Throwback Tribute: ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper (1954 – 2015)

August 6, 2015 by Brock Allen

WWE - Roddy Piper Tribute on RAW

Throwback Tribute: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (1954 – 2015) was saddened and heartbroken to learn of the passing of one of the all-time great performers in professional wrestling history, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. To honor his life, a life dedicated to professional wrestling and its fans, we here at WDN are dedicating a very special Throwback Tribute in “Hot Rod’s” honor, replacing Throwback Thursday this week.

To celebrate the life and career of one of the most influential wrestling stars ever, Throwback Tribute will take a look at some the hidden gems and memorable matches on the WWE Network that made “Rowdy” Roddy Piper one of the all-time greats. For a thorough look at the life and times of Roddy Piper check out the career spanning documentary Born to Controversy on the Network. Also check out the following: WrestleMania Rewind: The Mania Begins, Legend’s House: Back in Piper’s Pit, and of course the 2005 WWE Hall of Fame.

NWA United States Heavyweight Championship – “Non-Title Collar Match” (WATCH)
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine(c)
NWA Starrcade ’83: A Flare for the Gold • Nov. 24, 1983

Roddy Piper & Greg Valentine - Starrcade '83 Collar Match

The earliest Roddy Piper match on the Network is a classic. After winning the U.S. title from Valentine on April 16, 1983 in Greensboro, Valentine was hell-bent on revenge. When the two met on April 30th Valentine whipped Piper in the ear with the U.S. belt, seriously injuring the left ear. The match was stopped and the U.S. title awarded to Valentine. After months of pursuit and attacks by both men the “Collar Match” was signed. To this day the “Collar Match” is still one of the most violent matches in the history of modern wrestling.

WWF World Heavyweight Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH)
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper w/Bob Orton, Jr. vs. Hulk Hogan(c) w/Capt. Lou Albano & Cyndi Lauper
WWF The War to Settle the Score on MTV • Feb. 18, 1985

Though Vince McMahon had already been expanding nationally, this was the match that kicked it into high gear. While the WWF had had huge success the previous July with The Brawl to End it All on MTV, headlined by Wendi Richter vs. Fabulous Moolah for the WWF Women’s Championship and drawing a 9.0 rating, this single match drew a 9.1 and set the stage for the next month’s WrestleMania. While neither MTV shows are currently present on the Network, the match itself was shown on the March 7, 1985 edition of Tuesday Night Titans.

Singles Match (WATCH)
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. “Adorable” Adrian Adonis w/Jimmy Hart
WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event IX • Jan. 3, 1987 (TAPED: Dec. 14, 1986)

WWE - Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis

While their WrestleMania III match is most memorable for being Piper’s “farewell match“, it is this match that set the table for the epic “Hair vs. Hair Match” in Detroit in front of 93,173 fans and is, for my money, a better example of the skills and abilities of the late Adrian Adonis.

“Grudge Match” (WATCH)
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. “Real Worlds Champion, Nature Boy” Ric Flair w/Bobby Heenan
WWF on MSG Network • Oct. 28, 1991

Upon entering the WWF in the fall of 1991 Ric Flair’s first significant program was with Piper, who by that time had been spending more time calling matches than competing in them. This match marked the MSG return of Ric Flair after roughly 15-years. As for Piper, this marked the first pinfall loss in MSG since his debut in the WWF in 1984. (While the link provided is a “milestone”, none actually exist for the episode. The match begins around the 48-minute mark.)

WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship (WATCH)
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper (sub. for Bret Hart) vs. The Mountie(c) w/Jimmy Hart
WWF Royal Rumble 1992 • Jan. 19, 1992

WWE Superstar - 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper

This would mark, to this point, Piper’s one and only WWF title win. Piper would go on later that night and have a thrilling showing in the “Royal Rumble Match“, adding to the excitement of the match with the prospect of becoming a double-champion by event’s end.

WWF Intercontinental Championship (WATCH)
Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper(c)
WWF WrestleMania VIII • April 5, 1992

Widely regarded as one of the best matches in WrestleMania history this match solidified Bret Hart’s status as a legitimate singles superstar and was perhaps Piper’s single greatest performance. In a back-and-forth, see-saw match Piper made Bret look like a fighter while Bret made Piper look like a wrestler. Piper was reluctant to take the match at first but did so to help elevate Hart, a long-time friend. Piper tossing away the ring bell rather than strike Bret is to this day one of the most memorable wrestling moments in WrestleMania history. A true torch-passing moment.

“Hollywood Backlot Brawl” (WATCH – Beginning) & (WATCH – Finish)
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. Goldust w/Marlena
WWF WrestleMania XII • March 31, 1996

WWE - Roddy Piper with Baseball Bat in Hollywood Backlot Brawl

Originally booked to be Razor Ramon/Goldust in a brawl, Scott Hall refused to work with Goldust for “personal reasons”. Scott’s loss is our gain. Piper stepped into the breach and with Goldust put on arguably the wildest, craziest, most chaotic match in Mania history. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

“Non-Title Grudge Match” (WATCH)
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. Hollywood Hogan(WCW World Heavyweight Champion)
WCW Starrcade ’96 • Dec. 29, 1996

Billed as “the war that didn’t settle the score”, Hogan/Piper at Starrcade ’96 drew an astounding 1.0 PPV buyrate (WrestleMania XII had an estimated 1.2 buyrate) and was the biggest match yet under the direction of Eric Bischoff. While the formation of nWo and Hogan’s heel turn rocked the wrestling world to its core, the debut of Piper in WCW sent a clear message that the WWF’s days might well be numbered. While they would go on to have numerous matches in WCW it was this one that helped launch WCW into another stratosphere.

