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Ask 411 Wrestling: Why Did the WWF Start Roddy Piper as a Manager?

May 1, 2022 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Roddy Piper WWE Image Credit: WWE/Peacock

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.

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Just when you think you’ve got all the answers, Will asks his question:

I’m curious about the introduction of Roddy Piper in 1983 in the WWF. It didn’t seem so weird at the time, but looking back, the fact that he was introduced as a manager seems like an odd choice. True, he was a great talker and his in-ring skills weren’t the best, but he was still a very young man and was to my knowledge not used as a manager previously anywhere. Did the WWF not have confidence in his wrestling and didn’t plan on using him to wrestle? Or was it all long term booking to set up a feud with Orndorff? What gives?

Piper’s Wikipedia page claims that injuries from his dog collar match at Starrcade with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine prevented Piper from wrestling initially when he came to the WWF. However, that seems to be based on a misunderstanding and/or just poor writing. (A pro wrestling article on Wikipedia is poorly written?! I’m just as shocked as you are.)

Wikipedia’s “source” for that claim is a 2015 article on Piper by SLAM Wrestling. However, the SLAM article doesn’t exactly say what Wikipedia says it does. The article mentions Piper being injured in the match and then mentions he became a manager when he debuted with the WWF. There is a rhetorical flourish in between those statements about Piper being told his career was over, but nowhere is it actually said that the supposed injuries caused the run as a manager.

Wikipedia’s claim also ignores the fact that, though Piper was pushed more as a manager than a wrestler when he first came to the WWF, he never really stopped wrestling. He had numerous matches in December 1983 after Starrcade, in January 1984, in February 1984, and so on.

So what’s the actual reason?

If we look to Piper’s obituary in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, it’s pretty clearly stated. Vince McMahon Sr., who was still in charge of the WWF when Piper debuted, had concerns about the Scotsman’s physique. He thought that he was too skinny to be a credible professional wrestler, at least at a high level, though he still wanted to take advantage of the Hot Rod’s gift of gab. Thus, he was a manager who would wrestle in tag matches with his proteges as opposed to a wrestler in his own right.

Tyler from Winnipeg is going behind the scenes:

Is there a WWE or WWF “Confidental” box set available for purchase which Mean Gene Okerland hosted or is it just something that happened and faded away?

There was not a boxed set released, but in early 2003, WWE did put out a DVD called “The Best of Confidential: Volume 1.” (Despite the title, there was never a Volume 2.) It contained what WWE considered highlights of the show from its earlier episodes, including segments on the Montreal Screwjob, Steve Austin walking out on the company, and the D-Generation X invasion of Monday Nitro.

It did not contain perhaps WWE Confidential’s most infamous segment – a seedy story on the untimely death of Miss Elizabeth – but that is because her passing and thus the episode only occurred after the DVD was released.

The main feature of the DVD runs a little under two hours, and there are four matches included as bonus features: a Jimmy Snuka/Ray Stevens bout from MSG in 1982, the Montreal Screwjob match, the main event of Summerslam 1992, and Booker T. versus Scott Steiner from the final Monday Nitro.

The DVD is obviously long out of print, but it appears there are several reasonably priced used copies floating around online from the usual secondhand retailers.

Also, though I do not have a subscription to either service at present, from poking around online, it appears that there are Confidential episodes available on both Peacock and the non-Peacock version of the WWE Network.

Bryan is one of the five people who actually subscribed to CNN+:

Seeing how the WWE isn’t above turning serious word events, i.e. Sargent slaughter Iraqi traitor or Mohammed Hassan, into wrestling angles what are the chances they do this with the Ukraine? Sure it’d be tasteless but when has that ever stopped them? Or do you think the new network would halt that? And if that’s the case you think Russev and Lana will be erased from archives?

I feel like this is a bit of a rerun after Bryan asked me in November whether WWE would name a wrestler Brandon to encourage “Let’s Go Brandon!” chants.

But in any event . . .

I have a hard time believing that WWE will do anything to attempt to play off the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The company has seemingly gone to great lengths over the last several years to legitimize itself and make itself as mainstream as any professional wrestling promotion will ever be, including attracting large corporate sponsors. As a result, I have a hard time seeing them engaging in the old school carny wrestling tactics of exploiting real life tragedy.

