“Rowdy” Roddy Piper was born on April 17, 1954, in Saskatoon, Canada. From a young man with a rough upbringing to one of professional wrestling’s greatest legends, the story of the “Hot Rod” is nothing short of inspirational. What Piper is remembered for isn’t the slew of championships and accolades he held throughout his career, but rather his unbridled charisma and ability to speak like few can. Quotes such as “Just when they think they got the answers, I change the questions” are burned in the minds of long-time wrestling fans.
This isn’t to say that “Rowdy” Roddy Piper lacks quality matches. Just a cursory glance through his life’s work will show that he’s faced off against the most popular and very best in professional wrestling. He could be a bombastic heel, inciting crowds to throw items or draw switchblades at him. As an energetic babyface, he could make crowds adore and desire to see him succeed. Regardless of the role he played, he knew how to wrestle and did it quite well.
For those that know that Piper’s past, his competitive aptitude should come as little surprise.
As a youth, he was not only an amateur wrestler but a boxer. The latter form of combat would lead him to win the Golden Gloves Championship. His boxing knowledge would be utilized later in his wrestling career, specifically against Mr. T at WrestleMania 2. Furthermore, Piper was awarded the black belt in judo by Gene LeBell. Needless to say, Piper went into every match with a sense of legitimacy.
With today being the birthday of the late “Hot Scot,” it’s as appropriate a time as ever to go through some of the best matches of his career. It’s prudent to note that the following matches aren’t conclusive. These are simply the choices of one columnist that has followed wrestling for over 20 years. It’s safe to assume that these choices will vary from others. However, my hope going into this piece is that you will understand why these choices were made and possibly encourage you to check out these matches for yourself. Most of these choices are readily available to watch on the WWE Network.
Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine (Dog Collar Match)
Starrcade: A Flair for the Gold – November 24, 1983 – Greensboro Coliseum Complex, Greensboro, North Carolina
Prior to becoming a worldwide star in the World Wrestling Federation, Roddy Piper worked in various territories. Specifically, he worked across different promotions under the National Wrestling Alliance umbrella. It was here that he worked as both a heel and a babyface, the latter bringing him to perhaps his most well-known pre-WWF feud. Enter Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, who Piper had a heated conflict with during the early-to-mid 80s.
The feud in question would culminate at the first Starrcade in 1983, where Piper and Valentine engaged in a dog collar match. With both men bound to one another via dog collars, this match was nothing short of brutal. Though Valentine was the NWA United States Heavyweight Champion at the time, Piper’s focus was on inflicting as much pain on Valentine as possible. The major spot of this match was Valentine attacking Piper’s ear with the chain, causing the latter to have his eardrum legitimately broken. For the sake of being called the victor, the loudmouthed Saskatoon native would make the sacrifice.
Suffice to say, anyone that is squeamish would be wise to steer clear of this match. Though it may not be bloody in the same way that mid-to-late 90s ECW match would become, Piper and Valentine didn’t let up on one another. Additionally, the fact that they were tied to the necks by the same chain added the risk of injury in that respect. A single wrong tug could result in considerable neck trauma. For those with both strong stomachs and an affinity for old school wrestling, this is recommended viewing.
Roddy Piper vs. Hulk Hogan (WWF World Heavyweight Championship)
The War to Settle the Score – February 18, 1985 – Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
During the mid-80s, the World Wrestling Federation was seeing steady growth in pop culture. Two of the main contributors to this growth were “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and arguably his greatest rival, Hulk Hogan. Most fans recall their match from the first WrestleMania, which saw Piper team with “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff and Hogan join forces with Mr. T. However, it was their showdown at Madison Square Garden the month prior that was the more focused match.
Dubbed “The War to Settle the Score,” which was the same name of the event where this match took place, heated rivals Piper and Hogan squared off for the latter’s World Heavyweight Championship. They wouldn’t be alone, as David Wolff, Cyndi Lauper, and Captain Lou Albano cornered Hogan while Piper had his bodyguard in the form of “Cowboy” Bob Orton. Interesting point to note: while Piper came down to a live bagpipe performance, Hogan marched to the ring to the sounds of “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, a nod to his role as Thunderlips in “Rocky III.”
In terms of the match itself, it started hard and fast in front of a lively MSG crowd. With Hogan being the more powerful opponent, Piper would have to resort to a scrappy form of offense, even utilizing a double leg takedown to floor “The Hulkster” early on. Involvement from Lauper and Mr. T would also ensue, the latter setting the stage for Piper’s WrestleMania 2 match. “The War to Settle the Score” accomplished many goals, and for this reason, it deserves recognition.
Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis (Hair vs. Hair Match)
WrestleMania 3 – March 29, 1987 – Pontiac Silverdome, Pontiac, Michigan
For a stretch of time, the last match “Rowdy” Roddy Piper had in the World Wrestling Federation was against Mr. T at WrestleMania 2. Piper returned to the company in the summer of 1986, but things had changed since his departure. Case and point, Adrian Adonis not only recruited Piper’s former bodyguard, “Cowboy” Bob Orton, but started his own talk show. Whereas the “Hot Rod” had “Piper’s Pit,” the “Adorable” blonde had “The Flower Shop.” Not one to stay silent, Piper trashed “The Flower Shop’s” set and traded insults with Adonis, even referring him to as an “old cow.” This feud would lead to a showdown at WrestleMania 3.
