A friend of mine sent me a picture of Randy Savage, Dusty Rhodes and the Ultimate Warrior welcoming Roddy Piper into the gates of heaven. I could not help but stop for a moment and bite my lip.
[adinserter name=”366 left”The Roddy Piper I remember was brash and bold and took professional wrestling by storm as arguably the baddest ass in the business. And for the second time in a little less than two months, the wrestling world has lost one of the greatest of all time.
While many know Piper from his time in the WWF/E, I knew a wrestler who feuded with the likes of Jack Brisco and Ric Flair in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, saved Gordon Solie from an abusive Don Muraco in Florida and became a fixture Don Owens’ Portland outfit in the NWA.
Piper’s image grew much like a mushroom once he helped usher in WrestleMania and Hulkamania, but his success in his early years cannot be denied. Especially when those of us who are old enough to remember utter the words – dog collar match.
Piper and Greg Valentine waged a war in Jim Crockett’s promotion in Charlotte that is one of the most underrated feuds of the early 1980s and was a highlight of the 1983 Starrcade extravaganza. Before there was pomp and circumstance with WrestleMania, there as a more traditional wrestling format from the fertile minds of Crockett.
Piper was a major part of its success.
The match between Greg Valentine and Roddy Piper was made to culminate their feud, which stemmed from their match on April 30. During which Valentine used the ring bell to attack Piper’s left ear. Piper lost the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship, and 75 percent of the hearing in the ear.
Yes, some of wrestling is REAL.
Piper participated in the main events of WrestleMania I and WrestleMania X, as a special guest referee in the latter. He accumulated 34 championships in various promotions during his career. Piper’s most notable rivals included Greg Valentine, Adrian Adonis, and Hulk Hogan, with the feud against Hogan also involving Captain Lou Albano and singer Cyndi Lauper, considered the beginning of Rock N’ Wrestling. Piper was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 and was named as the top villain in wrestling history by WWE.
There is no doubt in my mind Piper is the greatest heel – maybe even better than Ric Flair – to ever step in a ring. But his gift for gab once he got in front of a camera is what made him the household name everyone knew. His brashness and lack of filter was loved by all regardless of which side of the ring he stood. Characters like CM Punk and Chris Jericho have drawn some resemblance to Piper not only in their delivery, but also in their ring presence.
Part of Ric Flair’s “growth” in professional wrestling can be traced to his association with Dusty Rhodes, Wahoo McDaniel and Piper. When the two were on television in the NWA, there was no script and there was no stopping either one of them. Duct tape could not hold in the war of words the two had over and over again in front of the camera as Bob Caudle or David Crockett held a microphone between them. Flair credits Piper for helping him become the star he was and spoke fondly of the passing of his friend.
“We’ve shared the ring, traveled the world, maintained a friendship throughout the ups and downs of the wrestling world, and battled to see who was the better heel. It’s almost impossible to express my grief. My condolences to his children and to his wife Kitty. I’ll miss you Roddy. The world will never be as Rowdy without you.”
[adinserter block=”2″]As a wrestling purest, the business lost one of the best to ever put on a pair of boots. The fact his death comes so unexpectedly and amid a time where he was dropped by the WWE and after Hulk Hogan has been banished from the company that made both of them superheroes is a bit odd and almost surreal.
As a fan, he will be sorely missed and remembered. I waited to speak about Piper because the loss reminds us all of how great wrestling used to be. Piper was a big part of that. Hopefully, he will be remembered that way as well.