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Roddy Piper Talks WWE WrestleMania & Mr. T with Steve Austin

Like Steve Austin did in the WWE rings by bringing the best out of his opponents, he is doing the same in podcasting with his guests. Austin recently got one guest to open up about two important matches in WrestleMania history in what turned into a fascinating interview.

Roddy Piper’s place in the WWE history of WrestleMania is often understated. Piper helped break the WWE through to the entertainment world with matches against Mr. T in Mania 1 and 2. Piper was a guest on Austin’s podcast and shared his pressures heading into WrestleMania and struggles working with Mr. T.

Piper’s dislike for Mr. T is not exactly a secret. Piper has spoken many times about the challenges he had wrestling T. Piper gave explicit details here to the origins of the struggles as well as the pressures he felt going into the first Mania. The entire interview is tremendous but it was the conversation about the first two WrestleMania matches that peaked my interest.

Steve Austin: “You didn’t know you weren’t supposed to touch Mr. T. Did he come in with all of these riders in his contract? All of the sudden you aren’t supposed to touch the guy? Into this business and back then and not get touched? That rubbed you the wrong way from the get-go.”

Roddy Piper: Here’s the thing. What wasn’t understood was the entire wrestling profession was on my shoulders to a certain extent as far as all of the guys, “Hey man don’t make a fool of us.” Now Mr. T wants to come in and he’s probably the world’s biggest TV celebrity at the time, and he won some kind of bouncer contest. He came in with, “I pit the fool I’m T.” with that, and he wanted to come in and slam our heads, and make fun of us, and go (laughs). You got the wrong guy.

Steve Austin: “He’s trying to skate off to the next TV gig and you’re trying to put asses in the seat in an arena.”

Piper: He had zero respect. I’m on the stage in Rockefeller Center and he blindsides me and leg dives me off of the stage. I come off and (Vince) McMahon said, “I saw those eyes of yours. Thank you for being a pro.” “You’re not welcome.” Here is the heat-getter. He’s oblivious to how ignorant he is. Pita principal, in the height of his own ignorance. I said “No man, I’m not putting him over” which started my reputation.

Steve: That was WrestleMania right?

Roddy: That’s one.

Austin tells Roddy that while the match had great talent in there, it wasn’t very fluent for obvious reasons. Austin asks Roddy about a moment in the match he had T in a front face lock. Austin asks if there was a little communication problem with T not understanding what was going on.

Roddy: Yes sir.

Austin: How tight was that front face?

Roddy: It was hooked and the thing is he was running out of breath. When I came to Vince in a meeting in his office and I’m late, I’m on the phone, don’t…I heard he (Mr. T) wrestled amateur. “Keep it amateur, don’t let him throw a punch” and if you watch it, there’s nothing. Front face locked him, let him get out of breath a little bit, at the same time it’s a timing thing, it’s business, and boom, whew. Vince’s house, he put his house up (for WrestleMania). Here’s something that I never circled around much here. Hey, there was a responsibility on my shoulders and everybody else. Orndorff, Hoga, Orton, they were all great. But I’ve got a guy that’s putting his house up? That means something to me, I’ve got to make this work. Sometimes I don’t think Vince realizes what we had to do to make that work. It was really difficult.

Steve Austin brings up the boxing match between Mr. T and Piper and says “it was what it was.” Piper remarks “it was horrible.” Austin agrees and says it’s tough to work a match like that and you have to do your best to get through it.

Piper: Here’s what happened. Hard to tell a great story. Man you’ve got to have someone to tell a great story with. Here’s what happened. McMahon took me off the road and threw me in a camp in Reno with Lou Duva, Tyrell Biggs, Spinx, Braxton, Holyfield, etc. and all of the sudden (Roddy mimicking short of breath says “I can’t hear.”) I’m dying. So now it comes time to get in the ring and this is what they do to me. I’m waiting for a high sign. I told Vince, “Go for it if he can.” This is what they did to me. They had me make a fist and then they taped up my fist and then they put my fist in the glove. Now the commentating, Vince and this lady (Susan St. James) and this lady had no experience at it, it was really bad. So this is what’s going through my head. “I want to take this guy out but if take him out what are the consequences. But if I can get him to do anything, hit me with an elbow, just anything I can justify it.” Vince isn’t giving me anything or anybody else.

Austin remarks that Piper was boxed in with no creative in the match.

Piper: Yes! Now they want me to get at least knocked down by T. Okay so I’m not sure maybe the second or third round I can’t remember. Alright. What I was going to do was T was going to left hook me and I was going to go out through the ropes onto the floor. So I am getting around to that piece of business when all of the sudden I realize, “Not only do I have thumb-less gloves on, I can’t hook the rope.” I’m kind of looking and I’m, oh I don’t know seven to ten feet and it’s coming, here we go, and I just went for it and…he missed the left hook. Are you kidding me? You missed the punch? And I’m in flight. Okay. I got back up and in the next round I took the stool and I threw it at him as hard as I could.

I will say this about the match. I watched the match back and it was pretty terrible. T blew up pretty good towards the high spot Roddy was talking about here with the left hook. However, I watched the spot several times and T looked like he connected on Piper. Maybe he missed but it was not nearly as noticeable as Piper thinks. T was absolutely exhausted when he went back to the corner after the third round. Piper certainly did throw the stool at T pretty hard after the round was over. Piper throws what looked like a shoot punch in the fourth. T looked exhausted but I just didn’t see the missed punch here Piper was talking about.

Austin says he chucked it with force and says it was a shoot.

Piper: Yeah. It took a hunk of meat out of him. Again we’re taught that if I have a problem with somebody to figure it out in the locker room, this is business. That was beat into me. You know what? I slammed him or something to get out of it. It was one of my most shameful moments.

[ad 1[I am not sure what Piper was saying here about the bodyslam. The slam looked like a work to me as Piper shoved the referee down right before the slam. The finish of a frustrated Piper shoving the referee and slamming T sounds like a perfectly logical finish for the match.

All in all the interview is absolutely fascinating. Piper also talks about Vince wanting to “Snuka” him after the match and how he reacted which is also just as interesting or maybe even more than the Mr. T stories. I could have listened to these guys talk for hours. I suggest you check it out here.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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