Posted in: Mr. Tito
MR. TITO STRIKES BACK - Remembering "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and His Legacy to Pro Wrestling
By Mr. Tito
Aug 1, 2015 - 11:44:58 PM

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REST IN PEACE, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper... The pro wrestling industry lots of its biggest legends when he passed away due to a heart attack while sleeping through the night and was found dead on July 31st. He was 61 years old and is survived by his wife, 4 children, 4 grandchilden, and many wrestling fans who loved him.

I have to full admit that I'm not too familiar with his wrestling career from the mid-1970's to his WWE return in 1984. Most of what I know is from reading his book (April 2003 Book Review - Click Here) and seeing a few matches here and there. The one that I remember seeing on various Starrcade compilations was Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine from Starrcade 1983 in a Dog Collar match. For 1980's standard, that was a violent match and Piper actually hurt his left eardrum during that match and left him somewhat hearing impaired permanently. That match is definitely worth checking out on the WWE Network...

His 1984-1992 WWE career was remarkable and the funny thing is that it could have actually been better. In the PEAK YEARS of his career, he had a brief retirement to pursue other things such as a movie career. Most know Piper from his 1988 film They Live which had one of the most famous fight scenes (South Park actually recreated it punch by punch between Timmy and Jimmy) and many famous lines such as "I have come here to kick ass and chew bubblegum... And I'm all out of bubblegum!". On the same night that Hulk Hogan bodyslammed Andre "the Giant" at Wrestlemania 3, Roddy Piper had a retirement match. Think about that... Just as the WWE was about to take off from the mainstream popularity of Wrestlemania 3, Piper walked away from the sport. Piper's exit created a great opportunity for wrestlers like Macho Man Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior to step up. Piper would return in 1989 for another great run but he kindly step aside and mostly work in the midcard for the rest of his 1984-1992 run.

But let's go back to 1984-1987... What made Roddy Piper GREAT was how he gave the WWE its first true Super Villain under Vince McMahon Jr.'s 1982 and beyond ownership. Sure, you had Iron Shiek, "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Ordorff, and other heels who did well with Hulk Hogan and other faces but nobody drew legitimate heat like Roddy Piper. It was the way Piper carried himself, cut promos, and worked with psychology in the ring that (a) inspired wrestlers to up their game against Piper and (b) angered fans and made them want to pay top dollar to see Piper get his butt kicked. He just has an irritating personality that made him seem like was legitimately crazy and diabolical. He would do off-the-wall and unexpected things like bashing Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka's head with a coconut that nobody saw before Piper returned to the WWE. Then, he could go into that ring and deliver an amazing match with his solid in-ring ability. Great with promos, great with creating heat, and always came through with great matches.

Think about Wrestlemania 1... Roddy Piper had a tall order. Opposite of him at Wrestlemania 1 was two stars from the hit film, Rocky 3 which made $270 Million during 1982. Sure, Hulk Hogan and Mr. T could probably draw on their own but to get the newly created super-event "Wrestlemania" over, they needed something that could convince more fans to watch WWE programming. Enter Roddy Piper and the brilliance of Vince McMahon to want to cross-market his wrestling stars with the rising Music Television (Mtv) channel. Piper was perfect because of his ability to cut a promo and effectively convince non-wrestling fans that he was crazy enough to attack a music star like Cyndi Lauper. When he attacked Captain Lou Albano with the Gold Record in a frame and then used his leg to kick Cyndi Lauper away. Non-wrestling fans were furious at what happened and lined up for WWE shows to see Roddy "get his". Piper's ability to draw in non-wrestling fans through this Mtv crossover was pivotal in creating brand new wrestling fans and making Wrestlemania 1 a success.

Piper was smarter than the average wrestler or heel... Though many may accuse him for not properly doing business with Hulk Hogan, that stubbornness kept Piper strong as a heel. Hulk Hogan was mowing through many wrestlers during that era including Piper's friend, Mr. Wonderful Paul Ordorff who may have peaked through his feud with Hogan. By not getting pinned, Piper could easily sell the heel character of cheating and escaping loss. It kept the demand for Piper's heel character strong. Better yet, by refusing to lose to Hogan, it created future business for World Championship Wrestling (WCW) when Roddy Piper made a surprise appearance at Halloween Havoc 1996 to inform "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan that "I'm the only guy that you've never been able to beat" in a spine chilling moment in wrestling history. Hogan and Piper would continue their remarkable business with great numbers (at the time) for Starrcade 1996 and Superbrawl 1997 not just from their Wrestlemania 1 feud but because Hogan never pinned Roddy Piper.