Of course, that same effort to make themselves mainstream hasn’t prevented them from taking Saudi blood money, but none of the big sponsors seem to care about that, so . . .

And, no, I have a hard time believing that Rusev and Lana will be scrubbed from the archives. Yes, it is true that that at time they were portraying Russian heels, but they weren’t portraying Russian heels who were actively exploiting the Ukrainian war. (They did ramp things up a bit during the Russian invasion of Crimea, but they didn’t go terribly over the top with it.) As a result, there’s not the same level of offense to be caused.

Plus, if the argument is that you have to eliminate Rusev and Lana, there’s no logical reason to argue against erasing every Russian heel in history, and there’s a metric ton of those.

Bret is one IC Champ asking about another:

Why do you think Ricky Steamboat’s title reign as intercontinental champion was so short? Especially after that great match with Savage at WM 3. I know his son was born a few months after and wanted to be home but after he came back he got no push at all. Do you think Vince punished him for taking time off?

Oftentimes I just skip repeat questions, but people ask me about Steamboat’s IC Title run quite a lot, so I thought it might be a good idea to let everybody know that I covered this in August 2020.

I’m glad Mark K. used his last initial, because we’ve got a lot of Marks running around here:

I have read Ask 411 for years but I have never submitted a question. I know you love research questions with NXT 2.0 WWE said they wanted to go back with training sports entertainers from a young age and stop relying on the indies. If you could I would love for you to go over the whole WWE roster. I want everyone Men & Women broke down to whether they are Indy or WWE developed I think this would be interesting and of course just the main roster it seems like most of NXT 2.0 are under development.

This seems like a fairly straightforward question upon first reading it, but I suspect that things are going to get a bit more complicated as we get into the roster . . .

AJ Styles: AJ originally came from Georgia independents in the late 1990s.

Akira Tozawa: Tozawa was trained by the Dragon Gate Dojo in Japan.

Street Profits: As near as I an tell, both Ford and Dawkins have spent their entire career in in the WWE system.

Apollo Crews: Crews is an indy guy, originally trained at a school operated by “Big Cat” Curtis Hughes of all people.

Bobby Lashley: Lashley is a product of the WWE developmental system, though he’s from the old Ohio Valley territory as opposed to the current NXT system.

Brock Lesnar: Lensar has the same backstory as Lashley. He’s a WWE trainee through and through, but we’re talking about OVW training him instead of NXT.

Cedric Alexander: The Hurt Business member is another Georgia indy wrestler. He got a lot of his early exposure in ROH.

Chad Gable: Shorty G is an interesting case. He was in high school in 2003-2004 and, in addition to being a state amateur wrestling champion during that period, he had a handful of indy matches. Then, after focusing on amateur wrestling for several years, including his run at the 2012 Olympics, he came back to indy wrestling for a time in 2013. Then, he was snapped up by NXT in 2014 and has been in the E ever since. So, he’s a bit difficult to categorize. WWE did give him the bulk of his training and turned him into the wrestler he is, but to say he never trained on the indies is categorically false.

Cody Rhodes: Again, this is a bit harder to say. Cody’s “formal” training came in the OVW system, but he’ll tell you and logic dictates that he was actually picking up bits and pieces from his father well before that.

Commander Azeez: NXT from the ground up.

Damian Priest: Priest is a product of the vaunted Monster Factory training school in New Jersey.

Dolph Ziggler: Ziggler was recruited by WWE out of the world of amateur wrestling and put through his pro wrestling paces in OVW.

Dominik Mysterio: Though there’s no record of him wrestling an “official” match outside of WWE, I would actually call Dominik an indy trainee, because his adoptive father Rey had him working with seasoned wrestlers like Lance Storm and Konnan outside of the E system before he ultimately debuted on Monday Night Raw.

Edge: Edge came through some WWE sponsored “camps” early in his career run by Dory Funk Jr., but his real training was on the Canadian independent scene of the early 1990s.

Ezekiel Sampson: Under the name Logan Shulo, the former Drifter was a fixture on Pennsylvania indies for about five years before he got into the WWE system.

