We may write about professional wrestling here, but we’re fans too. And who wasn’t a fan of Roddy Piper, the key heel of the 1980s WWF who morphed into an iconic antihero? The SLAM! Wrestling staff share their thoughts on “Hot Rod” here today in a special SLAM! Speaks.
JON WALDMAN: Piper, to me, was one of the greatest men on the stick, bar none. The instant comparison to make, for younger readers, is to Chris Jericho, and I’ve often felt the two were extremely similar in their respective generations (aside from both being Winnipeg superstars who made it to the big time). I don’t think there’s a particular Piper moment that sticks out to me mic wise, but the indelible mark he left for me was when he won the Intercontinental Championship. For so many years in WWE he felt like an uncrowned champion, and to me, this was just as much Vince’s way of saying ‘thank you’ to Hot Rod than anything.
CHRIS SCHRAMM: I met Roddy a few times. He seemed genuine. I first met him in 2003 to conduct a video interview with him. I got to spend four hours with him, and we spent most of that time speaking of the early deaths in wrestling. It was the sort of comments that would later make him lose his job with the WWE in 2003. But he cared, and it showed. He was upset about it, and wished the industry would make steps to eliminate it. I am glad I met Roddy Piper, and out of all the interviews I have done over the last 20 years, he is in my top two. I will remember him fondly.
BOB KAPUR: With the passing of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, a part of my childhood is gone too. When I was a young fan, Roddy Piper was one of my favourites. I preferred the heels, and he was one of, if not the best one in the company. What was unique about Piper, though, was that even after he turned, he was still one of my favourites. He was that compelling a character.
So many memories come rushing to me, all of them fun. Seeing him interrupt Uncle Elmer’s wedding… watching his trashing of Adrian Adonis’ Flower Shop set, a highlight of Saturday morning TV back in the day… hearing him cut the simplest, yet most effective, promo ever: “Intercontinental championship? I could use one of those!” to hype a match with Mr. Perfect.I can’t think of a time when seeing Piper on TV didn’t make me smile.
Since I’ve been writing for SLAM! Wrestling, I’ve had the chance to meet him a few times, and those were all great as well. The first was several years back when he, Bobby Heenan, and Gene Okerlund were in Toronto for a media blitz. I’d brought his book, hoping he’d sign it for me. He did, but not before he grilled me for 10 minutes over whether I’d then sell it on Ebay. After I swore for the hundredth time that I wouldn’t, he broke into his trademark Piper grin and said, “It’s your book… do whatever you want with it.” Over the next few years, I saw him at different conventions where it always struck me that no matter how many hours he’d been there, no matter how many people were left in line, he never rushed anyone. He’d look you straight in the eye, talk with you like you were the most important person in the world, and treat you like an old friend. He’d do that with everyone, taking extra time when it was a kid or a disabled person. True class.
The last time I met Piper, I was covering WrestleMania a couple of years ago, and got the chance to interview him during a Fan Axxess session. He was getting pulled away by some of the WWE media folks. But he stopped them to make sure that he had answered every question I wanted to ask. “I’m talking with him,” he told the suits. “When I’m done, then I’ll be ready to go. What else do you want to know?”
I have no more questions, Mr. Piper. Thanks for your time. Rest in peace.
JOHN POWELL: I remember having to call Piper about a live chat. I couldn’t attend or be a part of it because my son was sick at the time. Once he answered, Piper didn’t even want to talk business. All he wanted to know was if my son was doing better. We spent the next 15 minutes or so as just two dads talking about our kids, Piper sharing his personal stories with me. I was amazed and genuinely touched by his concern.
Roddy Piper is one of the very reasons why I do what I do and why I became a wrestling fan to begin with. Historians cite Hulk Hogan and in turn Hulk-A-Mania as what paved the way for pro wrestling as we know it today. While that may be true, in my mind, Roddy Piper deserves just as much credit. Without Piper, there would have been no Hulk Hogan. Piper truly set the standard for what a heel should be.
Roddy Piper was a true original. There was no one like him then and there has been no one like him since. Whether inside or outside the ring, the lone wolf, as he liked to call himself, lived life on his terms and by his rules. For that, I will always have the utmost respect for Roddy Piper.
