Born to Controversy: The Roddy Piper Story (DISC ONE)
Born to Controversy: The Roddy Piper Story
Released: November 14, 2006
So originally tonight, I was planning to do the recap for part one of the Ultima Lucha show for Lucha Underground, but the passing of Roddy Piper means a whole lot more to me personally as I am a huge Piper fan. Never the greatest in-ring guy, but my goodness he was money on the microphone. Not only was he an amazing heel who knew exactly how to get heat, but he was a fantastic babyface who might be the greatest at the small stuff like always paying respect to his fans. No matter how big wrestling got, he always managed to treat the live audience like every positive response he received really meant something to him. That always stuck with me. But to keep this short, I will say that I believe he was such a well-rounded talent, just as likeable as he was able to make you hate him, and must-see TV when he was around.
A Troubled Start: Roderick Toombs was born April 17, 1954 in Saskatoon, Canada. He never really had a permanent home as a kid as he moved around Canada at least once a year. At age six, he picked up the bag pipes which became the only constant in his life. He ran away at the age of fifteen and lived out on the streets.
Territories: When he was living at a youth hostel in Winnipeg, who he calls Father O’Malley – the head of the house – tells him he needs an honest job, so for some reason Father O’Malley thought professional wrestling was honest and got Piper in the business. Since his bag pipe band played him to the ring, the ring announcer called him Roddy the Piper. His first match was against Larry Hennig. The match was over in about ten seconds. He jokes that he definitely still has the shortest match ever in the Winnipeg Arena. After that, he was sent to Kansas City to wrestle for another $25 and the rest is history. Various old timers back up Roddy’s claims that breaking into the business in the 1970s was no cake walk as all the veterans wanted you to prove that you had respect for the business and that you really wanted to be there. When Gene LeBell in Los Angeles got a hold of Piper, he finally got his first break after being a jobber for 5-6 years. After getting beat up for 45 minutes by the “Arab Terror” Java Ruuk (also known to WWWF fans as Johnny Rodz), Piper became his manager. He was told by the promoter that he could say anything he wanted. That was just the opening Piper needed. His big feud with Chavo Guerrero in Los Angeles is briefly discussed. Clips are shown of Piper getting pinned. Of course it was a fast count, but still. Piper tells a story about pissing off Tijuana TV stations for doing a promo on a donkey and calling himself the Conqueror of the Guerreros. When he was hyping that he would apologize to the people on TV by playing the Mexican national anthem with his bag pipes, he fools them all by playing “La Cucaracha” instead. That’s when Vince McMahon Sr. heard about Roddy Piper tearing up Los Angeles.
Portland: Very short segment on Portland since WWE doesn’t own any of the footage. They show a clip of Piper returning to Don Owen’s territory to face Buddy Rose during his WWF run and a few interview pieces, but nothing about what all he did in the territory. They discuss his strong relationship with Don Owen, but that’s about it.
Mid-Atlantic: Charlotte, NC is where everything started to get out of control for Roddy. Ric Flair puts him over big. Piper discusses the differences in their characters and how well they got along out of the ring. The Mid-Atlantic territory helped him to become a better wrestler and a standout performer. Several Mid-Atlantic mainstays like Ricky Steamboat and Gerald Brisco mention how ballsy it was to walk into a wrestlers locker room in the 1970s wearing a kilt. The guy was just a heat magnet.
Starrcade 1983: Jim Ross and others talk about the brutality of the match with Greg Valentine and the atmosphere of the Greensboro crowd. Piper tells us how he lost half his hearing in his left ear. Speaking of ears, Mick Foley chimes in about how exciting the violence was just from reading the Apter mags and not actually even seeing the match itself. If you haven’t seen this match though, you gotta see it. Greg Valentine puts over what a tough man Piper is.
World Wrestling Federation: Roddy Piper was part of the giant talent grab Vince McMahon made in 1984. Since he had equilibrium problems after the dog collar match, he was made into a manager again this time with “Dr. D” David Schultz and Paul Orndorff. It’s interesting that neither man needed a talker to back them up.
