Dedicated to Gordon Solie
January 29, 1929 - July 27, 2000
by ZACH DUNDAS
Winnipeg, Canada, sometime in 1968.
The arena stinks of sweat and ambient testosterone. Hundreds of fans pack ringside, eager to feast on pro wrestling's rich, yet simple, pleasures. They're here to see closed fists smash temples. Folding chairs crack skulls. Legs pretzel until joints crackle like campfires. Feuds, heels, heroes. Foreign objects. Skullduggery and vengeance and betrayal. Hardly a place for a boy in a plaid skirt.
And yet, there he is. A fresh-faced piece of fresh meat walks down the aisle, sporting a tartan kilt. The kid can't be more than 16. Larry Hennig waits in the ring. Hennig's signature move is "The Axe." For him, this teenager's kilt just giftwraps another paycheck.
The kid carries a basket of dandelions, throwing them to the crowd. The revolted crowd throws them back. A small troupe of bagpipers, all in kilts, walks with him.
The kid is Roderick Toombs, runaway son of a Canadian railroad cop, just crazy and desperate enough to trade a grand royal ass-kicking for 25 Canadian dollars.
By the end of the night, he'll be on his way to becoming a legend.
Eugene, Ore., May 11, 2001.
Three thousand wrestling fanatics shriek, bellow, taunt and cajole in the MAC Court, the University of Oregon's athletic arena, as "Anarchy in Piper's Pit," the biggest wrestling event in Oregon in a decade, unfolds.
Six solid matches of vicious theater pass before a feeling of exhausted anticipation settles on the arena. The night's parade of high-flying offensives, down-and-dirty grappling, evil Canadians, heroic Americans, dog collars and blood has done little to fill the void everyone feels. Where's the man of the hour?
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper, né Toombs, is Oregon's resident wrestling legend and tonight's headline attraction. The University of Oregon's student cultural committee convinced him to come down from his mountaintop retreat outside Hillsboro for a night of "Anarchy."
"They say the word 'anarchy' is real big in Eugene," Piper says.
The crowd's question remains unanswered throughout the entire Main Event. Though the fans are on their feet when U of O graduate Josh Wilcox survives a 20-Man Battle Royal to claim a $5,000 purse, there's a sense of deflated enthusiasm in the air. But as Wilcox, a former Duck tight end, soaks in the hometown applause, his final opponent, still in the ring, steals the bag of spoils.
Then, finally, it happens.
Piper rushes into the ring. Infuriated, he demands the money be returned to the rightful victor. The crowd, momentarily caught off-guard, explodes in thunderous approval at the sight of its hero.
The kilt is gone, but underneath his black suit, Piperwears a heather-gray pocket T-shirt. The wrestler-turned-organizer has not lost his Everyman appeal, nor his hard-knock touch. Piper unleashes a lightning battery of punches to the villain's head. Overcome, Curt Hennig, son of the man who awaited the teenage Rod Toombs in that Winnipeg ring, surrenders his ill-gotten gains.
In less than two minutes, Roddy Piper has re-established everything he ever was, and ever hopes to be. Despite the event's nihilistic name, the message of the MAC Court chaos couldn't be more clear: When it comes to pro wrestling in Oregon, the Piper is king.
Sometimes, it seems every thick-necked mook in America wears a World Wrestling Federation T-shirt.
The WWF, Piper's old employer, pimp-slaps Monday Night Football in TV's ratings war and trades on Wall Street. Wrestlers strut in Hollywood blockbusters and at the Republican National Convention. One ex-wrestler is the actual governor of a real American state.
Roddy Piper helped make all this happen.
In the 30 years since that night in Winnipeg, Piper distinguished himself as one of the greatest ever to kick a leg into the squared circle. In wrestling's musclebound melodrama, he's played trash-talking villain, blue-collar hero and elder statesman. In the mid-'80s, he was key to wrestling's transformation from flea-bitten sideshow to cable TV cash-spinner, wielding a sly sneer, rapier tongue and a deep capacity for punishment.
"Piper began when wrestling had a semblance of integrity," says Marvin Levich, a retired Reed College philosophy professor who used to make a study of wrestling. "He is a very verbal person, and very articulate, and that made him what he was."
"He could work the mic, talk to the crowd, improvise--and he could wrestle," says Rose City Rudo, editor of the Portland wrestling 'zine Polar Bear Vixen.
Serious grappling fans revere Piper as one of the last of the old school. The man himself, however, is unwilling to drift quietly into past tense. "There's this mystique that old wrestlers just fade away," says Piper. "Well, I'm just going to peak."
