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Exclusive Conversation with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper
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The interviewer wishes to thank Mr. Clyde Jensen of Cherry’s Sports Bar, the Eddie Guerrero Memorial Golf Tournament and Mr. Shannon Rose of Sports Radio 1470AM for inviting him to the meet and greet that took place on Friday October 20th. Now the words Alan J. Wojcik thought he would never get to type, a conversation with WWE Hall of Fame inductee and a true icon in the wrestling world, the one and only “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.

 

Alan J. Wojcik: Let’s begin with how well you knew Eddie and the world famous Guerrero family.

 

Roddy Piper: Actually I wrestled Eddie in Madison Square Garden the night before I got fired. I wrestled Eddie’s father and all of his brothers over my career. In fact Mrs. Guerrero once made me some chicken soup so her sons could beat me up some more.

 

Alan J. Wojcik: What was your reaction to the news of his passing in Minneapolis last November?

 

Roddy Piper: I walked in from a movie shoot. I was going to be on a WWE tour overseas to Helsinki and Italy. I walked into the Target Center where they were going to run the super show that night. It was certainly not a fun night. I think that night and the following days he brought a tremendous amount of love from the wrestlers. When we went overseas Chris Benoit and David Batista stayed behind a few days for the funeral. Each night on the tour Eddie’s friends had a ten bell tribute each night.

 

Alan J. Wojcik: Thanks for bringing up movies. Before the Rock, Kane and most recently John Cena appeared on the big screen you beat them with an appearance in “Bodyslam” but also a sci-fi flick “John Carpenter’s They Live!” How hard is it for someone to go from the sports entertainment world as the WWE calls it to the world of movie magic?

 

Roddy Piper:  They couldn’t be more opposite. Wrestling is explosion while acting is implosion. You need to educate yourself to survive whether it is acting classes or a good director like John Carpenter who helped me bring out the character I played. I don’t know about the Rock I have only met him once. You have to study and appreciate each art form if you take them up.

 

Alan J. Wojcik: In 2003-04 you worked with Jeff Jarrett’s TNA Wrestling promotion. In your opinion can they compete in some fashion with WWE?

 

Roddy Piper: I think the only reasons they couldn’t compete are limits in imagination or their talent roster leaving for WWE. I am sure I am not the first to say this, but competition is good. WCW was rolling hard in 2000-01 and as it ended the ratings in WWE were about a 4.1, WCW was 2.1. WCW closed and the ratings the week after in WWE went to 4.5 and back to 4.1 about a week after. That tells you there were 2.1 rated audience that didn’t want to move over from WCW. They left wrestling all together. If TNA could capture that audience they could survive.

 

Alan J. Wojcik: Wrestling fans should remember in 2004 you made a memorable appearance on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryan Gumble since WWE fired you after your words hit Mr. McMahon close to home. You brought up the silent scream’s you had in your hotel rooms and the frat brothers who had died because of substance and drug abuse. Do you think your honesty led WWE to set up the wellness program after Eddie passed away and what do you think of the program they have set up?

 

Roddy Piper: That is a complex question my friend. I think it needed to be brought to the surface and that why I said it. I never intended to hurt anyone. Since that interview I know very few of my brothers passed on. It brought attention from people that this business isn’t a joke. It brought the seriousness of what goes on in the dressing room. When you have been in main events for twenty-five years but the business is fake; how can you be the main event for that time? Doesn’t make much sense does it? Everyone doesn’t know and it’s supposed to be that way. If I tell you the ending to a movie before you see it, are you going in to watch it? You have rag sheets like the ones you work with no offense to you Alan. The people who rat out their own business need to be labeled traitors or terrorists. I am feeding my family and I have people talking about the locker room. To answer your question I hope the WWE program saves lives.

 

Alan J. Wojcik: On November 14th you will be placed back in the WWE spotlight when they release a three-disc DVD set called “Roddy Piper: Born To Controversy.” How much input did you have in the disc’s content and what is it like to be honored in a DVD?

 

Roddy Piper: The DVD is a very kind thing but it’s a business move. I am in this business to make money and I think some people forget that wrestlers are out to make money. I am feeding my family. I have not seen it. I understand they interviewed people and chose the matches without my input. I will see it like everyone else and I will face it head on like everything I have done in my career. The one thing is the title you mentioned, they aren’t going to give me a break for doing what I needed to survive!!