Piper’s Pit: So Piper gets his own interview segment on WWF TV and if you didn’t think he was a dick before, well now ya know. He makes the guy who introduces Piper’s Pit look like a fool and made Frank Williams appear to be interesting. Andre the Giant’s appearance on Piper’s Pit in March 1984 is shown where he lifts Piper up by his shirt so that Piper can bust out the “you do not throw rocks at a man with a machine gun” line. Of course, he doesn’t say it until Andre is far away from him. Of course the most infamous Piper’s Pit segment from June 1984 is mentioned as Piper blasts Jimmy Snuka with a coconut and pretty much destroys his career. Lots of clips of Piper’s Pits from 1985 into 1987 are shown.
Friendship with Bob Orton: Piper – “I love you. He’s my body guard!” That line pretty much sums up this chapter.
The Ultimate Rebel: At the big time MSG card in December 1984, Roddy Piper breaks a platinum record over Captain Lou Albano’s head given to him by Cyndi Lauper. When Lauper jumps on Piper, he KICKS her away. You talk about heat? Whoa. When Hulk Hogan makes the save, we’ve got all the setup we need for “The War to Settle the Score” on MTV. Piper and Hulk discuss the electricity between each other in that match. They show the part where Mr. T jumps in the ring and how the whole match broke down, but of course led straight into the first WrestleMania. Both Piper and Hogan feel one of them is more responsible for drawing the house and the eyeballs on CCTV for WrestleMania over the other. Piper talks about how he wanted to protect the business bringing this outsider Mr. T into the wrestling world.
Tension with Mr. T: Piper says a whole bunch of racist things about Mr. T. He didn’t want Mr. T in his business and he was making him look like a fool at every turn. Mr. T tried to do the same thing towards Piper, but couldn’t possibly compete. Piper calls his boxing match with Mr. T at WrestleMania 2 the WORST match he ever had. You have to respect Piper at least a little bit for doing all he could to protect the business.
The Boss is Back: As we move into his feud with Adrian Adonis, Piper says that only Adrian could put on a wig and makeup and still look like a guy. They show Piper taking a baseball bat to the Flower Shoppe. Fast forward to WrestleMania 3 to this hair vs. hair retirement match with Adrian, which he felt was a fantastic sendoff.
The Actor: Lots of “They Live” talk. It’s actually become one of my favorite movies of 1987 now. No mention of his other films though.
Return to the World Wrestling Federation: Skip ahead to WrestleMania 5 when big mouth TV show host Morton Downey Jr. joined the Piper’s Pit and got a fire extinguisher sprayed in his face. Roddy wanted to bash him over the head with the extinguisher, but somebody (perhaps Gorilla) yells at him to stop. We head over to the Bad News Brown feud set for WrestleMania 6. The bizarre half black/half white promo is shown and never explained. Piper isn’t much of a fan of the match. Thanks to a rib by Andre and Arnold Skaaland, it took him three weeks to get the black off.
Color Commentator: Since Jesse Ventura’s contract came to an end and Piper wasn’t wrestling full-time anymore, he was put in the role of color commentator with Vince McMahon. Before you know it, they bring Randy Savage in to join the two, so there’s A LOT going on. After about six month of that, Vince put Piper back out on the road.
The Intercontinental Champion: Everybody agrees that Piper didn’t need a title to be over, but not ever winning the WWF title bothered him even when they interviewed him for this DVD. So yeah, Piper beats the Mountie at the Royal Rumble in 1992 to become the IC champion. He didn’t care that much about winning the belt, but he was glad to help out Bret Hart at WrestleMania 8. Easily Piper’s best match from bell to bell without any dog collars around.
The Family Man: So Piper went back home to Portland after WrestleMania 8 to be normal again and be with his family.