In fact, Piper's involved in a dizzying array of enterprises. His website, a well-developed look at all things Roddy, flogs videos, advice and goofy jokes. He plans to publish a memoir, with the boss working title If You're Gonna Die, Kid, Die in the Ring. Continuing his career-long rabble-rousing, he's suing TimeWarner/AOL, former owners of World Championship Wrestling, for breach of contract.
To be continued...
Roddy Piper.......I don't believe it.
I read the Solie's Forum this morning, and read the posts about this fiasco at the NWA-TNA show this week, and having given it thought this weekend, I have come to the following conclusion:
It was a work, folks. Scripted, fake, and both sides knew it.
Piper worked an anti-Russo program in the WCW....remember him throwing the TV on Nitro? It was done in a similar vein, with him going to the back and 'shooting' to the wrestlers in the back, talking to them about getting together, forming a union, and the like. Piper has done anti-management angles before, and though I might be agreeable to the idea that the man doesn't like Russo, and what Russo has meant to wrestling, I cannot accept the idea that he just came to the TNA show to shoot on Russo out of principle.
Why? I know of the undoubtable Piper legend of always saying his mind, but look at the following, and think about it, because it is coming from a real Roddy Piper/ George Toombs fan:
First, and most obvious, Piper is on a promotional tour. He is off hawking his book and foundation, and is looking for publicity. What better way to stir up publicity than by 'shooting' on the wrestling world's bad boy? Russo can easily be blamed for the collapse of the 'moral fabric' of the professional wrestling industry, just as easily as Vince McMahon can. Bringing in Piper to scream in his face and berate him in front of the NWA fans, who have been fed the line that they are the 'true' fed, and you will get the heat....heat Roddy needs to sell his book, and make money. Therefore, he goes out and blasts Russo, and gets huge pops for it. When the people that know more then the emotional immediate react to his noise, he issued two releases telling us that he was coming completely off the cuff. Right. Kayfabe runs wild!
Mike Tenay. He 'shoots' on Russo weekly, but we all know that Russo is running the scripting and the like in that fed. Tenay might be more 'old-school' than Russo, but his life in the NWA would be very short......think Sean Waltman.
The NWA-TNA under Russo, like the WWF and WCW under Russo, plays the Internet like a guitar, strumming the fans along with wars and rumors of war. Piper may actually think that Russo has ruined wrestling, but there would be no way Russo would allow Piper to take advantage of him like that with no reckoning about what was coming. Russo is playing this up for the e-columns and wrestling fan sites, and Piper's people are in cahoots with that. Both parties know that the other party's fans will be apt to cross over and take a gander, and that many millions of people hit the 'Net to check the intrigue that Piper caused.
Now....take everything I said, and digest it. I have not really voiced an opinion about whether I agreed with the man or not, and though I think Russo is a scumbag, and an ego, Piper was way out of line. He really disappointed me with his little speech, especially when he tried to use Owen Hart's death to build more heat into the discussion. Russo may not have known what the man was going to say, but he had to know it was going to be hyperbolic and scathing. So Piper goes in there, does the standard ripping of Russo (and I like that, you know), but then descends into blaming Russo for the death of Owen. Folks, that is not just false (no matter what ANYONE SAYS), it is repugnant for people to be told that. It is not responsible, and what makes it worse is that Piper did it as part of a work, in order to get publicity.
I would be far more comfortable to see a shoot interview with Piper, where he says to a reporter that he thinks Russo pressured Hart into doing that stunt. Everyone has an opinion about such things. However, the venue, the tone, and the process by which Piper handled the aftermath made it clear to me that it was staged. When the WWF/E had a tribute to Hart the next day, they were blasted. However, Impact Wrestling prefaces the 'open letter' from Piper's publicity machine by calling the interview "the SHOOT interview". I know McMahon oft deserves bashing, but, folks, Piper clearly used this opportunity, and Owen's death, to push his book. Go to the Forum and read his letter....this was a result of his people seeing the fans' desire for the wrestling to come back into professional wrestling, and he capitalized on that, didn't he?
Last week, I spoke about marketing, and marketing entails defining a target audience. Piper has a target audience, that being the wrestling fans. However, there is a subset of fans that he has found within his target audience, and that smaller group are the fans that are sick of Sports Entertainment. People like me, really, if you want to get specific. So, Piper (as is obvious in his letter) saw this, and used it. So, think of it this way; Roddy Piper used Owen Hart's death and Vince Russo's humiliation of Hogan and destruction of professional wrestling to sell books, and make money.