 

Alan J. Wojcik: You were interviewed for the Bret Hart DVD that came out a few months ago. Do you think he did the right thing being part of it and the recent Hall of Fame induction?

 

Roddy Piper: I didn’t need to see it because I know the way the press handled it over the years. Despite my hatred of the sheets we need the media. Eric Bischoff has a book called Controversy Creates Ca$h and the WWE did the same thing with Bret Hart. It was a well publicized conundrum in 1997 and they capitalized on it because it was good business.

 

Alan J. Wojcik: Being you are a well traveled icon you got your start in the days when territories like Mid-Atlantic, Memphis, Kansas City, Championship Wrestling of Florida, Portland Wrestling and Georgia Championship Wrestling existed. My question is if those territories had the money WWE or TNA to work with could that system survive today?

 

Roddy Piper: That’s another good question that’s surprising me, stop that. Just kidding. I think if it was that way, these guys would be making $3-4,000 a week and back then it was big money. You kept traveling around the country every six months or so. Never able to have a solid home existence for your family. We used to have conversations on the rides to the next town about having one match a month everyone would see. Careful what you wish for. In the evolution of the WWE taking over it hurt people but I was lucky to have the stars align right for me with WrestleMania and MTV. Had WWE not made the moves they did who knows. You have to pay today’s wrestlers greater then the territorial days. In a strange way it killed off things and the few survivors had successful careers.

 

Alan J. Wojcik: The current WWE agent and writing staff reads like a who’s who of wrestling history: Steve Keirn, Dusty Rhodes, Arn Anderson, Dean Malenko, Michael Hayes, Ricky Steamboat and Ted DiBiase and others. Could you or did you ever feel you could be part of the creative area of the business? From research done for this piece its shows you ran Portland for a few years.

 

Roddy Piper: I remember Red Bastien saying after being a main eventer the next logical step was to buy into the territory which is like buying air or you transition to the front office. I only did it for Don Owen in Portland because the territory was down and I love the area. I spoke to Vince a few weeks before I got fired and he asked, “Hot Rod what do you want to, be an agent or a writer?” I said NO to both. It never crossed my mind. I am on the talent side. Do I have a craving to be like those names you mentioned? No. All those guys were on my card when I was in the main event with Hogan and other guys. As a main event guy you have a responsibility to the other people on the card to sell out the building each time out so they can feed their households. My job was to sell out a building like MSG and those guys helped me. They all have great minds for the business. Me personally I remember what (former WCW booker) Kevin Sullivan once told me, “I am not office material.” That expression would be for another interview.

 

Alan J. Wojcik: The generation who grew up on the 80’s WWF TV saw you make history each week on Wrestling Challenge or Superstars with Piper’s Pit. After your show several impersonators were launched plus it happens with today’s group like Carlito’s Cabana or Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel. What do you think of those recent shows and people of the 80’s like the Snake Pit or the Barber Shop?

 

Roddy Piper: Wow you are getting right in there aren’t you? I will give you how Piper’s Pit came about broken down real simple for reading. Back at the time Vince McMahon Sr. hired me they were trying to grab any talent that would be a rebel and cross over from the territories we talk about earlier. WWF used to do TV in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and in that locker room was Paul Orndorff, David Schultz, Don Muraco, Hulk Hogan, Mr. Fuji, Rocky Johnson, Andre the Giant and Big John Studd to name a few. Right before I signed on I lost some of my hearing in my left ear from the NWA matches with Greg Valentine that ended with the dog collar match at Starrcade ’83. I was a manager originally so I could heal. I did an interview with Orndorff and Schultz and they were usually 2 minutes 54 seconds long. Because everyone was rebellious we were on no one’s side but our own. Both of them closed shoulders and left me in the background with about 5 seconds of time. I jumped up using their shoulders for posts and yelled, “Roddy Piper legend killer!” I was watching them at TV. They were killing each other on the mic. I thought if fans were going to want to watch me, to buy a ticket I needed something to get the attention on me. It was in a bar in St Louis after an event I said to Vince Jr. give me microphone and two stools, five weeks to get the job done or I am gone. The next time TV came around the Piper’s Pit was there waiting for me. Frankie Williams was there waiting on the set. I asked where he was from, he said “Ima from a Columbus, Ohio.” I had no script to work with like they do today. I could do thirty minutes on a Puerto Rican with freckles. After a while because the Pit was improvised no one wanted to do it. After a while the best talkers in WWF were coming on and it became a battle of wits. It never mattered if I lost or won because you were watching. Then came the knock offs like the Jesse Ventura Body Shop, (Adrian) Adonis’ Flower Shop and the ones you mentioned. At that time they made attempts to squish me because I was a rebel they couldn’t control. Today you have Jericho, Edge and Carlito and their shows or had since they stopped all of them. Because Piper’s Pit was first they followed the blue print I created. It’s like the Thrilla in Manila how do you top that. Neither of those men was the same but then again neither was Jimmy Snuka.