Another Return to the World Wrestling Federation: He came back to referee the main event of WrestleMania 10 with Bret Hart against WWF champ Yokozuna. Talk quickly turns to his feud with Jerry Lawler. They are two of the best talkers ever, but they just didn’t have anything to work with against each other and they both agree they had no chemistry in the ring. Piper returns again in 1996 to be the interim WWF President when Vader attacked Gorilla Monsoon. Since a Roddy Piper versus OJ Simpson match got scratched, Goldust turns out to be the controversial replacement for OJ culminating in the Hollywood backlot brawl at WrestleMania 12. Of course if you’ll recall, they still tipped their hat to the Ford Bronco chase.
WCW: At Halloween Havoc in 1996, Piper showed up in WCW with a great promo directed at Hollywood Hogan. All the talk here is around Hogan and Piper’s personal rivalry over who is the bigger wrestling icon or the bigger movie star. Bruce Prichard feels their rivalry will never be settled. He had some problems with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash that led to his early release from WCW. Piper says he took WCW to court and was able to get the rest of the money from his contract.
Controversial Interview: Skip ahead to WrestleMania 19 when he surprised everyone and showed up during the Hogan versus McMahon match to whack Hogan with a steel pipe. The rest of his 2003 run was pretty stupid. They mention the HBO interview where Piper talks about the large number of deaths that were happening in professional wrestling. Once Vince got wind of the interview, he was told a different story as to what happened than what Roddy Piper claimed happened, so tons of miscommunication there. Piper says if he could do it all over again, he would be less anti-promoter and an easier man to do business with than he has been in the past.
Hall of Fame Induction: Piper gets inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005. He felt it was important that his speech end with “you ain’t seen nothing yet” because he didn’t feel like his career was over just because he was in the HOF. They show Steve Austin appearing on Piper’s Pit at WrestleMania 21. Clips of Piper’s Pit occurring at the Raw Homecoming to the USA Network in October 2005 are shown as well.
They end the documentary with a two minute montage highlighting how important Roddy Piper has been to wrestling for the past 30 years.
Piper: Roddy & Colt – Roddy talks about important it was to have his son Colt with him in the ring on a few different occasions in WCW.
Bruce Prichard: Meeting Roddy for the First Time – Bruce makes the mistake of imitating Piper to his face. Piper HATES being imitated and almost knocks out Bruce.
Piper: Hitting Rikishi with a Coconut – Piper compares hitting Rikishi with a coconut to having another dog collar match. It just will not have the same effect like the original occurrence. I didn’t even remember he did such a thing.
Piper: Mr. T – He recalls getting into a silly scuffle with Mr. T at Rockefeller Center. Piper thinks Vince and Hulk were behind the whole thing.
Piper: The Mexican Bullring – So yeah, Mexicans did not like Roddy Piper. Once when he was wrestling the Guerreros at a bullring in El Paso, the fans threw bleacher pillows soaked in rain at Roddy until he had to fight his way out of the bullring.
Piper: Freddie Blassie and the Toilet Paper – In his MSG debut for the WWWF, Freddie Blassie sabotaged his introduction by stuffing toilet paper in his bag pipes.
Piper: Living on the Streets – While he was living at the youth hostel, he got in with a bad bunch of dudes who were stealing during the night and carrying switchblades. Just real bad apples.
Piper: Those Guys and Their Ribs – He tells a story about a series of ribs that just keep escalating between Johnny Valentine and Jay York. It gets really out of hand.
Bruce Prichard: Burt Reynolds at WrestleMania X – Being the special guest ring announcer for the main event, Burt Reynolds did not take instructions very well from Bruce and makes him look like a tool in front of everyone.
Bill Cunningham: Piper in Kentucky – This Cincinnati radio talk show host/lawyer helps Roddy out of a DUI arrest. Piper wears University of Kentucky gear to the court. Come to find out, the judge is a graduate of the University of Louisville. Piper takes off the UK gear and now he’s wearing a shirt that said Louisville Forever. And with that, Piper gets off with a small fine.