Like I said before, I am really disappointed. The warrior falls before me. I am wracked with shame. Rod......how could you?
Ah, well, I guess you can credit him with holding onto kayfabe, but now, I don't know if it is a good thing anymore.
OK....Solie's Storefront is the place to go for wrestling gifts of any and every kind. I am going to go there myself, because it supports the site, and makes Earl happy. Right, Earl?
And, come to bodyslam.cc for all your wrestling needs. Great site, great columns.
See you next week for another Connection.
SmackDown! was taped Tuesday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas and opened with a David & Goliath matchup between Rey Misterio and Albert. This is the first time in some while that the latter has been on either of the weeknight shows, and he made the most of it. Catching Misterio coming off the ropes and using a massive back breaker to take him out. Afterward, the big bully did some damage to Misterio's left knee for no apparent reason. Edge ran in and chased him off but not before the damage was done.
Bill DeMott (the former Hugh Morrus) was interviewed (sort of) by Funaki. DeMott was not happy to have his first interview with a "a commentator that can barely speak English..." and took out his ire on the interviewer.
After the break, Stephanie came to the platform and showed the footage of her stealing Scott Steiner right out from under Eric Bischoff's nose. She then announced that she would be allowing Brock Lesnar to explain his side of his situation live tonight - via satellite...
Nidia joined the announce team for the next match between her boyfriend, Jamie Noble and Crash Holly...for about a minute - then she went to ringside in order to help her man. Crash beat the former Cruiserweight champ in less then 5 minutes...despite Nidia's interference. Another reason to call "cousin Nuncio..."
Backstage, Dawn Marie surprised Torrie by declaring her affection...for Torrie! She makes an indecent proposal, and handed her the key to her hotel room, in return for not marrying Al...? No, I don't get it either...
Funaki is up next, in a match against Bill DeMott, brought on by the aborted interview earlier. DeMott destroyed "SmackDown's #1 announcer."
The Guerreros conferred backstage. Chavo has a Cruiserweight Title match later, while Eddie is involved in Fatal Fourway match for the #1 contender to the World Title.
Lesnar had his say, making no excuses for his behavior. He was just getting to his opinion of Stephanie, when the Big Show's music suddenly started up. Show and Heyman came to the ring to taunt the former champ. Lesnar told them he was looking forward to seeing the big title match at Armageddon...in person.
At the mid-point of the program, Chavo Guerrero took on Billy Kidman for the Cruiserweight title. Guerrero is a prime mat wrestler and seemed to have Kidman's number at every turn. He came very close to the three count on numerous occasions. Kidman even missed the Shooting Star because of Guerrero's craftiness...the first time. The second time he tried it he connected and retained his title.
Edge told Mark Lloyd that he was focused on his World Title contender match tonight...then attacked Albert as soon as he saw him.
Taz hosted the first SmackDown "Hip Hop Challenge" - John Cena vs. Rikishi in a rap contest - pulease... Rikishi was better...and got battered. But then the bad guys made a mistake and included Tazz in their attack. Rikishi and the Tazzman sent 'em packin' - then did a victory dance together - wasn't that sweet...
Right after Edge was introduced for the big main event, Albert came out and attacked him with a chair, thus ending his participation in the match...
...or maybe not. As the final intros were made, Edge limped out to the ring and the match got underway - Edge, Eddie Guerrero, Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit vying in a four way elimination match for the #1 contender status. At firat all three of his opponents tried to get a quick elimination on Edge, but they were unsuccessful. The fight became more general after that and Eddie Guerrero was the first one eliminated, by Benoit with the Crossface. he story in this match was the way that Edge hung in there. He eliminated Benoit with a spear after Guerrero ran back in and softened up his former friend with a title belt upside his head. This left just Angleand Edge as we went to the last commercial.
After the break it appeared that Angle had it all going his way as Edge's injury took its toll. But then Edge made a comeback flurry just before being caught in a series of German suplexes. He came back with a spear and almost won the match. A little later he wwent for another one and was foiled, then Angle Slammed. Angle grabbed the ankle lock, but Edge countered and escaped - then Angle grabbed it a third time in the match. The Edge hit an Angle Slam!! But only got a two count. Angle came back and then won it - but immediately the Big Show arrived and attacked the #1 contender.
As the show wenmt off the air, Torrie arrived at Dawn Marie's hotel and waqs ready to submit to DM's demands.