Yet, for as big of a draw that Roddy Piper was during the Rock N Roll Wrestling stuff for Wrestlemania 1 and Wrestlemania 2 (he fought Mr. T in a boxing match at that event), his best work might be at Wrestlemania 8 against Bret "the Hitman" Hart. Hart was the beneficiary of a major put over job at SummerSlam 1991 by defeating "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig but he needed a little more to increase the seriousness of the Bret Hart character to begin a main event WWE Title push. Piper would become the Intercontinental Champion at Royal Rumble 1992 and set the stage for a big showdown against former champion Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 8. The match was perfect and better yet for Bret, it was a 100% clean victory for the Hitman. Piper did business and helped anchor Bret Hart as a top guy in the WWE. Bret would have 5 years as a main eventer as a result (some midcard feuds and a brief hiautus, here or there). Definitely watch Wrestlemania 8 on WWE Network to watch this amazing match and passing of the torch by Piper.

I really enjoy the Wrestlemania 12 stuff with Goldust, the infamous "Backlot Brawl". The White Bronco stuff and some really hard punches landed by Piper are always amusing to watch. This kind of ridiculousness is what defined Piper and made him not just unpredictable, but uniquely entertaining.

Great career for Roddy Piper, no doubt, and he'll be missed.


Onto some pressing WWE matters, which has some relation to Roddy Piper. Through July 24th, the WWE terminated their deal with Hulk Hogan due to racist remarks that Hulk Hogan made on a 2006 sex tape. But what many don't know is that earlier in the month, WWE may have terminated their Legends contract with Roddy Piper as well. Ric Flair confirmed this action as reportedly widely by various wrestling news sites through July 8th, 2015. Recently, Roddy Piper and Steve Austin had some feud over their podcasts. After Wrestlemania 31, Roddy Piper had a podcast with comedian and former MadTV star Will Sasso on his show and they were joking about Steve Austin's no-show at Wrestlemania. Somehow, this led to Piper believing that the producers of his podcast, Podcast One, shut his podcast down due to Steve Austin's issues with Piper's specific show about Austin. Lots of online pettiness followed...

But if the WWE released Roddy Piper due to an online feud with Steve Austin and later in the month released Hulk Hogan because of racist comments. WWE may have let go of both of their Wrestlemania 1 and 1980's cornerstones in 1 month! Living legends who are throughout the WWE's video library, Wrestlemanias, and remain good draws as retired veterans. Hogan and Piper merchandise can still sell despite their inactivity as wrestlers. Both were THAT BIG during the 1980's... WWE Corporation shoudl re-evaluate its practices because of the business need of key personnel. Many corporations suspend personnel for crime outside of the office and things like harassment. In the case of WWE, they still have a need for Hogan and Piper outside of the WWE. Piper was just a little off the hook and for all we know, the Steve Austin stuff could have been a work in Piper's mind. In the case of Hulk Hogan, he doesn't have a long pattern of racist behavior and many former co-workers of Hogan, such as the Rock, have spoke out about him.

WWE has a need to have business relations with their legends... Suspend, not terminate... WWE has a business need to keep in decent relations with its former stars. After all, several of the older top stars won't be here forever. Piper is gone forever and WWE can't say that he was a WWE employee when he died. That's brutal.



Question #1 - What do you make of the WWE's 2nd Quarter 2015 Financial Results?

Overall, good earnings... Unlike 2014, the WWE Network has a larger subscriber base and appears to have exceeded the "break even" point. 2015 doesn't have the start-up costs to observe, unlike 2014. You have to realize that WWE Network launched during 2014 and that implementing and marketing that product was very expensive. Additionally, when you implement a new product, there is a learning curve and eventually, you figure out how to streamline costs.

The new television deal is also in full effect compared to last year as well. Although investors expected double if not tripling their previous deal, the new Comcast/NBC/Universal was still an increase from the previous deal. That's in addition to the amended deal which will place WWE Smackdown on USA Networks for 2016.

Most encouraging is the WWE's live events numbers... Up almost $4 million versus last year's first 6 months and that has also resulted in venue merchandise sales increasing (up by $1.6 million). More consumers at WWE events and also buying WWE merchandise. That, or Wrestlemania 31 was such a monster of an event at Levi Stadium compared to Wrestlemania 30 in New Orleans.

Encouraging but my worries with the WWE remain on the company being too dependent on the Comcast/NBC/Universal deal to survive. RAW ratings are sliding right now and that's a bad sign when you're about to move Smackdown to USA Networks as well. Hopefully for the WWE, there exists no termination clause in the contract for Comcast/NBC/Universal to execute but in 3-4 years when the deal expires, I would be scared to own the WWE Stock long-term if current RAW viewership trends continue. We're under 4 million viewers now and that should get worse during the NFL season.


Question #2 - Why does Lex Luger have such a bad reputation?

