RINGSIDE REMEMBRANCES: “ROWDY” RODDY PIPER

Posted August 1st, 2015 by jshannon

Ringside Remembrances: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

Jay Shannon draws upon five decades as a devout wrestling fan to look at the past, present and future of professional wrestling.

It’s hard to hear that one of your heroes is gone. I woke up on Saturday morning and took a look at my cell. There was a text message from my “brother”, Darren Antola (owner of Rivalry Championship Wrestling). All it said was “Roddy Piper Dead at 61”. I immediately surfed the web to confirm. Sadly, it was true. One of my favorites was soaring with the Angels. My interaction with him was very limited but his influence helped me, directly and indirectly. I want to share a few stories related to Piper to pay tribute to, in my humble opinion, was the greatest Heel in all of professional wrestling.

In Wrestling:

I think my first experience seeing Piper had to be the infamous Dog Collar Match against Greg Valentine. I talked with Greg about that match, a year ago, and he said it was the “Damnedest Match I ever took part in”. I’ve talked with tons of wrestlers, over the years, and so many of them had Piper stories. He was a joker that loved to have a great time, occasionally at the expense of some of “The Boys”. Nothing malicious, mind you, but a whole lot of fun.

Piper wasn’t the first to do a talk segment in the WWF/E. Buddy Rogers did his “Rogers’ Corner” a few months before Piper got his shot. However, no one, ever, did it better. Piper’s Pit served as the Blueprint for dozens of others (Snake Pit, Flower Shop, Barber Shop, Cutting Edge, Peep Show, MIZTv, etc…). Piper’s quick wit was always set to 11 when he was on stage. He was the perfect Anti-Hogan during the Hulkamania era. He never won the World title, but he did hold the Intercontinental Championship. I still remember the night Piper painted half his body black to mock Bad News (Allen) Brown. Piper also had a wild feud with Goldust that kick-started the Backstage Brawl concept.

Movies:

Roddy Piper still holds the record for the longest one-on-one fight scene in a film. He and Keith David slugged it out for just over 11 minutes (a lifetime in the world of film). That happened in “They Live”, a great John Carpenter sci-fi drama. My favorite film of Piper’s was “Hell Comes to Frogtown”. If you’ve never heard of the film, don’t be surprised. It was a low-budget, post-apocalyptic epic about Sam Hell (Piper), the last fertile man on planet Earth. He was recruited by the government to repopulate society (good work if you can get it). Piper played it serious, even though the film was FAR from a serious piece of cinematic excellence. Piper’s last movie was the indie film: “The Masked Saint”. (although, there are several works in various states of pre and post-production. IMDB.com has Piper listed as having 123 entries under “Actor”. He also had a couple “Producer” credits. He is one of the more successful wrestler-to-actor transitioners.

My experiences:

I had the honor, a few years back, of teaching at a wrestling school, in Reno. One of the things that I did was help the kids learn how to cut promos. When I searched through my extensive library of videos to find examples for the young kids to watch, Piper’s DVD was my first pick. My students knew who Piper was but they didn’t necessarily realize how fantastic he was on the stick. He could build heat faster than a match on a river of gasoline. So much that came out of his mouth would end up as part of the fabric of wrestling.

My favorite memory of Piper happened just over a year ago. I was down in New Orleans for Wrestlecon. The photo on the front page was actually taken at that great event. Many of you may remember that Piper worked with Lou Duva, many years ago, at Wrestlemania II. Darren Antola, who I mentioned above, was a student of Duva’s while learning to be one of the greatest “Cut Men” in the boxing industry. Darren called Lou and let him know he was going to meet Piper in New Orleans. Duva sent Piper autographed boxing gloves, which Darren had the honor of giving him. I didn’t want o interfere in the gift awarding, so I stood back, a few feet. Piper was so touched. He was in tears as he hugged Darren and explained how precious this gift meant to him. It was a look at the humanity of a larger than life personality.

In Conclusion:

Roddy Piper was one of my childhood heroes. He was cocky and confident. He worked crowds like a maestro conducting a symphony. He influenced dozens…make that hundreds…of future performers. Many came close but no one could make the intensity and talent of “Hot Rod”.

May your trip to your ultimate rewards be filled with happiness and great memories. Gone…but never forgotten.

(Rest In) Peace

–Jay Shannon
WordSlingerJay@Gmail.com

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