Originally posted on November 4, 2011 – The number one way to make money in pro wrestling is with a great feud. Nothing draws bigger at the box office than an exciting rivalry pitting good vs. evil. Some rivalries are based on hatred, some are based on championships, and some are based on nothing more than a motivation to be the best. Today I spotlight one of professional wrestling’s greatest feuds.
“Superfly” Jimmy Snuka vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
1984 was arguably the biggest year in the history of professional wrestling. The seeds were put in place for what would turn out to be the number one pro wrestling promotion in the country, the World Wrestling Federation.
Vince McMahon had finally wrestled control of the company away from his father and began his assault on North America. McMahon raided territories throughout the continent over a one year period to assemble one of the greatest rosters in the history of the business. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper would be the second biggest piece to this puzzle next to Hulk Hogan.
It is ironic that Roddy would come into the WWF as a manager and personality, yet make his biggest impact as a professional wrestler. The first time the world would see that would be in June 1984. Piper had already made a splash with his Piper’s Pit segments, which saw the Rowdy one take no prisoners in his revolutionary interview segment. After antagonizing every WWF babyface imaginable for several months, Piper finally lost it in an all out assault on arguably the most popular WWF wrestler at the time, Superfly Jimmy Snuka.
Snuka was just as popular, maybe even more than WWF champion Hulk Hogan in some circles. Breaking away from the great Captain Lou Albano and surviving feuds with Ray Stevens and Magnificent Muraco put Snuka immediately into the hearts of the WWF faithful. Snuka’s famous Superfly leap onto Don Muraco in Madison Square Garden had practically turned Jimmy into an icon. The table was about to be set for one of the most exciting rivalries in the history of pro wrestling.
Snuka had been a guest on Piper’s Pit in the past but it was fairly uneventful. Piper talked over Snuka for a few minutes and mocked Snuka’s signature “I love you” sign to the fans. The segment ended with Snuka waiving the sign to the fans and Piper walking off the segment. This time was different. The seeds were already planted from Snuka’s first appearance and the bad blood between these two WWF warriors was well known to the fans. Something had to give.
They played off of Snuka’s first appearance with Piper telling fans that Snuka wanted to come back to the Pit because he felt he didn’t have a chance to say anything. Piper mocked Snuka for wanting a chance to say something. Piper then accused Snuka of wanting to be a big shot and told him he wanted to make him feel at home. Piper then revealed a pineapple. Piper then took out some bananas which seemed to irritate the Superfly as Snuka got up out of his seat and the two circled around Piper’s infamous table. The next few minutes would go down as some of the most memorable in wrestling history.
Piper went into a paper bag and told Snuka he brought him some coconuts. Piper dropped them, “1 coconut, more coconuts, you want to be a big shot.” Piper then told Snuka he didn’t get him a tree so he could “climb up and down like a monkey”, and threw a banana at Snuka. Snuka asked Piper, “Are you making fun of me?” Piper responded by smashing a coconut on Jimmy’s head. Snuka took Piper’s backdrop down and fell to the floor. Piper then proceeded to rub a banana in Snuka’s face and kick him. Snuka then rose up from the ashes, let out a huge scream, and charged Piper who slammed the door in Jimmy’s face. The intensity here gave me chills as a child and gave me chills today watching it back in preparation for the blog. It was awesome!
From here these two guys tore down the house shows all across the United States for almost a year. To put the success of this feud into perspective, these guys were selling out arena to capacity with nothing more than a grudge match. There was no championship on the line, only the promise of seeing Jimmy Snuka get his revenge on Roddy Piper and wondering what the heck would happen when that same enraged man who chased Piper after being smashed by coconut would do to the big mouth once he got his hands on him.
You can watch any of their matches today over 25 years later and still feel the intensity the seconds before they locked up in the ring. What made these matches so darn good was that neither man showed fear in the opening moments. Piper walked to the ring just as cool and cocky as ever. As a matter of a fact, many of their matches started like a UFC fight. Both guys stayed in their respective corners, seething, focused, intense, and would charge each other like bulls when the bell rang for an all out brawl. Heels were supposed to run scared, but Piper wasn’t scared, and Jimmy wanted to tear Piper apart. It was magic.
This rivalry was also a small part of the promotion that would become WrestleMania. Snuka was in Hulk Hogan and Mr. T’s corner, and fans were excited about seeing Snuka get even a small piece of Piper on the grand stage. Almost a year later and this feud was just as hot as it started in June of the previous year.
The feud would last over a year with Snuka wrestling Piper in tag team matches throughout the spring and early summer of 1985 with various partners including Paul Orndorff, Hulk Hogan, and Ricky Steamboat. However, the heart of this feud ran through the summer and fall of 1984. Those months saw Piper and Snuka wrestle two-four times in the same town in singles matches, Fujian Strap matches, matches with special guest referees, tag team matches, Texas Death matches, etc. Every single match turned into an all-out brawl with lots of blood being shed and bruises earned for all parties involved.
This would be the last great hurrah for the Superfly in the WWF. Personal issues and an influx of new babyfaces resulted in an exit. Snuka would wrestle for other companies and return to the WWF a few years later, but it was never the same.
Piper would remain one of the biggest stars for the next several years for the WWF. He would turn babyface only two years later and become one of the most popular wrestlers in WWE history. I think a lot of that was Piper’s fearless style inside of the ring. While fans detested his arrogance and sneak attack on Snuka, I think his choice to stand toe to toe with Snuka and slug it out from start to finish earned him a great deal of respect from the same people that wanted to kill him months earlier.
The legacy of this feud continued for many years and even to this day. The WWE played off of this rivalry several times by tagging the two guys up a few years later at Survivor Series 1989 and later as part of a gauntlet match at WrestleMania XXV. There is still something about seeing Snuka and Piper stand together in the ring over twenty years later that gives fans chills.
If you have never seen these two wrestle each other check out the numerous videos on YouTube. The atmosphere for a Snuka vs. Piper match is something you don’t see today. No rival today equals the intensity of these two legends in their prime. If you are looking for something technical, well you won’t find it with these two. If you are looking for a good old fashioned old school pro wrestling feud featuring two guys that just want to brutalize each other for 10-15 minutes, well then Snuka vs. Piper is a match for you.