YVES LEROUX: Having had the privileged pleasure to have met him a few times, I can confirm what most have heard that he was a true gentleman outside the ring. One can easily attribute to him the often controversial interviews, spots and unorganized mayhem he was responsible for. This is a man who came here in Montreal a few years ago for a T.O.W. Show and once the evening was done and he was about to leave for the hotel, was asked a question by a local wrestler backstage. His son Colton by his side, instead of politely answering a short version, he started answering questions by others and kept going for over 45 minutes, always smiling and respectful of everyone, no matter who you were in the pecking order. I was there for this unique encounter. And even though he was one of my all time favourites on TV, I discovered right there and then what a truly incredible man, father and friend he was.
MARTY GOLDSTEIN: For many years Piper was very reluctant to acknowledge Winnipeg as a hometown or that it was Tony Condello and not Al Tomko who started him. But when he got around to talking about it he never bad mouthed the city. When we were breaking in, he was on top on Georgia TV and we were amazed at the heat he generated, and how over he got when he turned on Don Muraco to save Gordon Solie. He was also a legendary wild man outside the ring, so the Winnipeg guys all looked up to him.
PATRIC LAPRADE: When I heard about the passing of Roddy Piper, two people came to mind: Rick Martel and Mad Dog Vachon.
I had the chance to witness live the camaraderie between Rick and Roddy a couple of years ago at WrestleReunion in Toronto. It was like two old college buddies seeing each other for the first time in years. I’m sure that for one night, they felt like when they were rooming together in Portland at a time when both were trying to make a name for themselves. It was such a cool thing to see.
On the other hand, Mad Dog Vachon was a father figure for Roddy. When Maurice passed away, Roddy tweeted that he was so sad that he didn’t even want to talk about it. But when he finally did, giving us an interview for our book on The Dog, it was more than clear. He wanted to be quoted saying that if it wasn’t for Maurice, there would be no Roddy Piper, and that he loved him dearly.
Yes he was loud. Yes he was eccentric. Yes he was Rowdy. But to me, he was a man with feelings and emotions… and that’s also what this business is all about.
NOLAN HOWELL: As one of the younger staffers on SLAM! Wrestling, Roddy Piper was at first just some crazy legend who would come out and go wild on a Piper’s Pit episode. As my appreciation and knowledge for wrestling grew, I soon became acquainted with one of the most passionate promos in wrestling. Smashing beer bottles over his head, cracking coconuts, painting himself up… it all sounds like a nutty Attitude Era episode of Raw when it is put in words. What separated him from the rest was the conviction and ability to make you believe in his words, getting so riled up he’d snort and growl at you. That ferocity was displayed in the ring, too, as Piper was a raw brawler who’d throw every dirty trick in the book to beat you.
To me, Piper transcends wrestling and that is a hard thing to do in a business that is sort of dismissed by the mainstream. Piper’s charisma made him a wrestling great and put him into roles in movies like They Live (one of my favorites). Piper left an impact wherever he went and his part in wrestling and movie history will shine in the unique way that only “Hot Rod” could make them glow.
MATTHEW BYER: The images of Roddy Piper are an indelible part of my childhood and my teenage years, filled with so many moments in front of the television with my brother and my friends as the Hot Rod enthralled us as only he could. Who can ever forgot numerous episodes of Piper’s Pit or his matches at WrestleMania when he always seemed to be even more exciting to watch than at any other time of the year? However, my favourite wrestling moment of Piper’s career happened after Hollywood Hogan had defeated Macho Man Randy Savage at Halloween Havoc 1996. Just as Hogan was about to begin his celebration the familiar bagpipes played and the Hot Rod walked down to the ring. As he took the microphone the promo he cut in the ring was one that was so mesmerizing because so many of his points that he verbalized that night resonated with the essence of truth. When it led to the Icon Match at that year’s Starrcade, I couldn’t wait for the match. Somehow the world seems a little less bright with his passing. My sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans all over the world.
JOHN POWELL’S FAVOURITE PIPER MATCHES
1. Piper vs. Greg Valentine (Dog Collar Match – NWA Starrcade ’83)
2. Piper Vs Hulk Hogan (The Wrestling Classic)
3. Piper Vs Ric Rude (Steel Cage Match – WWF Supertape Vol. 2)
4. Piper Vs Jimmy Snuka (Fijian Strap Match – Best of the WWE Volume # 3)
5. Piper Vs The Mountie (Intercontinental Title Match- WWF Royal Rumble ’92)
6. Piper Vs Bret Hart (Intercontinental Title Match – WrestleMania VIII)
7. Piper Vs Goldust (Hollywood Backlot Match – WrestleMania XII)
8. Piper Vs Bruno Sammartino (Inside the Steel Cage)