I'm seeing it too... Several writers and even WWE Network programs rip Luger. I don't think it's that much of a critique on his in-ring ability but it's personal... For one, Lex Luger left the WWE in 1995 on bad terms by jumping to WCW. I know, his physical deal had expired but I heard he had some verbal agreement in place before Sting and Eric Bischoff lured Luger away. But I think the main cause of hatred for Luger in the modern age remains the death of Miss Elizabeth. Miss Elizabeth, who was Macho Man Randy Savage's wife/manager through the early 1990's and worked in both WWE/WCW, was adored by wrestling fans and wrestlers alike. She died in Luger's home due to a bad mix of painkillers and alcohol. Luger was dating her at the time and many hold him responsible, I guess.

As a wrestler, I have no problems... Is he the most technically sound wrestler of all time? No... But what he had was an amazing look and he was good at building up big moments through psychology. You knew that when the Human Torture Rack was executed, wrestlers had no where to go. Fans bought that move 100% as an unstoppable submission hold. He was a decent enough personality to speak for himself and get relatively over. His 1997 stuff is superb, by the way... The way he challenged the NWO, inspired the Giant after the NWO turned on him, and was the first to defeat Hulk Hogan during the NWO era was awesome. After Luger beat Hogan and then Hogan regained the title at Hog (or Road) Wild 1997 just 6 days later, his career went on the downslide. But the 1997 stuff through August was very entertaining.

Luger suffered from bad booking, in my opinion... He was overpushed as a young wrestler through 1988 and the "Made in America" stuff by Vince during 1993-1994 just didn't work. However, many contend that if Luger won the WWE Title at SummerSlam 1993, things could be different. I don't know...

Is Lex Luger a WWE Hall of Fame candidate? Well, is Koko B. Ware in the Hall? If we're including WCW in the WWE Universe now, he's definitely a WWE Hall of Famer. But then again, will the WWE hold his past actions against him? Then again, he was the one who formally gave the "Clique" (or Kliq) its name and thus might be considered a hero with the way that the Kliq gets WWE Network love.


Question #3 - Why did the WWE let Warrior become a WWE Hall of Fame based on his past insensitive comments?

It's a matter of timing... What the Ultimate Warrior said was aired years ago. However, what Hulk Hogan said, despite it being filmed in 2006, aired last week. That's the difference... As I said in my recent column, Hogan's comments were revealed at a time when the United States culture has rapidly changed over the course of the year regarding racism towards blacks. Whether you agree with his policy or not, one of President Obama's initiatives has been to use his Justice Department to challenge the how blacks were treated by authority figures. As you saw from the news, attending funerals, and reviewing police departments afterward, cases like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner had big spotlights on them and each involved an black person getting killed, 3 of which were by police and 1 was someone on neighborhood watch trying to act like the police. Incidents like that, along with the recent South Carolina church shooting where that kid was clearly a racist, have brought attention towards racism that still exists in America. The South Carolina church incident helped prompt that state to remove the Confederate Flag from their state capitol and many retailers have followed suit by stopping the sales of that flag and TV Land cancelled Dukes of Hazzard.

What Warrior said was from the famous University of Connecticut speech during the early 2000's, on his regular blog, and getting into Twitter fights were from years ago... He mostly made comments against homosexuality and seemed to quiet down as the push for Gay Marriage occurred over the past few years. But what I think it boils down to is the fact that Warrior just wasn't the high profile name of Hulk Hogan as well as timing. Warrior was last seen in a major wrestling promotion during 1998. Hulk Hogan has stayed in the wrestling spotlight and did other things beyond the ring. Warrior mostly kept to himself... His words weren't as broadcast loudly as Hogan's were. In addition, Warrior didn't make a sex tape, which created big news for Hogan, and the racist comments were a follow-up to that sex tape. Warrior stayed out of trouble and out of the spotlight aside from a few incidents where he stated his beliefs mostly against homosexuals.

The theme in 2014 that you saw with the Warrior was forgiveness. In that one week before the Hall of Fame Induction, Wrestlemania 30, and RAW that followed, Warrior made amends with many people in the wrestling business and professionally delivered a good speech at the Hall of Fame induction. All positive... That's what Hulk Hogan has to observe, especially as Warrior and Hogan made amends that weekend. There's a way to let the past be the past... Just do good for yourself and your family and time will heal everything. Maybe... As I keep reading Hogan's comments, I'm getting more and more disturbed by how he flat-out says "I'm a racist". Warrior's comments fit right in with many of the anti-gay marriage crowd.


Question #4 - Which wrestler was better? Shawn Michaels or Bret Hart?

Shawn Michaels, no question about it. Simple reason is that we have Shawn Michaels's comeback from 2002-2010 that significantly pads his resume well above Bret Hart. I could just simply leave my argument like that...

But I like the Shawn Michaels through 1998 better than I do Bret Hart overall... To me, Shawn is far more creative inside the ring than Bret Hart. Bret's matches are very similar to each other whereas Shawn seems to change-up his style depending who he's wrestling. His personality, especially as a heel, is appealing to me than Hart's good guy act.


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