RIP Roddy Piper: your favorite matches & moments – part 2 of 3
Posted On July 23, 2020
It’s never easy to say goodbye especially when it comes to a legend like “Rowdy” Roddy Piper who we learned had left for the big ring in the sky one week ago.
As I did with Dusty Rhodes in June, I asked for your favorite Piper matches and moments to compile them in one place. This is the second of three parts that span nearly his entire career with today’s post focusing heavily on the Gordon Solie/Don Muraco angle from 1983, as well as the Greg Valentine encounter at the first Starrcade.
And while you’ll see some consistencies in the matches and angles, I really liked the personal touch in the stories behind them. There’s also house show matches, video compilations, and all kinds of fun stuff here. Clearly, Piper meant a lot to a lot of people and it showed.
Here’s part 1 if you missed it. Cue the bagpipes!
Roddy Piper Saves Gordon Solie – Georgia Championship Wrestling, 1983
After looking at the amazing career of Roddy Piper, there are so many moments to choose from, but I definitely have a highlight.
In 1983, Piper was color commentator on Georgia Championship Wrestling with the quintessential announcer Gordon Solie. “The Magnificent” Don Muraco was coming on the scene as a heel and was set to fight fan favorite “Wildfire” Tommy Rich at the Omni in Atlanta. As part of the set-up, Muraco is set to do an interview with Solie complaining about the lack of talent in the area and how is running over them all. As Muraco names his potential opponents, he inches closer and closer to the legendary announcer Solie.
Piper, who was truly brilliant on the mic, better than anyone had ever seen, was friends who Muraco and encouraged him to back off of Solie. After several attempts, Muraco in a fit of rage, punches Piper and knocks him to the ground only to return his focus on Solie.
Piper springs up and attacks Muraco to the amazement and enjoyment of the studio audience and all viewers at home. It took the entire locker room to break the two wrestlers up. Solie returns from break thanking the “enigma” “Rod” Piper for his heroic actions and for saving his life. The night at the Omni, the sold-out crowd witnessed Don Muraco vs. Tommy Rich. Sometime in the middle of the match, the audience parts and Piper emerges to the ring.
Fans cheered at the “enigma” having witnessed Roddy’s heroic actions televised less than 24 hours before. Piper walked into the ring, Rich stayed in his corner and Muraco approached Piper, reaching out his hands to give the illusion that all was well with the two wrestlers and that bygones should be bygones, until Muraco attempts to sucker punch a prepared Piper who ducks and then lands a deadly shot to the face that sent “the Magnificent One” down for the count. Piper had apparently concealed a roll of quarters in his right hand that helped pack the deadly punch and then nonchalantly threw the coins into the adoring and excited sold out crowd.
Piper would continue his color commentary duties as Solie’s sidekick, but would eventually return to the Mid-Atlantic region to feud with “Sir” Oliver Humperdink and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and build on his legendary status. He would return to Georgia Championship Wrestling a year later to help friend Rich in his feud against “Mad Dog” Buzz Sawyer, but it was clear that he was destined for even brighter stardom. Shortly after, Piper joined the WWF and went on to become the legend he was always destined to become.
Years later when I was heading up communications for Bally Total Fitness, I met Roddy Piper on a book tour in the Chicago area when he was promoting “In The Pit With Piper.” He was the consummate professional and a very kind and humble person, exactly how I had hoped he would be.
I would eventually hire Roddy to make appearances at our clubs around the country, where he would meet thousands of members and fans. He always had time and a smile for all those who came to see him.
My thoughts and prayers are with wife Kitty and the Toombs family during this difficult time. Words will never describe what a great pleasure it was to meet and thank the man who had my late father Morty, brothers Stephen and Jason, friends and I cheer, laugh and cry weekly for more than two decades.
Thank you Roderick George “Roddy” Toombs. To quote Ric Flair, the world has just gotten a bit less rowdy.
I grew up watching Piper on GCW in the early 80s and his face turn saving Gordon Solie from Don Muraco is an all timer for me. I remember literally screaming at my TV as Piper saved Solie from a likely beatdown at the hands of Muraco. Everything about this angle was fantastic.
For my favorite moment, the Solie/Muraco angle. Omni highlight on TBS, Piper goes to the ring, Muraco was facing Tommy Rich, Piper takes off his sportcoat, Muraco faces off and Piper nails him with a roll of quarters. Muraco is knocked out, Piper throws quarters into the air, calmly puts sportcoat on, and leaves. Amazing for its simplicity and Piper’s calm intensity.
For my favorite match: Gordon Solie’s call of his dog collar win over Greg Valentine at Starrcade. ‘Roddy Piper did it! Roddy Piper did it!’
