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Story Lines 10.29.06: In The Pit With Piper – Roddy Gets Rowdy

October 29, 2006 | Posted by 411Mania Staff

For the four people who care, I apologise for the lack of column last week. It was ran past Csonka, so hopefully I’m not in too much trouble, which, if you’re reading this, might be a safe thing to assume. As is now the way, I have about two lines here to discuss something going on now, and this week I’d like to say I think WWE did an absolutely marvellous job with Mr. Britney, and although I won’t see it until this week here in England, from reading the results and comments made by many, Bound For Glory sounds like the PPV of the year. We shall see. Anyways, to it.

Prologue

Last Monday, and a couple of Monday’s before that, and a Monday or so before that, a particular legend has been making his presence felt, particularly, for some reason at the expense of the badly-floundering Spirit Squad. The fact that he shows up intermittently and without any real reason or explanation should surprise no-one, the man in question made his name being unpredictable.

But one thing Roddy Piper never was, was comfortable. Thankfully, this seems to have changed. A man always with just enough enigmatic imbalance to be an engaging character, without delving too far into being an insane character you just couldn’t believe, the unhinged side of Hot Rod made him so insanely watchable. But now, Piper seems at ease.

This change seemed pretty subtle, and has only really come to light in the last couple of years. Following a pretty embarrassing 2003 WWE run pissing Hulk Hogan off and accidentally murdering the career of Sean O’Haire, for all intents and purposes, Piper was another washed up cripple. However, getting let go may have been the best thing for him. After making some all-too honest comments about drug use, Vince and Piper aggressively parted ways (not for the first time), and he was gone. But a funny thing happened. After some fleeting appearances in TNA as a grizzled voice of reason, the WWE started mentioning him in the historical video packages again. Now those who know better know that Vince will swallow pride and opinion if there’s enough money to be made, and Piper had a hell of a story. So, as if by magic, recent transgressions were forgotten and Piper would appear on Raw and Smackdown every now and then to the standing ovation of a surprised, nostalgia-loving crowd. Moreover, Piper’s Pit would be dusted off to play in with the glut of heel-based talk shows like the Highlight Reel, Cutting Edge, and Carlito’s Cabana, as the REAL talk show of wrestling. Truly the red (or red tartan) carpet was being rolled out all over again.

This winter, a Piper DVD hits shelves, which makes me think that there’s a hell of a chance of seeing Piper being Flair’s partner at Cyber Sunday next week. Cross promotion plus a nostalgia run with the tag titles to really hammer the point home would almost guarantee some serious DVD dollars in the McMahon and Piper stockings this Christmas, to hell if some kids have to job to make it happen. Truly all is sunshine and farts again. This all leads me to have two conclusions, 1) You’d be a fool to think it won’t all go sour in the end again, and 2) Thank god Piper wrote this book long before his 2003 return, as a really quite angry son of a bitch with axes to grind. Got’s to be the good stuff.

In The Pit With Piper – Roddy Get’s Rowdy

Subject: The autobiography of Rowdy Roddy Piper
Release Date: November 2002

As stated a number of times in previous columns, a non-WWE book is twenty thousand worlds away from a WWE book, always in ways that seem needless and bound by egos and stubbornness on both sides. See, if this book were to be pulped tomorrow never to be seen or heard from again, you could dejectedly resign yourself to the fact that a book this cutting and visceral would most likely never see the light of day again.

Sure, ultimately an autobiography has to cover some similar ground, and there would definitely be overlaps in places, but so so much of what’s within these pages would not even make the first edit so long as Vince McMahon’s sub-edit chainsaw was fully charged and swinging. But, and this is an important but, it’s probably not for the reasons you may think. And mores’ the point, a bit more guidance from those in the know could have made his story even better than the way it gets presented here. Roddy Piper-lite, this is not, but it certainly isn’t the complete story of Hot Rod either.