Finn Balor: To the surprise of nobody, Balor originally trained in the U.K. with a group called NWA Hammerlock but then received significant refinement when he started up with New Japan Pro Wrestling and spent time in their dojo.

Kevin Owens: Owens is a product of indies in Quebec, including some early training with “The Mountie” Jacques Rougeau.

Mike the Miz: Though he engaged in a feud with Daniel Bryan that was based in part on one of them being an indy guy and one being a WWE product, Miz technically wrestled on the indy scene before he was in developmental. His original training was with Ultimate Pro Wrestling in Southern California, though he was in WWE developmental a couple of years after that.

Montel Vontavious Porter: Porter originally made his name on the Florida independent scene, training with Norman Smiley and making early notable appearances with Full Impact Pro. He was polished up for about a year in WWE developmental before making a main roster debut.

Omos: 100% a WWE product to the surprise of nobody.

Otis Dozovic: After wrestling in the Pan-American Games and being a prospect for the U.S. Olympic team but not making the cut, Big Otis had about a year under his belt on the Colorado independent scene wrestling mostly under the name “Dozer” before signing a WWE contract.

Randy Orton: Orton got the vast majority of his training in Ohio Valley Wrestling, but technically he spent some time training with his father and with some independent wrestlers in his native Missouri before getting fast tracked to OVW.

Reggie/Reginald: The former circus performer is a WWE trainee through and through.

Rey Misterio, Jr.: Rey was trained almost exclusively by his uncle, the original Rey Misterio, in Mexico before making his in-ring debut.

Matt Riddle: The former UFC contender is, much like Damian Priest, a trainee of New Jersey Monster Factory.

Bobby Roode: Coming up on indies in and around Toronto, Roode was originally a hockey player but started training with Val Venis and Puerto Rican star (of Canadian extraction) Glamour Boy Shane when he transitioned into wrestling.

R-Truth: The former Ron Killings was trained by Mid-Atlantic Pro Wrestling star “The Raging Bull” Manny Fernandez.

Seth Rollins: Rollins is an obvious indy guy, having been a big name in Ring of Honor before signing on with WWE. He was broken in by Chicago indy stalwart Danny Daniels.

Shelton Benjamin: Signing with WWE at around the same time as his former roommate (and future tag team partner) Brock Lesnar, Benjamin was made into a professional wrestler by OVW when it was a WWE developmental territory.

Austin Theory: It was me, Austin! It was me all along! Theory worked in several notable indies before signing with WWE, including FIP and Evolve. He was initially a trainee of AR Fox.

Tommaso Ciampa: Ciampa has many years on the indy scene, and his earliest training came from the same Killer Kowalski wrestling school that, years earlier, had produced people like Triple H and Perry Saturn.

T-Bar: Previously known as Donovan Dijak, Mr. Bar was a Massachusetts indy guy before becoming an ROH regular and then signing with WWE.

Veer Mahaan: The former professional baseball player and Million Dollar Arm has received all of his professional wrestling training from WWE.

Los Lotharios: Angel Garza and Humberto Carillo are legitimate cousins, both of whom had extensive lucha libre careers in Mexico before becoming WWE stars. They were both trained by their shared grandfather, Mario Segura.

Big E Langston: Coming out of college football and powerlifting, Big E went straight to WWE upon deciding to start a pro wrestling career. Florida Championship Wrestling was the developmental territory du jour when he made his debut.

Pete Dunne: Though spending quite a bit of time in various iterations of NXT, the Bruiserweight was a fixture on the British independent scene for many years before heading to WWE.

Drew McIntyre: Another U.K. guy, McIntyre was initially put through his paces as a wrestler by the school associated with the independent group Frontier Wrestling Alliance.

The Viking Raiders: The Raiders were a Ring of Honor tag team known as War Machine before signing with WWE. Raymond Rowe, now known as Erik, was originally trained on the Ohio independent scene, while Hanson, now known as Ivar, was another product of Killer Kowalski’s wrestling school, much like Tommaso Ciampa.

Walter: The former Big Van Walter was trained by an Austrian wrestler by the name of Michael Kovac before making his debut in Germany’s Westside Xtreme Wrestling in 2007.