My favorite Roddy Piper moment was pre-WWF when he saved announcer Gordon Solie from Don Muraco attacking Solie. Muraco was mad at Solie and Piper and Muraco started brawling at the announcer’s podium in the WTBS studios after Muraco pushed Piper twice. I think this was around 1982. I was a 10 year old kid and I thought it was awesome seeing these two going toe-to-toe before the locker room broke it up.
My favorite Piper moment is a little obscure. I was about 12 years old and I was watching Georgia wrestling on TBS and they were showing some scenes from a card that happened at the Omni. Don Muraco was in the center of the ring, Piper comes out in a suit, walks into the ring, puts his suit coat across the top rope and proceeds to hit Muraco with a roll of quarters. Quarters went everywhere, then he puts on his coat and walks out of the ring. My little mind was fried. It turned me into a wrestling fan and he was my favorite for a long time.
My favorite Piper moment happened during Georgia Championship Wrestling when Piper was commentating with Gordon Solie. Don Muraco came out, cut a promo, then shoved Piper down and Muraco appeared to be heading for Solie. Piper saved Solie by jumping Muraco and did a babyface turn. It was more than 25 years ago and I still remember it vividly.
When he was the color commentator on TBS Wrestling with Gordon Solie in the early 80s, he was the funniest, wittiest, most gifted talker I ever heard. He made every match a must see as you’ve never knew what he would say next! I thought this was Piper at his best.
He was in my Holy Trinity of favorite pro wrestlers – him, Flair, and Bruno, in different orders depending on my mood. And I also put him in my Holy Trinity of all-time heels – him, Blassie, and The Sheik (Detroit’s original).
I got a chance to tell him that years ago. He was promoting his autobiography in San Francisco where I lived, and I got his autograph at the bookstore. I also told him that he was what really sold WrestleMania, not Hogan. (I mean, it’s not really that hard for a good guy to sell things, is it?) He was actually fairly shy and seemed a little embarrassed when I was complimenting him.
The one thing I always remembered about that was watching him with everyone as they went through the line to get his autograph at the table he was sitting at. When a man came up to him, he would stand up and shake his hand. When a woman came up, he would stand up, take off his hat, and shake her hand. Every single time! It was really cool to watch, and it told me how good a person at heart he genuinely was.
It’s weird how a the death of someone you don’t personally know can actually mean so much to you, isn’t it? “Just when you think you know all the answers, I change all the questions.”
I was watching the Piper dvd in his honor (WWE should do another one), and was watching disc 3 with the Piper’s Pits. Most people will say that they loved the Frankie Williams one and the Jimmy Snuka one, and they are both awesome, but I actually liked the ones with Sal Bellomo in NJ and the one with Bruno Sammartino better. Piper was very funny. Also, there was one with King Harley Race that I liked just because it had Race in it.
The promos that he cut on Hogan in WCW were great like the first one in which he told Hogan, “I’m the reason you don’t have hair so what are you going to do about it?” I liked the ICON t-shirts he wore there and what that stood for: ‘I cower over nobody’.
I don’t know if I have one favorite Piper match, but I did like the Starrcade ‘96 match with Hogan just because he beat Hogan clean in that match. It’s amusing that how WCW labeled that match the “fight of the decade” or something like that.
Piper vs. Iron Sheik – WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event, October 1986
I had the pleasure of meeting Roddy at a convention in 2006, and he was truly genuine and kind. We chatted for about 5 minutes about old Maple Leaf Garden matches, as well as my favorite Piper match. I was just a young 10 year old who lived in a small town that didn’t have cable and missed the match! I was upset until the next day I found out my uncle (who had cable) taped the show and I got to see it the next day after all! It wasn’t much of a match, but it meant a lot to me. RIP Rowdy Roddy…I never will forget him.
Piper vs. “Cowboy” Bob Orton – WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event, November 1986
As a huge Bret Hart fan, my favorite Rowdy Roddy Piper match should be WrestleMania 8. It’s a great match, but it’s not my favorite. I’m willing to bet no one else will give you this one as the best.
Piper wrestled Bob Orton on a Saturday Night’s Main Event that aired November 29, 1986. The match is nothing special though Piper does his Three Stooges eye poke that makes me laugh every time I see it. Piper wins with a schoolboy after Orton collided with Jimmy Hart on the apron, and the finish was nearly botched when Orton starts to turn around after hitting Jimmy and has to turn back around so Piper could roll him up.
So why is it my favorite?
Prior to the match, Piper gives an interview with Mean Gene that is hilarious, but actually still makes you believe he wants to get at Orton. After the match, he gives another one to Gene in the locker room that is just as funny, and even more poignant. He ends the first interview by saying, “I was rowdy before rowdy was cool” and the second with, “When I’m good, I’m good, but when I’m bad, I’m much better.” Between the two promos and the match, it is my favorite Piper moment, and I actually showed it to a friend of mine the day before Piper died. Really! Piper is funny, cool, and you still want to see him fight Don Muraco and Adrian Adonis.