There’s this weird phenomenon with some autobiographies that I personally find extremely frustrating, despite how much content they provide between the pages. For some reason, a lot of wrestlers are insistent on giving you every single little detail of the lesser known times in their career. And not just who they fought, why they fought them and when. No no, stories, ribs, road tales, politics, the colour of the paint in the dressing rooms, every single tiny point of interest gets reamed off a time in their lives which only hindsight, money and rose coloured glasses seemingly make a pleasurable reminiscence.

Now on one hand, this is an awesome thing, because the detail gives you your money’s worth, and in many cases, is new information to you anyway, which always makes for a better read. However, there’s always a sinister side to this. In focusing so much on less well known times, it seems that this entitles the author in question to completely ignore so much about the times they assume we already know about. In this case, Piper goes into painstaking detail reporting the names, faces and personalities of pretty much every single person he ever met ever, until he gets to the WWF move. After that, the detail just dries up a little, and never really sticks back on from there. Sure, most people know this section the best, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the reader isn’t interested in the tale anyway.

As I think I’ve probably wrote in previous columns, a favourite thing of mine about Wrestling books is the way in which a storyline or an angle or even the match itself is viewed upon by the person writing the book. My favourite match of all time is Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13. I love the story before, during and after it, both men are two of my favourite wrestlers ever, and I know the match inside and out. I’ve probably watched that match 100 times, and love it just as much every single time. And yet I could listen to both of those men share their thoughts on it a hundred times more. The point is, for all you may not NEED to know the story, it doesn’t mean you don’t really really really want to know. This is where Piper’s book falls short. It’s one thing that his relatively fresh and (for a few months) genuinely compelling run in WCW isn’t covered, it’s a whole other thing to reach the WWF years ¾ of the way into the book with the end nearing and other subjects to cover.

What’s a little bit sad about that is there was probably some minor political decision making made in deciding how to divvy up the content of the book. As it goes, McMahon gets off quite lightly in Piper’s firing line, getting treated in a condescending manner sure, but not in the hate-filled angry way of some of those that have found themselves on the wrong end of a WWE pink slip. But maybe in the canniest (and thus, typically-Piperesque) fashion, Hot Rod attempted to find the best way to put the shafts to Vince – by underplaying the entire run altogether. While this may work when you’re taking petty pot-shots, it’s a slight to the audience that put down cash to read about it, and leaves a decidedly sour aftertaste in the mouth. Bobby Heenan’s book was on the verge of having this problem, but the way in which Heenan structured his work saved the day. In Piper’s format though, it’s inexcusable. Following a ruthlessly tight chronological framework, the slapdash approach to his time as an enormous, worldwide superstar is really disappointing.

However, as is often the way, buried inside criticisms like the ones above, there has to be a major compliment. That being, how could you even see the bad without having a good to compare it against. Luckily, the good in the book is really, really, really good. Piper’s memory is excellent and precise, and tales of debauchery and chaos are scattered around blow-by-blow recounts of some of the hottest feuds and stories he was a part in the territories before being snapped up by VKM’s global steamroller. Naturally as good telling a story with the written word as he is the spoken variant, Piper’s verbose, crass style is fun to read, and smoothly segues between humorous, heartfelt and poignant with the greatest of ease. As a true measure of how much better this book could have been, a true gem of a chapter comes late on, focussing on the rarely-mentioned period where Piper replaced Jesse Ventura, becoming the colour man for TV and PPV along with Vince McMahon, Bobby Heenan, and later Randy Savage. It’s an eye-opening insight into a forgotten time for Hot Rod, but the kind of stuff that will make you view their commentary in a completely different way from now on.

And along the way Piper finds time to carefully but decisively deride some of those he didn’t much care for in the past. Taking the slightly cheesy route of calling fellow wrestler’s his ‘Frat Brothers’ gets really annoying and preachy after a while, as Roddy (again possibly as one giant, subtle dig at Vince), constantly lamenting on how he was screwed by this promoter, backstabbed by this promoter, and had no choice but to make a laughingstock out of this promoter. While some moments are lighter than others, through these anecdotes, the book becomes laced with hypocrisy from Hot Rod from this point on, but oddly in ways he seems to be totally blind to.