Baron Corbin: After a fairly undistinguished professional football career, Corbin (real name Thomas Pestock) headed straight to WWE to become a professional wrestler.

The Usos: Jimmy and Jey obviously come from a large wrestling family, and they were taught some basics and had independent matches in 2008 and 2009, though they signed with WWE and started in developmental later in ’09. They’ve been part of the company since.

Jinder Mahal: The former WWE Champion came up in wrestling in Calgary, though he’s not connected to the Hart family. His original trainers were, separately from one another, Rick “Big Titan” Bognar (a.k.a. the Fake Razor Ramon) and “Bad News” Allen Coage.

Kofi Kingston: Kofi was another indy guy who spent some time at Killer Kowalski’s school in the northeast before signing with WWE.

LA Knight: Though he’s only just now making a name for himself in WWE, Knight has been involved in wrestling for almost twenty years, originally training with the Heartland Wrestling Association in Ohio, which used to be a WWE developmental territory but was not by the time he was there.

Marcel Barthel: Like Walter, Barthel first made a name for himself in Germany’s Westside Xtreme Wrestling, though his initial training occurred under his father, Axel Dieter, a German wrestler whose career goes back to the late 1950s.

Mace: He was only there for a matter of months, but technically the former Dio Madden did initial training with Booker T. at his school in Texas following a brief NFL career. It was not long before he attended a WWE tryout and got picked up by the promotion, though.

Riddick Moss: Like his former partner Happy Corbin, Moss went straight in to WWE developmental after a brief spell in the NFL.

Mansoor: WWE’s Saudi star came off of some lower level Southern California independents, where he was trained by a couple of guys named the Stoner Brothers (no, seriously) who I had never heard of before researching this article. Their gimmick appears to be exactly what you would have guessed.

Mustafa Ali: Though he wants out of the company, he’s not gone yet, so we’re going to include Ali here. Originally from the Chicago suburbs, he first broke out on indies in that area, originally training with another guy I’ve never heard of, Kenny Courageous, before going on to a couple of more noteworthy trainers in the form of Sal and Vito Thomaselli.

Rick Boogs: The sidelined tag team partner of Shinsuke Nakamura is another wrestler who went straight in to WWE developmental following an amateur wrestling career.

Ricochet: Mr. O’Shea was an independent professional wrestler for roughly fifteen years before he ultimately signed with WWE. His initial training was with indies in Southern Illinois.

Ridge Holland: Another Brit, Holland was initially trained by former World of Sport star Marty Jones, who is also credited with being one of the earliest trainers of William Regal.

Roman Reigns: Though he likely learned a bit of the basics from the other members of the Anoa’i family, there is no record that I’ve been able to find which indicates that Reigns had any formal training prior to starting in the WWE system with Florida Championship Wrestling.

Sami Zayn: Like his longtime friend and rival Kevin Owens, Zayn came to us off of the Quebecois independent wrestling scene.

Shanky: Prior to signing with WWE after a tryout in Dubai, Shanky wrestled for several years for the independent promotion in India owned and operated by none other than the Great Khali.

Sheamus: Though legitimately Irish, Sheamus’s first pro wrestling training came not in his home country or in the U.K. Instead, he traveled to the United States and got his first training at the Monster Factory, a name that we’ve seen several times throughout this column now.

Shinsuke Nakamura: It should come as no surprise that Nakamura was trained by the New Japan Pro Wrestling dojo.

Xavier Woods: Woods was originally a product of South Carolina independents, actually getting a brief run in TNA before he showed up in WWE.

Alexa Bliss: Bliss came from WWE developmental with no experience elsewhere.

Becky Lynch: “The Man” was actually trained by Fergal Devitt/Finn Balor in Ireland and wrestled for over ten years in a variety of promotions before showing up in NXT.

Bianca Belair: Belair came from the world of CrossFit and transitioned into WWE’s Performance Center immediately therefter.

Carmella: You’re probably not surprised to learn that Mrs. Corey Graves is another WWE product. She initially applied to be part of the Tough Enough reality show in 2010, but it didn’t go anywhere. She kept in contact with the company and signed a developmental deal later on, though.

