Mark for War: The Pipes, The Pipes are Calling
It seems unnecessary to say, because I’m certain everyone reading this is aware, but Roddy Piper was a special figure in the wrestling world.
I’ll shoot frankly on Piper:
I’ve always found it odd that 80s stars like Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior are consistently thrown under the bus for being horrible workers for how popular they were without Piper being mentioned in the same breath. If you disagree with my opinion on Piper’s in-ring skills, let me remind you that his set up move was an eye-poke, straight out of a Three Stooges episode, and his finisher was the ever-so-feared Sleeper Hold.
So why is Piper so revered in wrestling circles to this day? The answer is simple: Roddy Piper was the pretty much the best in every other category one can gauge a wrestler on during his era. In the 80s, was there anyone better on the mic than Piper? Flair, Savage, and Hogan could touch him, but Piper had them beat. Promo-wise, I’d say it was Piper’s ability to not only answer questions, but ask questions back to the person interviewing him, that set him above. His promos came across as a natural conversation between two people more than a one-sided work.
He was the Bernie Sanders of Pro Wrestling (who I GUARANTEE was a HUGE Roddy Piper while serving as mayor of Burlington, Vermont).
It was Piper’s mic skils that allowed him to age like fine wine in wrestling circles well after his career ended. Did you ever notice that the vast majority of wrestlers since the Attitude Era, good or bad, had that maniacal, sarcastic Piper streak running through their characters? They were all punk ass kids who took their crumpled up homework out of their back pocket, a direct connection to niche Roddy Piper carved decades before.
It’s no coincident that the only TRUE OG star that flourished in any way during the WWE’s Attitude era was Roddy Piper. Remember his feud with Goldust, all culminating with the infamous backlot brawl at Wrestlemania? That feud was arguably the feud that cemented Goldust as a household name. Wasn’t the original DX just a gang of Pippers? They were big mouths that pissed on everything and anything they encountered. What about the similarities between Roddy Piper and Steve Austin, even down to their wardrobe? Where Piper rocked plain blue trucks and a kilt, Austin rocked plain black and a leather vest. It was a simplistic look wrapped with a trademark; a look still used to this day by a lot of brawlers in the game.
As a childhood wrestling fan of the 80s, my faves were Savage, Hogan, and the usual suspects of babyfaces fed to the kid crowd. Piper seemed to always be embraced by the “older kids;” the post-puberty kids that liked horror movies, heavy metal, and probably recreational drugs. A pivotal moment in my life as a wrestling fan wanting to embrace heavy metal came in the 90s when I saw the back cover of Exodus’s Bonded by Blood for the first time. Exodus vocalist Paul Baloff was sporting a Piper shirt. That photo essentially taught me that wrestling didn’t have to end with childhood. Obviously Balloff was in his 20s at the time, and probably had lost his virigintiy by the time that picture was taken. That photo also taught me that metal and wrestling can indeed mix (like writing a wrestling column for a metal website, wink, wink).
Piper was the first mainstream wrestler to embrace having a presence in counterculture cinema. They Live is obviously his most celebrated roll. The backalley fight scene in that film probably influenced the aforementioned Goldust brawl quite a bit. In the mid-90s, Piper sort of took on the role of being the resident badass in every B-horror/action/world downfall romp under the sun. With titles like Marked Man, Tough and Deadly, and of course, IMMORTAL Combat, how can you go wrong? Piper was Danny Trejo before Danny Trejo became Danny Trejo. And Piper repped that persona hard. If there was a horror/comic convention over the last 20 years, Piper was probably there shaking hands and kissing babies. Piper worked Cons like no other wrestling figure ever has. It was almost as if he recognized con-goers as his bread-and-butter fans, and he would roll through to appease his subjects. I actually think Piper giving his stamp of approval on the con-movement of the early 2000s helped mainstream wrestling bookers take that culture seriously. There is rarely a con these days where the WWE doesn’t dispatch of few of their stars to mingle and promote the brand.
It seems like once a month I am writing a eulogy for a fallen wrestler. It’s sort of a “chicken and the egg” scenario, but I often wonder if bad health later in life is a product of wrestling, or if wrestling is what brings on bad health habits later in life? About 24 hours after I heard of the death of Roddy Piper, it came out that Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka is currently battling stomach cancer. A picture of Snuka accompanied the announcement. I noticed that Snuka had a mouth full of rotten teeth, probably just from random neglect. If you have free time, look up the link between cancer rates and people with rotten teeth. Random health neglect is a sad reoccurring trend in wrestling these days, and horrible things are resulting. I wrote a column about a year ago on Kamala the Ugandan Giant neglecting his diabetes, resulting in him having both legs amputated. I’m not putting these cases in the same boat as Piper’s necessarily though. Piper did beat cancer recently, and perhaps that battle took a major tole on Piper’s body, resulting in an untimely death.
In last week’s column, in an almost forshadowing fashion, Piper received my match of my Match of the Week honors. He died two days later. I always make a conscious effect not to give the same superstars match of the week honors two weeks in a row. But for this week, I will make an exception.
RIP to one of the best, Hot Rod, Roddy Piper.
Match of the Week: Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper, Intercontinental Championship Match, Wrestlemania VIII, Indianapolis, IN, April 5, 1992
This is best match Roddy Piper ever had. The well documented “Last Match” of the first chapter of Piper’s career in which he puts over his long time friend Bret Hart. If you haven’t read Bret Hart’s book, read it. He tells two amazing Piper stories. In the first, he describes a time Piper dragged him in to a hotel room, layed out a rockstar line of cocaine for him, and forced it on him. The second was a little more heartfelt. Bret claims that out of all the wrestlers he knew over the years, Roddy Piper was the only wrestler to go visit Bret in the hospital after he had his stroke. Both these stories may sum up who Piper was as a person; the pushy fun friend who will be by your side when the chips are down. A person who can wear both those hats is rare.