411’s Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2007: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
The life of Roderick George Toombs did not start out to be a pleasant one. He grew up in a volatile home situation, and after a falling out with his father, Roderick left home at the age of 12. He would travel around and live on his own for the next 3-years. Roderick would live in youth homes when he had to, but would again hit the road. It was during this time that he discovered he enjoyed fighting, and was turned onto wrestling. In 1971, at the tender age of 15, Roderick stepped into the ring for his first match with Larry “The Ax” Hennig. He lost in 10 seconds that day, but a career was born.
From 1971 through late 1974 Roderick would work in the Winnipeg territory as a TV jobber. He made good money as an enhancement talent as bag boy for the other wrestlers. Once he hit the age of 18 he decided to try his luck elsewhere as it seemed as he would never get out of the enhancement role. At the beginning of 1975 the “Masked Canadian” hit the Los Angeles scene. This is where his first big feud came, with the Guerrero family. Chavo Sr. seemed to be the nemesis of the “Masked Canadian.” They would have many brutal and bloody brawls over the NWA Americas Heavyweight title; which he first defeated Chavo for in 1976. The two would trade the title back and forth and made for great gates in the territory.
Piper seemed to have more problems with the Guerrero family, next with Mondo. He would team with Keith Franks, better known to wrestling fans as Adrian Adonis, and defeat Mondo and Tom Jones for the NWA World Tag Team Titles. Piper would eventually have to drop that title when Franks was injured, but in 1978 he and new partner Ron Bass defeated Chavo and Black Gordman to recapture his NWA World Tag Team Titles. But as fans would come to learn, Piper marched to the beat of his own drummer and went back to the singles ranks. In 1978 he would defeat Lonnie Mayne to become the New NWA United States Champion.
Piper then took on many different partners up and down the coast and became even more successful. He won more tag titles with Killer Tim Brooks, Ed Wiskowski (better known as Col. DeBeers), John Studd and Rick Martel. Piper was obsessed with titles, they meat money and more titles meant more exposure. All of this diligent work would pay off in late 1980 ad Piper signed a deal to perform exclusively with Jim Crockett’s NWA Mid-Atlantic promotion. This would be the best move Piper could make.
Jim Crockett’s NWA Mid-Atlantic promotion was seen as the crown jewel of the NWA, and Piper was to become a big part of it. Within a few months of debuting, Piper would win a tournament for the vacant Mid-Atlantic Television title, defeating Paul Jones in the finals. He would go on to hold the TV Title but would have to vacate it after defeating Ric Flair for the Mid-Atlantic US Championship. He would hold that title for nearly 8-months until Wahoo McDaniel beat him. As 1981 begun, Piper was back on the winning side defeating Jack Brisco for the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight title. Piper was on a roll, and would set his sights on bigger gold, the NWA US Title. In April of 1983 Piper faced off with and defeated Greg “The Hammer” Valentine for that title. The two men waged wars the entire year, until Starrcade 1983. Once again the men would battle, but this time in a Dog Collar match. In what undoubtedly was one of the most brutal Starrcade matches ever, fans watched Valentine destroy Piper’s already injured ear with the chain, causing it to bleed. Piper would escape Starrcade with the victory, but only 25% hearing in his left ear. An injury of this nature is devastating to one’s equilibrium and was told he could never wrestler again.
Doctors be damned, Piper decided that he knew better and in 1984 jumped to the World Wrestling Federation. He quickly became the most hated man in the promotion, and possibly wrestling as he waged battles with Hulk Hogan. He begun the infamous “Piper’s Pit” segment on WWF TV which made for many memorable moments in WWF history. In February on 1985 he and Hogan battled in the match dubbed “The War to End it All” where Piper lost by Disqualification. He would tag with Paul Orndorff to face Hulk Hogan and TV celebrity Mr. T at the first WrestleMania; his team lost to Hogan and Mr. T. Through the next year he would battle with Hogan, Orndorff and other until WrestleMania II came. Once again he battled with Mr. T, this time in a boxing match. Piper would lose by Disqualification. WrestleMania III would see the “retirement” of Piper as he defeated former tag team partner Adrian Adonis in a hair vs. hair match.