Dana Brooke: The long-reigning WWE 24/7 Champion followed in the footsteps of Trish Stratus and Victoria, transitioning from fitness modeling to wrestling. Brooke got all of her training in the WWE system.

Doudrop: The ‘Drop was trained in her native U.K. and wrestled for almost twelve years in the U.K. and Japan before eventually showing up in NXT UK and eventually the WWE main roster.

Liv Morgan: Morgan, one of the few wrestlers with a cooler real name than her ring name, is another Performance Center graduate.

Nikki Cross: This Scottish wrestler has a veritable who’s who of U.K. indy stars on her list of trainers, including Robbie Brookside and, yet again, our old friend Finn Balor.

Zelina Vega: The former Divina Fly (probably the best ring name of her career) came out of the New Jersey independent circuit before spending a few years in TNA en route to her eventual home in WWE.

Rhea Ripley: Ripley initially trained in her native Australia before coming to North America.

Sonya Deville: Like Carmella, Deville was a product of the Tough Enough reality show, though, unlike Carmella, she did make it on to the actual television show before getting eliminated and signing her developmental deal.

Tamina Snuka: Before signing on with WWE, the daughter of Superfly Jimmy Snuka broke in with the Anoa’i family at their Wild Samoan Training Center and World Xtreme Wrestling independent promotion.

Aliyah: Aliyah was broken in by Rob “Fuego” Etcheverria, the same guy responsible for bringing Gail Kim into professional wrestling.

Charlotte Flair: Though she has spent most of her time in WWE rings, word on the street is that Charlotte did a bit of training in North Carolina with former Raven’s Flock member Lodi before she ultimately signed with the largest promotion in the world.

Lacey Evans: Evans was briefly an independent wrestler on the circuit in Georgia before hooking up with WWE.

Naomi Knight: The former Funkadactyl came up primarily through Florida Championship Wrestling when it was WWE’s premier developmental territory.

Natalya Neidhart: I think we all know Nattie’s story. She was trained by her family in Calgary (dramatic pause) Alberta, Canada. She had seven years on the independents after that, including tours in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and Japan.

Raquel Rodriguez: Though I was not able to find record of many, it does appear that Raquel had some independent matches in Texas before signing her WWE developmental contract.

Ronda Rousey: Unless you want to count her UFC and judo experience, which you probably shouldn’t, Ronda as a professional wrestler is completely a WWE product. However, it’s not as though she was being trained in standard Performance Center classes, mostly getting her training behind closed doors.

Sasha Banks: Under the name Mercedes K.V. (a poor choice given that there was already a far more established “Mercedes” on the circuit), the future star of The Mandalorian was a fixture on the New England independent scene for a couple of years before getting picked up out of a WWE tryout seminar.

Shayna Baszler: Shayna was an independent wrestler for a bit after her MMA career came to a close, with the individuals who receive credit for her training being Mercedes Martinez and fellow shoot fighter-turned-wrestler Josh Barnett.

Shotzi Blackheart: Shotzi started off in Dino Zee’s favorite promotion, Hoodslam, before bouncing around to several California independents and eventually stepping up to more prominent indy promotions like SHIMMER, EVOLVE, and other places that spell their names in ALL CAPS.

Xia Lee: Xia is one of several Chinese athletes that WWE signed after a few tryout sessions there, an effort to hopefully find a Chinese star that will allow them to expand into the country in the same manner that many other professional sports leagues are attempting.

Asuka: Though she took some occasional breaks, Asuka wrestled for the better part of a decade in Japan before coming to the United States. She was trained by former MMA fighter and shoot-style professional wrestler Yuki Ishikawa.

And there you have it. That’s everybody. If you run down the list, it’s clear that the vast majority of the members of the WWE roster had some other experience before entering developmental, though developmental did have some importance to them as a “finishing school” of sorts. It’s also worth noting that, though the majority of folks had wrestled elsewhere first, there are some noteworthy exceptions of successful professional wrestlers who trained exclusively within the WWE system, with most of those exceptions having amateur wrestling experience.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected]. You can also leave questions in the comments below, but please note that I do not monitor the comments as closely as I do the email account, so emailing is the better way to get things answered.

article topics :

Roddy Piper, WWE, Ryan Byers