“No Disqualification 6-Man Tag Team Grudge Match” (WATCH)
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, & Kevin Greene vs. The New World Order (Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, & Syxx)
WCW Slamboree ’97 • May 18, 1997

WCW 6 Man Tag Match - Roddy Piper & Scott Hall

If the match itself wasn’t big enough on paper the dirtsheets were abuzz with stories of backstage fights and heat between the five men involved in this match. The match itself was panned at the time but a second look reveals it to be one of the better WCW PPV main event matches of the era. All six men looked great and the crowd in Charlotte was as hot as ever. With a solid story, great in-ring work, and a true big-fight feel, this 6-man was as close to WWF action as WCW ever got.

The Return of Piper’s Pit (WATCH)
Special Guest: Vince McMahon
WWE SmackDown! • April 10, 2003 (TAPED: April 8, 2003)

This was the return of “Piper’s Pit” after nearly 15 years. And with special guest Vince McMahon it’s one of the most memorable. Sadly this “Piper’s Pit” is the only one of the “Quick Hit” variety currently functional on the Network. The others, Piper’s Pit with Mr. T and Coconut Anyone?, are not; the links are included in the off-chance they are functioning by publication. The trouble with nearly all “Piper’s Pits” is that they are not marked as matches on the Network, making them hard to find and hard to link to. This one is great, however, and a classic Piper moment in the WWE.

“3-on-1 Handicap Elimination Match” (WATCH)
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, & Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat w/Ric Flair vs. Chris Jericho
WWE WrestleMania XXV • April 5, 2009

WWE - Chris Jericho vs. Legends at WrestleMania 25

In what would be Piper’s final marquee match in WWE, this match was centered around the newly-released film The Wrestler, which the WWE was helping to promote. Chris Jericho, at his heel best, said he was going to put the pathetic, has-been legends out to pasture. On this night, however, it was Steamboat and the Legends who, even in losing, stole the match.

These are only 11 of the countless matches and moments that encompass Piper’s amazing career on the WWE Network. Feel free to share your own below, or even just a memory. Let us know your feelings on the passing of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in the comments. And please, say a prayer for the Toombs family in their time of sorrow, and send a few “Hot Rod’s” their way as well.

Final Thoughts:

The passing of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper not only leaves a void in the heart of the WWE, but in the hearts of those who cheered Piper, booed Piper, and loved Piper, myself included. There will never be another like “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, that is for certain. Few men have shaped and re-shaped professional wrestling as Piper has; and few have transcended the ring like Piper to become more than just a wrestling great or legend, but a thread in the very fabric of Americana. As suddenly as Piper burst upon the scene, he is gone. But he leaves behind a legacy that, thanks to the WWE Network, will live on Then, Now, and Forever.

We here at WDN would like to express our deepest condolences to the Toombs family for their loss as well as to those who knew and loved Roderick. Rest in peace, Roderick George Toombs. For all the laughs, outrage and memories, thank you. Godspeed, “Hot Rod”.

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9 Comments left on this article...

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  1. Jeffery Rittenour says:

    This was beautiful. The best ‘sum up’ I’ve seen. I loved Roddy. RIP

  2. Steve Coulson says:

    Very nice tribute, man. It still doesn’t feel real.

  3. Joe Young says:

    I’m going back to where it all began: Wrestlemania I.

  4. David says:

    I’m still shocked on the news of his passing…was very unexpected and this really hurts, right there with Savage and Warrior as these were the guys i grew up watching. Very sad.

    The RAW tribute video was very touching and still get teary-eyed watching. MSG putting up Piper on their marquee was also a class act. Piper will definitely be missed and really shows how big of an impact he made in wrestling and even outside wrestling.

    RIP Hot Rod

    • Brock Allen says:

      I’m with you on that. Piper was just bigger than life. Of all the guys from that era would I thought would just never die, Piper was at the top of the list. He was so good with the fans and so good with interviewers and so smart. Piper was one of a kind.

      • Kay says:

        Rowdy Roddy Piper always understood the fans’ perspective of what it meant for us to meet him. Based on my experience and numerous other stories I’ve heard, he gave so much attention to us individually regardless of how long the lines were. For that, I place him on an elite list with Alice Cooper and very few others.

        • Brock Allen says:

          Agreed. I heard a story recently about how he spit at a young fan who asked for his autograph in the mid-80s. Asked why Piper said if he had given the kid an autograph the kid would’ve lost it in a week, but he’ll ALWAYS remember when “Hot Rod” spit at him. Now if that’s not genius, I don’t know what is. He was custom made for the wrestling business. Long live Hot Rod.

  5. WWEBluFan says:

    One minor correction: Mania 25 wasn’t Piper’s last WWE match. That was on the June 13, 2011 RAW vs. the Miz… RIP Hot Rod.

    • Brock Allen says:

      Correction noted. Chock that up to a typo as I meant to include his final match on the WWE Network, as the 6/13/2011 RAW is not currently up on the Network. But you are right.

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