March 22, 2005
Rowdy Roddy Piper
REAL NAME: Roderick George Toombs
Already a member of the SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper will have another honour bestowed on him in April when he is inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, on the eve of an event he helped to pioneer: Wrestlemania.
One of wrestling's all-time great personalities, Rowdy Roddy Piper, spent most of his youth growing up in Canada. His father was a CN policeman, and the family lived everywhere from The Pas, Manitoba to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. After a falling out with his father, he hit the road, and from age 12 to 15, he stayed in youth hostels wherever he could find them.
Despite being nicknamed "The Parkdale Pugilists" by Toronto media, Piper didn't in fact live in that part of old Toronto. Instead, he lived in the more upscale Don Mills area for a spell, including getting expelled from North York's Donview Heights Junior High School.
At 15, he ended up in Winnipeg. It was there that he got involved in wrestling.
He told The Oregonian newspaper "The first professional match I saw, I was in. I was living on the streets of Winnipeg and a guy offered me $25 to wrestle. I had been a boxer and an amateur wrestling champion (Piper won the 167-pound Amateur Wrestling Championship of Manitoba at 15) so I thought it sounded good.
"I was 15 years old and weighed 167 pounds. My first match was against Larry Hennig, who was a former world champion, 35 years old, and weighed about 320. I lost the match in 10 seconds."
After being used as a jobber in Winnipeg, Piper traveled to Los Angeles. In L.A., he wrestled as "the Masked Canadian" and later, tangled with Chavo Guerrero, Sr. It would be Guerrero that would be on the losing end of a match against Piper on March 12, 1976 to give Roddy his first championship, the NWA Americas title.
That victory would not be the last time that Piper and a Guerrero clashed. Piper would enjoy two reigns as NWA World Tag Team Champion while in L.A., and both times he would defeat a Guerrero to do so. On July 22, 1977, he would team with Keith Franks (who would later be known as Adrian Adonis) to defeat Tom Jones and Mando Guerrero, then on April 21, 1978, he would team with Ron Bass to defeat Black Gordman and Chavo. During his time in Los Angeles, Piper would be the Americas champion five times and a tag team champion seven times.
After a brief time in the San Francisco area in 1978,(where he defeated Moondog Lonnie Mayne for the United States Championship) Piper headed to Oregon to compete for Don Owen's Pacific Northwest territory. His big break come out in the Pacific Northwest territory, where he became a top draw. And he never forgot that he got his break there. When the company hit hard times in the late '80s, Piper came back to help promoter Don Owen boost some gates and pump some enthusiasm into the scene. In the end, the promotion still died, but Piper had shown his heart.
Before the year was out, Piper would team with Killer Tim Brooks to win the area's version of the NWA tag team championship. In February 1979, Piper would also team with Ed Wiskowski (later Colonel DeBeers) to win the belts before forming a very successful team with Rick Martel.
The team of Piper and Martel would win the Pacific Northwest Tag Team titles three times and also win the Vancouver-based Canadian Tag Team Championship. Meanwhile, Piper would win the PNW's top title on several occassions in 1979-80, defeating Johnathon Boyd and Buddy Rose.
By the fall of 1980, Piper was traveling across the United States, away from the Pacific Northwest to the Mid-Atlantic area. He wasted little time in gaining success and gold there, defeating Paul Jones in a tournament for the Mid-Atlantic Television Championship. Before the month was out, however, he would have to vacate that title, because he had defeated Ric Flair for the United States Championship.
1981 and 1982 saw Piper maintain a strong hold on the Mid-Atlantic title, although he would drop it to Ricky Steamboat in November 1981 and twice to Jack Brisco in January 1981 and July 1982.
It would be 1983 and the United States Championship that would have Piper cross paths with Greg Valentine. After Piper defeated Valentine for the U.S. title on April 16th, 1983, the feud between the two men intensified, leading to a dog collar match at Starrcade '83. Piper's left ear was injured during the battle. Piper would lose 75% of his hearing in the ear, and the injury would do irreparable damage to his equilibrium.
Piper was told his wrestling career was over but instead it was just beginning.
In January 1984, Piper headed north to the WWE. In addition to wrestling, Piper's mouth, always one of his strengths, would be put to good use as the host of "Piper's Pit". His actions on the Pit would lead to many feuds, including one with Jimmy Snuka after Piper smashed Snuka over the head with a coconut. Soon Piper found the need for a bodyguard Cowboy Bob Orton Jr., the father of future WWE Champion Randy Orton.
During Piper's time in "the Pit", he would begin to speak out about the WWE's "Rock and Wrestling Connection" which led him into a confrontation with WWE Champion Hulk Hogan. One of the first times that Hogan and Piper clashed in the ring was at Madison Square Garden, during "the War to Settle the Score" in February 1985 on MTV. Hogan would win by disqualification, but the melee involved Cyndi Lauper and Mr. T and would lead to the first Wrestlemania.
Piper would team with Paul Orndorff to face Hogan and Mr. T in the main event of Wrestlemania. Orndorff would drop the fall, thanks to the misdirected interference from Orton, but it did little to soften Piper's edge. He would continue to be a thorn in not only Hogan's side, but would draw Mr. T back into the wrestling fray.
In early 1986, Piper would mold Orton into a boxer, challenging several jobbers to boxing matches on WWE TV. Piper's mouth once again seemed to get the better of him, however, when Hogan accepted Piper's challenge on behalf of Mr. T. Orton would face T on an edition of Saturday Night's Main Event. Mr. T got the win but Piper and Orton attacked him after the bout, leading to a boxing match between the Rowdy One and The A-Team star at Wrestlemania II. Piper would be disqualified in the third round.
