I remember watching WrestleMania I as a little kid. While Hulkamania was running wild, the most hated character in the sport was a guy by the name of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. His bravado and brashness walking down the aisle to face his foes Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. made it very easy to dislike him, but just as easy to be mesmerized by his ability to capture an audience.
Just a year and a half earlier, Piper was a part of one of the most memorable matches in pro wrestling history, facing Greg Valentine in a Dog Collar match at Starrcade ’83. His charisma was captivating, and quickly gained my interest as someone I would keep my eye on as I grew up as a wrestling fan. Being a kid and a proponent of the good guys, I was still interested in Piper, and he was one of the wrestlers that I wished became one. Fortunately, I witnessed that in 1986, when he started to feud with Adrian Adonis.
And who can forget the “Piper’s Pit” segment at WrestleMania V with Morton Downey, Jr? Personally, I think that is one of the reasons why I thrive on cleverly one-upping people who are trying to be jerks. In fact, I am almost certain that it planted a seed to not fight fire with fire, but to fight fire with water (or, in this case, a fire extinguisher).
I have always been a fan of wrestling theme songs. There is something about the composition — even now after being a wrestling fan for over 30 years — that triggers excitement. I have had many conversations on my radio show, as well as written articles, about how theme songs can make or break a person’s gimmick, and can separate the main event stars from the midcarders. When you think of glass shattering, “If you smeeeell”, the Countdown, and the gong, wrestling fans without having to take a second breath would know every wrestler that links to the particular intro. The same goes with Piper. The drums and bagpipes start, and we all know that it is time to get glued to the screen.
There was a time in his career when he returned from a hiatus, and his music changed. The pitch was a bit higher in many spots, and the bagpipes were-a-playing. Thankfully, it was a good move. The theme song was better than the first (which was really good), and it played well with his babyface character.
I can only recall a handful of true “mark out moments” in my life. One was when Sting defeated Ric Flair at the Great American Bash, 1990, to win his first WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Another is when Ron Simmons defeated Vader in 1992 to become the first black heavyweight champion in pro wrestling history. Regarding Piper, it was also in 1992, at the Royal Rumble. As a fan favorite, Piper sought out to tame the Mountie, who was using his power for corrupt gain. This was his only singles title, as he was able to defeat the Mountie for the Intercontinental Championship, and keep it until WrestleMania VIII in an EXCELLENT match against Bret Hart.
There are so many more moments, including the match against Hulk Hogan at Starrcade 1996, which finally gave Piper a reputable main event win. I always wondered why Piper was never a top guy and won the world championship in neither WWE nor WCW. He was one of the best heels in the business, and did fantastic as a babyface as well.
If there are two things we should all remember about Roddy Piper, it is that 1) he was “Rowdy” before “Rowdy” was cool, and 2) just when we thought we had the answers, he changed the questions.
Save a bagpipe for me, Roddy…