Piper: Trust in the Business – He recalls how giving his word to Vince means more than signing contracts. That’s old school, brother.
RAW HOMECOMING: GIVING BACK TO THE BUSINESS – Randy Orton talks about how excited he was to see Roddy Piper back in the WWE. Mick Foley was honored to be a guest on the Piper’s Pit. As you’ll see here, it was Piper’s chance to give his pal Bob Orton’s son the rub.
- 2/3 Falls: Roddy Piper & Mike Popovich vs. Buddy Rose & Rip Oliver – (Portland Wrestling, 9/6/80)
We JIP to the finish of the third fall. Piper gets a hot tag from Popovich and peppers Rose with rights. After he whips Rose into the corner, he charges face first into a knee and Rose rolls up Piper (with some help from Oliver) and gets the three-count. Afterwards, Rose heads over to Cass telling everyone that he wants Piper’s PNW heavyweight title. He’s wearing a mask as well and dares anybody who can to take the mask off his face. Man, I wish I knew more about Portland wrestling. Next week, Rose gets Piper. Having had enough, Piper comes over and locks in the SLEEPERHOLD on Rose and rips off the mask before cutting a great promo hyping their match. Awesome.
- 2/3 Falls: PNW Heavyweight Champion Roddy Piper vs. Buddy Rose (w/Rip Oliver) – (Portland Wrestling, 9/13/80)
Incredible heat for this one as everybody is solidly behind Piper. They are just days away from the loser leaves town match. Piper escapes a neck vice and starts throwing those right hands. Some pretty decent jabs from Piper. SLEEPERHOLD is applied and despite Rose’s best efforts to back Piper into the corner, he goes down and his arm drops three times for Piper to secure the first fall at 4:55. (Piper: 1 | Rose: 0)
After a commercial break, we come back to see Rose has busted open Piper. While he’s working the cut, Rose wipes the blood on the ref’s red shirt. Rose gets several nearfalls, but Piper makes a valiant comeback only for Rose to cut him off. Knee drop by Rose gets two. Piper counters a slam and hits Rose with an O’Connor roll for the pinfall to win two straight falls in 8:02 total. (Piper: 2 | Rose: 0) Afterwards, Rose attacks Piper with a chair. Piper takes the chair from Rose and controls the ring. There’s a huge pull-apart brawl to end the segment. **½
- NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion Jack Brisco vs. Roddy Piper – (Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, 7/10/82)
Huge TV match here. Piper stole the Mid-Atlantic title from Brisco and held it for ransom until Jack put up $10,000 and got a title match on TV. Well, Brisco gave Piper exactly what he wanted (with some help from fan favorites Steamboat and Wahoo) and here is the blow-off. Sheesh, it’s a good thing Brisco wasn’t in charge of the Iran hostage crisis. Being an NWA world champ does not make you a great negotiator. Anywho, Jack makes Piper wrestle *his* style of match to start by doing sitouts and totally owning the Hot Rod on the mat. Brisco doesn’t exactly try to make a fool out of Piper, but we know who the better grappler is here. Piper ends up pulling hair and gets dumped on the floor. Back in, Brisco grabs a headlock and refuses to let go of this thing. Piper pushes him off the ropes several times. He even tries bashing Brisco’s head off the turnbuckle a couple times, but nothing seems to work. Just brilliant stuff. Piper thinks ahead though and blocks Brisco trying to walk the ropes and take the headlock back around as he sends Jack down with a back suplex to FINALLY break the hold. That was five minutes of a headlock, folks. Piper tries to get his head back as he chops Brisco around. If I’m not mistaken, Piper is BLEEDING from that headlock. He applies a front facelock on Brisco and does all he can to turn him over for a nearfall with his feet on the ropes. While Brisco is on his knees, he starts punching Piper in the leg to soften him up for the Figure-Four. Piper grows quite weary of it and tosses Jack to the floor. Brisco winds up beating Piper back inside the ring, but Piper surprises him with the SLEEPERHOLD. Oh boy. They milk it real good until Brisco breaks out with – you guessed it – a back suplex. After some shots are traded, Brisco grabs hold of the SLEEPERHOLD himself. Piper feigns that he’s choking, which is a BRILLIANT way to get out of this hold if the