Even on his rare WWE appearances, he’s always funny. It’s so hard for wrestlers today to be both funny and still be seen as serious, real, and threatening, and Piper always pulled it off in spades.
Piper vs. Bruno Sammartino steel cage match in Boston – 1986
Dan in Dumfries, VA
My favorite Roddy Piper match won’t get too much attention, but it meant a ton to me.
February 8, 1986 in the Boston Garden was a history making show I attended as a 14 year old kid. It is well known as the night that Randy Savage defeated Tito Santana for the Intercontinental Championship. That wasn’t the main event though, and neither were The Hart Foundation vs. The Killer Bees, Hillbilly Jim vs. Big John Studd in a bodyslam challenge match, or even Ricky Steamboat vs. Magnificent Muraco in a Hawaiian Death match. The main event was the blow-off of a series of matches in the Boston Garden between Rowdy Roddy Piper and Bruno Sammartino. Since the previous two matches ended in controversy, the final match was a steel cage match. As a brash kid, I went to the match planning on cheering for Roddy.
However, note the date: February 1986. Just days earlier, the New England Patriots got humiliated in the Super Bowl to the Chicago Bears. Piper came out to the ring wearing a Bears jersey, and put up posters on the cage wall of William Perry and Jim McMahon. The heat he got for that was OFF THE CHARTS!!!! The Garden roared with boos (myself included).
As Gorilla Monsoon would say “the place literally went bananas!” when Bruno came down to the ring, and when he ripped the shirt off Piper’s back, and ripped down the posters balled them up and rubbed them in Piper’s face. Piper took a beating for the length of the 10 minute match that night, and it was a rare case of Piper doing the job in the WWF as he lost clean to Bruno that night. I look back on that night with a combination of laughs and amazement of how much heat Piper got from the Boston crowd that night. It really summed up just how great a villain Piper was.
Piper vs. Greg Valentine – Dog Collar Match – Starrcade ‘83
My favorite Piper match of all time would have to be the dog collar match at Starrcade 83 with Greg Valentine. I was either 8 or 9 years old when I first saw it and I couldn’t turn away from the tv. It was so violent, so bloody and so brutal that they had my attention from bell to bell. This was 1992 or 1993 when I first saw it, so it was completely different from everything that was on wrestling at the time that the whole match just stuck in my head. If you were to ask me today for my Top 25 matches of all time, this match would be there, no doubt.
My favorite Piper’s Pit would be the one with Andre. Piper was the cocky, smart ass heel who had done this routine with every guest where he spent two minutes insulting them and then beating them up. Andre just sat there with a smile on his face that read “I dare you to try and attack me”. Piper commented about how Andre had this giant body and a teeny tiny brain and it eventually led to Andre lifting him up by his shirt and shoving him away. Of course Piper being Piper, as soon as Andre walked off, he turns to the camera and shouts “You do not throw rocks at a man with a machine gun.”. You knew he wouldn’t dare try to attack Andre again, but he wasn’t left looking like a total geek, which is what would happen today.
No Piper “Best Of” talk can be complete without one of the most intense matches in the history of pro wrestling: Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine at Starrcade 83′ in the dog collar match for the US Title. This match showed the first-ever closed circuit audience what an intense, realistic, great pro wrestling brawl could be. This was a culmination of a masterful feud buildup and really stole the show at the inaugural Starrcade. Sure Flair-Race had historical significance, but Piper-Valentine had pure, unbridled intensity.
The opening of this match with both men scowling at each other and jostling that chain with their necks before the bell is one the most iconic visual moments in the history of the business. Piper and Valentine went out here, beat on each other, and basically had a fight. One of the best things about this match is its realistic tone. Both men beat and bloodied each other and the fans loved every minute of it. Put the match on now and still feels as fresh as it did back then. The match proved Piper was ready to deliver on the biggest stages…and he did.
My favorite Roddy Piper match was him vs Greg Valentine (dog collar match) from Starrcade 1983. That match is one of the first I saw and thought “Holy sh*t.” One of the most vicious, bloody matches I’ve ever seen. The psychology and ruthlessness of that match set a standard that in my opinion has never been met since.
Roddy Piper vs. Mr. Perfect – WWF Intercontinental Title – Maple Leaf Gardens (1/25/91), Toronto, Canada
Roddy Piper was my first hero as a little boy. I could write a book about how much he impacted my life. He’s the first passing since Curt Hennig, that really hit me hard. Match was nothing too special to the naked eye, yet Roddy entertained as only he could, including ripping off Perfect’s singlet at one point. With Piper forcing Perfect to fight his way, Piper won by count-out, allowing Perfect to retain the title. A rare match between two favorites I’ll never forget.
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In part 3, you get the best of the rest.