I always found it odd that the likes of Shawn Michaels and Triple H took heat for never laying down all those times, but Piper was a hero, having only been pinned clean in the middle ONCE in his entire, nearly ten year run. The same run that included a year-long feud with Hulk Hogan, an IC Title reign, a retirement match, and most importantly, Piper being the company’s lead heel for about 3 straight years. What’s amazing is how he defends his decision. Blindly, he claims that it was bad business for him to lose, as one of his forefathers (yet another cringe worthy reference to fellow superstars) told him it would be bad for his career from a business standpoint. While there’s obvious logic to that statement (in a ‘well…duh’ kinda way), it doesn’t make it right, and seen as how Vince spins all that ‘time honoured tradition’ bullshit when talking about Montreal, it amazes me Piper was able to slip through the net. And in possibly one of the most amazingly irritating things ever in the universe, in the book he refers to losing as ‘taking a dive’, almost to hammer home a point that it’s stupid and a disgrace for a man to lose. In a worked sport?! Many people accuse Hot Rod of taking the business too seriously, an accusation he takes on board and stands up for, much like his forefathers and frat brothers (jesus, those are terrible though, right??) would have done. I personally have always looked upon his ‘no jobs’ policy as disrespectful and selfish, just as I would levy at HHH or whomever else was not playing fair at any time.

That said, Roddy’s way with words is legendary, and this book is no exception to that rule. Whether or not you were a fan of his work (I happen to think he was way overrated in the ring, outside of your token psychology, but truly phenomenal, absolutely awe-inspiring on the stick), is really irrelevant. ‘In The Pit with Piper’ is the invitation right into the mind of Rowdy Roddy Piper. All the imbalance, all the unpredictability, all the delusion and diversion, wrapped in a neat little package for your ravenous consumption. This is none greater profiled in the chapter that is clearly Piper’s baby. Alluded to throughout the book and featuring late, almost as if it were the book’s main event, comes a chapter simply entitled ‘The Sickness’. As Roddy eloquently explains, the Sickness is that intangible love that wrestlers have the business. The love that allows them to kill themselves night after night, chasing a dream they simply need to realise. Putting their personal lives through hell and back and their bodies through even worse, just to make it in such a cutthroat world, all the while never having any security should the worst happen. Falling into potholes filled with sex, drugs and rock and roll, all borne out of a newfound stardom that so quickly they lose. It’s a haunting, prophetic and endlessly relevant chapter that, with his authoritative register, Piper knocks out the park. These days, Hot Rod gets around doing spoken word tours with this book, and I’d bet half my house this chapter gets the full verbal treatment. A marvellous tour-de-force of stories to prove his theory and honest accounts of those he knows suffer from the Sickness. Preachy as hell, but for once in the book, its okay to have it that way.

On his best day, and sometimes even not, Piper was a must-watch kinda guy, and that magnetism has charged right over to his written words. Though already a touch dated despite it being only four years old, the book is a fantastic look at a guy whose name will never ever go away. And I don’t just mean cameos on Raw and Smackdown either. Long after his death, Piper’s promos will be used to show people how to make a truckload of money with your mouth….(awaits reader to make their own joke)………and still have time to pay things off in the ring. And holding the true mark of a great book, it matters not what you think of the author, because the story is just too good to ignore.

Shorthand

Worst Bit: The cheesy terminology used grates like hell. No pun intended.

Best Bit: As well discussed, The Sickness chapter is amazing reading. The aforementioned commentators’ chapter is great stuff too.

Buy It, Borrow It, Bin It: Definitely buy it. For one thing, everything else on Piper in the near future is going right in Vince’s massive wallet, so at least this way Piper and his four, probably quite angry children, (and their tolerant mother), get the biggest cut.

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