While this match was not the best of Piper’s from a technical standpoint, it was notable for a number of reasons. Keep in mind that, at the first two WrestleMania events, Piper entered his matches as a heel. Here, Piper was a beloved face, soaking in the positive reception before he went into battle with Adonis. Moreover, this would be a hair vs. hair match, with Piper putting his long mane on the line against Adonis’ bleach-blonde locks. The fact that the ring-shaped cart that took the wrestlers to the ring broke down, causing Piper to run down by foot, is another interesting piece of trivia.
Following this match, Piper would leave the company once more. During this time, he focused more on film, starring in John Carpenter’s “They Live” as the main protagonist, John Nada. This wouldn’t be his final match, however, as history has shown. Nevertheless, its historical importance shouldn’t be ignored, as it was Piper’s first major program as a fan favorite in the World Wrestling Federation. Check this out to see a more lighthearted yet spirited side of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
Roddy Piper vs. The Mountie (c) (WWF Intercontinental Championship)
Royal Rumble 1992 – January 19, 1992 – Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, New York
Following his departure after WrestleMania 3, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper took a two-year break from the World Wrestling Federation. He returned in 1989, doing mostly talking segments before bringing himself back into the in-ring fold. Piper feuded with the likes of Rick Rude and Bad News Brown before setting his sights on The Mountie. Having won the Intercontinental Championship from Bret Hart on January 17, 1992, the cattle prod-wielding officer had gotten his man. Only two days later, he hit a roadblock in the form of the “Hot Rod.”
Granted, Piper vs. The Mountie isn’t much of a competitive match. Anyone that watches this match back would agree that Piper controlled the pace for the most part. Even with Jimmy Hart on The Mountie’s side, the “Hot Scot” had the champion’s number, staying on him for a little over five minutes. By the end, The Mountie’s fate was sealed and the raucous crowd in Albany couldn’t have been louder for the decision.
Piper was instrumental in the development of the World Wrestling Federation as a global brand. Thus, new fans may find it hard to believe that this was his only singles title victory in the company. Even when Piper was embroiled in a feud with Hulk Hogan, who was the company’s world champion, Piper never won the top prize. Piper remained a popular star, not only on the mic but between the ropes. Nonetheless, it was uplifting to see the “Hot Scot” receive recognition in the form of the Intercontinental Championship.
Roddy Piper (c) vs. Bret Hart (WWF Intercontinental Championship)
WrestleMania VIII – April 5, 1992 – Hoosier Dome, Indianapolis, Indiana
Having lost the Intercontinental Championship to The Mountie, as discussed earlier, Bret Hart was eager to get back to the chase. This would lead to a babyface versus babyface program between the “Hitman” and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. The promo work was especially entertaining, with Piper as his usual charismatic, quick-witted self and the more straight-laced Hart simply looking to get down to business in the ring. In terms of personalities, they couldn’t be further apart.
At WrestleMania VIII, Piper defended his Intercontinental Championship against Hart in what may be the best technical match of the “Hot Rod’s” career. Though Bret has always been known for his ring savvy, Piper was able to hang each step of the way. There was storytelling to be had outside of wrestling hold for hold, however. Near the end of the match, the former villain Piper appeared tempted to use the ring bell as a weapon against the weakened Hart. Despite this temptation, Piper’s nobler nature prevailed, much of the disgust of Bobby Heenan at commentary.
If there is any one Piper match that should be watched, this would be it. Not only does it provide solid build-up between two company fan favorites, but it played to the strengths of both parties. It also forced fans to pick a side: support the heroic champion in Piper or root for Hart to reclaim his lost Intercontinental Championship? For those that believe the “Rowdy” Scot to be nothing more than a great promo, this match, perhaps more than any other, should sway mindsets.
Roddy Piper vs. Goldust (Hollywood Backlot Brawl)
Wrestlemania XII – March 31, 1996 – Arrowhead Pond, Anaheim, California
Following his showdown with Bret Hart, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper appeared for the World Wrestling Federation less and less frequently. Piper made a return in 1994 to feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler, who ran down “Piper’s Pit” and his movie career, but it was his next program in 1996 that was more recognized. At this point, Goldust was one of the most enigmatic characters in wrestling. This was reinforced further when he targeted the legendary Piper, using mental tactics that would lead to the most unique entry in this column.
The Hollywood Backlot Brawl, which took place at WrestleMania XII, lives up to its “brawl” title. It began in a back alley, Goldust attempting to run over Piper early into the encounter. The grizzled Piper fought back, brandishing a baseball bat. This match led to a high-speed chase, Goldust in a gold Cadillac being tailed by Piper in a white Bronco; the latter was reminiscent of the OJ Simpson case that was prevalent in the news. This match became so hard-hitting that Piper legitimately broke his hand from a punch to Goldust’s head. Simply put, this match was equal parts ugly and entertaining.
One of the interesting pieces of trivia of this match was that Goldust was originally slated to face Razor Ramon.
When “The Bad Guy” left the company, Piper was slotted in. Even with this change, the Hollywood Backlot Brawl was of the most chaotic pre-Attitude Era matches. It was also topically relevant with the aforementioned inclusion of the white Bronco. This was far from a technical masterpiece, but it remains a memorable match in the career of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
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