 

Alan J. Wojcik: Looking back to the initial WrestleMania did you ever imagine that gamble would twenty three years later be an iconic event on the wrestling calendar? I ask it because of the long standing argument did Hulk Hogan draw the house or did you because fans wanted to see you get your ass beat.

 

Roddy Piper: Outstanding question and it might make you lose your status as a sheet writer. I’m a glass half full guy, looking positive at all things. I said we better get the money while we can because this could be a passing phase. It was the right time with the MTV generation. If you look back I was wrong and I am glad I was wrong. I had a wife and kids to take care of. As a father I needed to say this might not go far so I can raise my kid’s right. Lucky me it went so far and got so huge by being in the right place with one hell of an opponent in Hogan. So many other people could have carried the ball I was the lucky one who got the call.

 

Alan J. Wojcik: This might get me a beat down from you but I am going to ask it. Since you are in semi-retirement what do you think of Ric Flair or Hulk Hogan still competing today. Do you think please retire you are hurting the business or do you think they have a love for the business and them being around helps the current generation.

 

Roddy Piper: Your safe my friend. But I am going to tell you something you haven’t been told judging by the way you asked the question.

 

Alan J. Wojcik: We can skip it if you like.

 

Roddy Piper: No it’s alright you can calm down I am going to try and give you the best answer I can. If you were raised in the industry of the business like (former NWA World Heavyweight champion) Jack Brisco who sat with me here for the autograph session it might be different. For me I don’t have friends, people I hang out with every day. My family, my wife of twenty-four years and my kids are who I have. None of us have best buddies. We have nothing in common with everyday people. The business took off in such a way none of us understood what was going on. We went around the world and back again. To try and catch up with the nuisances of the business you would have to have been fifteen years old. I forgot to comment on your mention of the Frat. I did those shirts in memory of my friends. I called them Frat because the only thing that kept me from college was high school. But as many brothers as we lost in my career, you could have asked them or any people like Jack or Hector Guerrero. We are talking here you’re a normal guy. Say you are the mayor of a small town. Mr. Mayor what did you do today. Well you could have given away a key to Johnny Cash or someone like him. In fact I got a key from a city the same day Cash got one. The mayor may have passed some bills or met some dignitaries. Then I would get asked what I did. Well I flew 3,500 miles to New York and went to a building called Madison Square Garden where they were 17,000 people trying to stab me because I was hitting Hulk Hogan in the head with a folding chair. I got to the restaurant around 12am and because of who I am they kept the kitchen open so I could eat before my flight to the next town. You wouldn’t believe a word out of my mouth. What is going to happen is the elephant walk. I read when they die they have a natural instinct to go to a certain place to head to before they die. I could see that fate for myself, Hogan and Flair. But it depends on which one is introvert or extrovert. After this event tonight I will go back to my hotel room and be alone. Alone in my thoughts like I said on the Real Sports thing. A wrestling show is like a family vacation; after it ends everyone goes back to their individual lives. They have to deal with their good and bad traits.  I don’t know why they keep doing it but we have to stop because my ride is ready to go. I hope I gave you a good answer.

 

Alan J. Wojcik: Actually you were a class act and I thank you for taking time to talk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on Roddy Piper see www.rowdyroddypiper.com The WWE DVD mentioned is to be released tentatively released November 14th. Log onto www.wwe.com