ref buys it. I mean, the psychology between identifying what is a choke versus what is a sleeperhold is something that was always explored by referees back in these days, so I could see the fans buying into it. Once he’s on the mat, Piper grabs hold of some hair and gouges Jack’s eyes to break loose. It gets pretty heated now as Brisco beats Piper to the floor. While the ref backs up Jack, Roddy pulls out a foreign object and whacks Brisco as he’s pulled up onto the apron. Total knockout punch there. Piper stumbles back into the ring and rolls on top of Brisco for the pinfall and regains the Mid-Atlantic title. (15:16) The camera spots a roll of pennies scattered all over the ring. Caudle and Crockett catch on immediately, but the ref the pays no mind. Afterwards, Piper sits down over at the podium clutching the money and the title telling Caudle that there is no mistake that he is the Mid-Atlantic champ. Caudle asks Piper about the coins in the ring, but Piper says some fan threw those in the ring. When Caudle tells him that he’s the winner, that’s all the validation he needs. Piper walks away staring daggers at Steamboat and Wahoo who had come to Jack’s aid. Just a fantastic piece of business here. ***¼
- Dog Collar Match: Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine – (NWA Starrcade 1983)
From my Starrcade 1983 recap. Just know these two guys had been feuding all year and it comes down to this legendary encounter. They play tug-of-war with the chain to start, using their necks. Both men are being extremely cautious to make a mistake here. Piper whips him with the chain and Valentine backs off. Valentine tries to whip Piper in turn and fails. Slugfest and they back off again. Piper attacks and crotches him with the chain, but Valentine uses the chain to nail Piper in the injured ear to gain control of the pace. Greg drops the hammer, but Piper knee-lifts him and chokes him out. Piper wraps the chain around the post to trap Valentine in the corner and beat him down with the chain as Greg gets busted open. That was actually a very smart move. Valentine chokes him down and Piper bails. They start whipping each other with the chain and slug it out on the apron. Greg goes to the ear again to take over. He posts Piper as his ear is bleeding very badly. Valentine pounds on the ear with the chain some more. Piper blocks a suplex by using the chain, but gets elbowed in the ear. Another elbow gets two. Valentine with another elbow drop gets two. Piper spears him and stomps away, but has no balance due to the ear injury. He destroys him with the chain and wins a slugfest, but Valentine clotheslines the dizzy Piper and gets a knee drop for two. Piper reverses a suplex for the double-KO! Valentine hooks the sleeper and it looks to be curtains for Piper, but he Valentine with the chain to break the hold. Greg gets a pair of elbows, and then gets yanked off the middle rope by the chain. Piper goes nuts by wailing on him with the chain and then hooks the leg using the chain for the three-count to a HUGE pop. (16:09) As a result of this match, Piper lost 75% of his hearing and because of the damage done to his ear, his equilibrium would never be the same. Not only was it sick and intense, but it had that special added ingredient called psychology that makes it just that much better and legendary of a match. Really the end of an era for both guys as they both headed off to the WWF soon after Starrcade. ***½
Final Thoughts: The doc is pretty standard for what the WWE does with these spotlights on wrestlers – more so back then than they do now. They hit the highlights and never really go into very much detail. Anything not WWE-related is treated like it didn’t matter much at all. I would have liked to have heard more about his childhood, why he left home at age fifteen, more about his run in Portland, and his time spent in Georgia that wasn’t even mentioned. The best you can do with these docs is go around thumbs in the middle.
As for the extra stories, they were just okay. I never really care that much about these parts of the DVD sets. The matches are where it’s at on this disc with us getting some heated Portland footage, the Jack Brisco match, and of course the epic dog collar match. More to come with all the extras on discs two and three.