Greatest Wrestlers Of The WrestleMania Era: #23 – “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

What can be said about “Rowdy” Roddy Piper that hasn’t been said?

During the 1980s wrestling boom period, Hulk Hogan was the top guy in the business and quickly became a household name. His biggest foil, his arch-rival, his “Lex Luthor”, and an arguable #2 guy, was Rowdy Roddy Piper. When Vince McMahon signed Piper away from Don Owens, he had to have seen stars in his eyes. Piper was one of the wildest and most unpredictable characters to ever step into a ring. Roddy was crazy, and many people in the business and fans to this day believe that it goes beyond a character: he was legitimately nuts. Piper’s insane antics were legendary, inspiring a flock of “sadistic, dick heels” of the future such as Brian Pillman and Edge. Piper’s incredible charisma and ability to improvise quicker than the entire cast of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” put him head and shoulders above anybody else. He was perfect for the role.

Other than what he accomplished in the ring as a worker and personality, the other half of Piper’s legacy is that he was one of the first, perhaps THE FIRST, wrestler to host his very own interview segment, with a custom set and all – Piper’s Pit. Never before did we see a wrestler interview another wrestler, and as expected, it often led to chaos. Some of the WWF’s biggest angles of the 80s took place in Piper’s pit, including Andre the Giant’s historic heel turn, building to his match with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III, the biggest wrestling event of all time. The Piper’s Pit segments were provocative and innovative.

The most infamous episode of Piper’s Pit was when he interviewed Jimmy Snuka. Watch it here:

As an 80s icon, Piper has a laundry list of accolades in the wrestling and did so much for it, he needs to be immortalized forever. Other than being the main rival to Hulk Hogan, he main evented the first WrestleMania, had a boxing match with Mr. T during WrestleMania 2, and even appeared on MTV in Cyndi Lauper’s “Goonies Are Good Enough” video, which PERSONIFIED the Rock N Wrestling Connection. After his first retirement at Wrestlemania 3 in a memorable feud with Adrian Adonis, Piper had sporatic runs in the WWF as a wrestler, trainer for Virgil, commentator, and WWF President. He had notable feuds with Bad News Brown, Ric Flair, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and of course, Goldust.

Behind the curtain, Piper was a devoted family man with four children. So it came as no surprise that in 1996, Piper took a very lucrative offer from World Championship Wrestling and rekindled his rivalry with Hulk Hogan. It was called the “Battle of the Icons”, but this time, the roles were reversed: Hogan had become a cocky overbearing heel and leader of the NWO and Piper was the legend coming back to humble him. Their match at Starrcade 1996 was WCW’s biggest buyrate up until that point. Piper stayed in WCW and feuded with Hogan’s group while also having smaller feuds with Ric Flair and Randy Savage in 1997 and 1998. When WCW closed, Piper made a brief return to the WWE in 2003 and once again feuded with Hogan… err… Mr. America… after making an AWESOME surprise appearance at Wrestlemania XIX. In 2005, the WWE honored Piper by inducting him into the Hall of Fame, where he certainly deserved to be.

Other than being a mainstay in the wrestling business, Piper also dabbled in acting, appearing in numerous films like Body Slam, Hell Comes to Frogtown, and his magnum opus: They Live.

Defining Match Of The WrestleMania Era: Roddy Piper vs. Bret Hart at WrestleMania VIII

There’s a few I can list including WrestleMania 1-3, the trilogy of Hogan matches in WCW, The War To Settle The Score, and tons more. But to me, the match that sticks out as bell to bell accomplishing the most and telling an amazing story is the one he had at Wrestlemania VIII. Piper defended his WWF Intercontinental Title against Bret “Hitman” Hart. The story of the match was an unbelievable back and forth contest between two babyfaces which stole the show because of the athleticism and chemistry that both had, and the story of the match teased Piper, who hadn’t been a villain since 1986, nearly turning back into that and hitting Bret with a bell, but realizing that he wasn’t that man anymore. It was the defining moment for the babyface Piper character.

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