After Wrestlemania II, Piper took a hiatus from wrestling to film the movie Body Slam (starring the Tonga Kid and Dirk Benedict). When he returned in the fall of 1986, he found that Adrian Adonis had taken over his TV time and had hired Orton as his bodyguard. After a short war of words, Piper found himself on the receiving end of a three-on-one attack, with Adonis, Orton and Don Muraco (a guest on Piper's Pit) ganging up on him.
Piper would vow revenge. Meanwhile, something strange had happened. Piper, the WWE's biggest heel since his arrival, was now receiving the cheers of the fans. The feud with Adonis lasted into 1987, and a "hair vs. hair" match at Wrestlemania III. Piper shocked the wrestling world with the announcement that the bout would be his farewell match. With the surprise help of Brutus Beefcake, Piper won the match, cut Adonis' hair, and left the WWE for Hollywood.
He said at the time to TV Guide that "I'm not just going to go out into the world and wing it, like I always have. I'd like to do some movies and TV. Not as anything in particular -- just as a personality. I can always come back and fight."
A year later, Piper's first major film, John Carpenter's They Live would debut in theatres. Piper would also do several other films during his time away from the ring, including Hell Comes to Frogtown (1987) and Buy and Cell (1989).
But the lure of the ring was too strong for Roddy. He would return at Wrestlemania V, as part of a wild interview segment that also included Brother Love and Morton Downey, Jr. As per usual, Piper held court, dispatching both Love and Downey. Soon, Piper would be back in the ring, and crossing paths with Bad News Brown. Piper would court controversy by painting himself half-black for his match against Brown at Wrestlemania VI.
After his battle with Bad News and a feud with Ravishing Rick Rude, Piper stepped away from the ring and into the broadcast area, becoming a commentator for most of the next two years. He would step back into the ring at the 1992 Royal Rumble and defeated The Mountie (Jacques Rougeau Jr.) for the Intercontinental Championship, the first title Piper won in the WWE.
Piper would lose the title to Bret Hart in a rare face-vs-face match at Wrestlemania VII. After the loss, Piper would once again step away from pro wrestling but would return two years later, as the special guest referee for the Bret Hart- Yokozuna match at Wrestlemania X. He would also feud with Jerry "The King" Lawler, leading to Piper's victory over Lawler at the 1994 King of the Ring.
In between sporadic appearances in the WWE, feuding with Goldust and taking over as interim WWE President in 1996, Piper would star in a series of straight-to-video flicks including No Contest, Immortal Combat and Back in Action. By the end of 1996, however, Roddy would head to the WWE's competition, WCW, and once again find himself facing Hulk Hogan.
But with Hogan installed as WCW's top heel and leader of the NWO, Piper found himself on the receiving end of the fans' cheers. Referring to himself as an ICON of pro wrestling, Piper would defeat Hogan at Starrcade '96, but in a non-title match.
Hogan would win the rematch at SuperBrawl, thanks to the use of a foreign object. Undaunted Piper would continue to wage war against the NWO, even teaming with old nemesis Ric Flair. But Flair and Piper did not last long as a team and soon found themselves battling each other.
Piper's schedule cut back in 1998, although he retained his role as WCW Commissioner. He both feuded and teamed with Randy Savage, all in one night in one instance (the 1998 Great American Bash) and took part in the War Games at Fall Brawl '98.
In Febuary 1999, "Rowdy" Roddy defeated Bret Hart on Nitro to regain the United States Championship only to lose it to Scott Hall at SuperBrawl shortly thereafter. 1999 would also see Piper feud with Ric Flair, again, this time over the position as President of WCW. Flair beat Piper at Slamboree '99 but Eric Bischoff reversed the decision and the feud continued. Piper would remain with WCW until his contract was terminated in the fall of 2000.
After a victory over Michelle Starr for Matt Osborne's independent federation, Piper moved on to Jimmy Hart's Xtreme Wrestling Federation, acting as the President and helping with the training of several of the organization's young stars.
The XWF soon folded and soon Piper was busy promoting his autobiography In the Pit With Piper. In late 2002, Piper unexpectedly appeared in NWA-TNA and did a shoot on Vince Russo before departing the company. Piper's next appearance, again an unexpected one, came at Wrestlemania XIX when he ran in during the Hulk Hogan/Vince McMahon bout and attacked Hogan. But rather than disappearing again, Piper remained in the WWE, bringing the Pit back with him. Piper became a manager of sorts to Sean O'Haire who would feud with Rikishi, and later Mr. America (Hogan under a mask) and Zach Gowen over the spring of 2003.
However, on June 24th, shortly after O'Haire and Piper lost to Eddie Guerrero and Tajiri in a tag team title match on Smackdown, Piper was fired for his comments about the wrestling business and his own drug use on an HBO program "Real Sports". After his departure from the WWE, Piper returns to NWA-TNA and after feuding with Vince Russo, appeared with Jimmy Snuka in a special "Piper's Pit" at the Victory Road pay-per-view.
As Vince McMahon once said "Anything Can Happen in the (WWE)" and assuredly that has never been more true than the announcement that "Rowdy" Roddy Piper would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in April 2005. Piper delivered one of the highlight speeches of the night and then, twenty-four hours later, hosted a special "Piper's Pit" at Wrestlemania XXI with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin as his guest. Piper rid the ring of Carlito Caribbean Cool before falling prey to a Stone Cold Stunner.
RODDY PIPER STORIES