Piper set his sights on Hollywood and went on to star in the cult classic “They Live.” He made some TV appearances, one on the Love Boat but would eventually find his way back to McMahonland at WrestleMania V. He hosted his famed Piper’s Pit and doused Morton Downy Jr. with a fire extinguisher. 1990 came and Piper returned to the WWF ring. At WrestleMania VI he faced off with Bad News Brown, which was a double count out and most remembered for Piper painting himself “half black.” He would become a TV commentator for most of 90-91 and in 1992 defeat the Mountie for his first and only WWF title, the Intercontinental Title. He would defend that title at WrestleMania VIII against Bret Hart, and lose. He would appear as a referee ay WrestleMania X in the Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna title match. Later that year he defeated jerry Lawler at the King of the Ring PPV. After some time off, Piper would once again return to the WWF, this time as the “Interim” President of the WWF. Piper ran things his way and begun a feud with Goldust that culminated at WrestleMania XII in a Hollywood Back Lot Brawl. This was more remembered for the mock OJ chase and Piper stripping Goldust down to his “lingerie.” Once a replacement was found, Piper was gone from the WWF, but not wrestling.
In October of 1996 Piper once again shocked the wrestling world as he returned…to WCW. He debuted at Halloween Havoc and confronted “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan. This would kick off a feud with them fighting over who was the “ICON” of professional wrestling. He would defeat Hogan at Starrcade 96 with the sleeper hold, but it wasn’t for the title. He would continue to battle with Hogan and the n W o, and eventually old rival Ric Flair. In 1997 he was named “Interim” WCW Commissioner and then would face Hogan at Halloween Havoc 1997 in a match known to many fans as “age in the cage.” Becoming a regular wrestler again, he would defeat Bret Hart in 1999 for the WCW US title. After time off and then on again, Piper’s contract was terminated in 2000.
In 2001-2002 he became part of the XWF start up promotion and worked with the talent in order to train the wrestlers. The company never got off the ground. He would release his autobiography “In the Pit with Piper: Piper gets Rowdy” in 2002. In December of that year he would once again resurface in the NWA TNA promotion. He shocked the PPV audience as he “shot” on Vince Russo and blamed him for Owen Hart’s death. In January of 2003 he delivered a taped promo and stated “he was never coming back.”
March of 2003 hit and with a bang Piper returned to wrestling at WrestleMania XIX attacking Hulk Hogan with a steel pipe. He and Vince seemed to be getting along and he revived Piper’s Pit on Smackdown. He took on a protégé in Sean O’Haire and took on Hogan again. After an appearance on the Bob Costas HBO special on drugs in wrestling, Piper was quickly fired by Vince McMahon, most likely due to his comments on wrestlers doing drugs and his own admission to addiction.
In September of 2003 Piper broke his promise (never say never) and returned to TNA. On the first 3-hour TNA PPV he debuted “In the Pit with Piper” and apologized to Jimmy Snuka for the coconut shot 20-years prior. He was also instrumental in the on air dismissal of Vince Russo. In January he disappeared again from TNA, and made his last wrestling appearance on the Wrestle Reunion Show. He teamed with Jimmy Valiant and Jimmy Snuka to beat Buddy Rose, Col Debeers and Bob Orton w/Sensational Sherri. He was inducted into the WWE hall of Fame April 2nd, and appeared as part of the induction class at WrestleMania XXI.
Since then he has made several cameo appearances for WWE since, and the company released a DVD on his career. He won the tag team titles with Ric Flair at the Cyber Sunday PPV, but had to drop the titles as there was a mass found on his back. Roddy Piper then announced that he had been diagnosed with lymphoma cancer and began fighting the disease in November.
Why Roddy Piper was selected…
Roddy Piper was one of the main components that made Hulk Hogan and WrestleMania so big and successful. The man was good at his job, excellent on the mic and flat out, he was hated. That hate quickly turned to respect and Piper had a new life in wrestling. So feel that his legacy was tarnished over the last 8 years with his run in WCW and then insane ramblings on TNA PPV’s, but it looks like the legacy of his early career still carries a lot of respect and enough love to gain him entry into the 411 Hall of Fame.