacy has continued to be celebrated whether it is new action figures, shirts, video games, documentaries or Ronda Rousey continuing to carry on the Rowdy name. Prior to his death Roddy had given Ronda his blessing to use the name and for her WWE debut at the 2018 Royal Rumble, Roddy’s son flew in for the show and allowed Ronda to wear Roddy’s jacket to the ring. Roddy even received a WWE statue in his honor.
Thank you Roddy for all of the moments in the Pit, in the ring and most of all for the experience I had meeting you. You are the greatest talker in wrestling history and will always hold a special place in mine and fans around the world hearts. You are a GOAT and your legacy will continue to be remembered.
One of my favorite Piper moments was the week before I met Roddy, he appeared on Raw and at the age of 60 and did not back down from the beast known as Brock Lesnar:
- Big Time Wrestling (San Francisco)
- Cauliflower Alley Club
- Reel Member Inductee (2001)
- George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame
- Class of 2008
- Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling/World Championship Wrestling
- NWA All-Star Wrestling
- NWA Hollywood Wrestling
- Pacific Northwest Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Guerrilla
- Legends Battle Royal (2011)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Inspirational Wrestler of the Year (1982)
- Match of the Year (1985) with Paul Orndorff vs. Hulk Hogan and Mr. T at WrestleMania I
- Most Hated Wrestler of the Year (1984, 1985)
- Most Popular Wrestler of the Year (1986)
- Stanley Weston Award (2015)
- Ranked No. 45 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 1992
- Ranked No. 17 of the 500 singles wrestlers during the “PWI Years” in 2003
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum
- Class of 2007
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