Raw came to us live from the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee and opened with Eric Bischoff and "Chief" Morely in the ring and introducing HBK and HHH (via split screen) on the big screen. Bischoff then announced some stips for their match at Armageddon. It will be a three fall match - first fall is a street fight, second fall a cage match and the third fall will be a ladder match. That last didn't set well with Hunter - he looked definitely uncomfortable over that idea.
The first match of the night began immediately - Booker T and Goldust against the former International Whiners, Willy Regal and Lance Storm. Not surprisingly, though Booker and Goldy gave a good account of themselves, dominating much of the match, the heels won the fight when Goldust tapped out to a Sharpshooter. After the match, Coach questioned Booker and Goldust about their seeming inability to win the Tag Titles. Booker didn't want to talk about it and walked away, but Goldy then declared that he was the "weak link" on the team and has decided to back out of the match at the PPV. He said he will ask Bischoff to get Booker another partner!
Backstage, Rob van Dam was discovered in Bischoff's office, talking to someone on Bischoff's phone. After Chief Morley cut off the call, RVD revealed he had been talking to Scott Steiner. Meanwhile, Chris Jericho hit on Trish then Victoria sent Steven Richards off to the ring with a bite on the ear for good luck.
The next match was an inter gender one-on-one between Jacquie and Steven Richards. Richards quickly overpowered his opponent but then contrived to not complete a cover so he could punish her some more. bad move, she almost pinned him moments later. The next time around he didn't hesitate... Victoria ran in after the match and put Jacquie into a back breaker, then hit a Widow's Peak to put her down. Trish ran in and ran the heels off. Jacquie was not appreciative...
Jeff Hardy was interviewed by Terri backstage regarding his coming match against HHH. He made some remarks about HBK that Michaels chose to take as disparaging when he showed up during the interview. Jeff asked HBK for some advice in how to take on the Game and got some. He then offered to advise Michaels regarding his third fall ladder match, should it get that far. The Heartbreak Kid was not appreciative...
Ric Flair accompanied Batista to the ring for his match against Rob Van Dam. Right away, Batista dominated his opponent via pure power. RVD returned fire, using the big guy's power against him then let fly with some educated footwork to make a comeback. Then, as Batista recovered the advantage, Kane suddenly ran in and attacked the bad guy. It ended in a stalemate.
Backstage, Sean Morely confronted kane and made a handicap match for him against Three Minute Warning.
The unlikely tag team of Chris Nowinski and D-Lo Brown took on their arch rivals Al Snow and Maven. I am waiting with baited breath for Maven to turn on his mentor. It will happen, folks, trust me... This contest was actually a rematch from Sunday Night Heat, and ended the same way - with D-Lo pinning Snow.
Backstage, Goldust was standing at Bischoff's door, but Booker stopped him and declared him the best tag team partner he's ever had...and his best friend (I wonder how Stevie Ray feels about that statement). Goldust changed his mind.
Next up, Jeff Hardy got his shot at HHH (also accompanied by Ric Flair). As Hardy was acknowledging the crowd, HHH jerked him off of the ropes and the match was on. Hardy immediately took to the air and Hunter was in a bit of a fix...for about 6 seconds. Then he grounded his opponent with a knee lift and tossed him to the floor, where he roughed him up good before tossing him back inside. Hardy made a brief comeback a little later but was stopped dead in his tracks and Pedigreed...twice. 'Nuff said... Flair and Hunter then punked him outside the ring. HHH grabbed a chair and was about to take a swing when HBK appeared on the platform. HHH was inviting him down as we cut to commercial.
After the break, Flair invited HBK down to the ring under a "flag of truce" and told him that he was the best, even better than Flair himself, but that HHH is now the best. Shawn turned and walked away without a word, so HHH called him back and taunted him as a has been. Shawn kept his back to the game, and continued to walk away. backstage, Kane was headed to the ring...
Jamal and Rosie perpetrated a Pearl Harbor attack to get their handicap match against Kane started, but it didn't help them much. Kane flattened Rosie and Rico, then chokeslammed Rosie to take the pin. A triple team punk job ensued forthwith...RVD ran in and broke that up, then Kane came back with a chair and cleared the ring, then held the chair so that RVD could hit a VanTerminator on Jamal.
Test and Staci had one of their increasingly frequent sensual encounters, this time beside a Christmas tree. Randy Orton reported in from the New York Stock Exchange. backstage, after the break, Shawn Michaels told Flair to let HHH know that he would be waiting for the Game out in the parking lot!
The main event was dubbed a "Tables and Puppies" match - Chris Jericho/Christian/Victoria vs. The Dudleys/Trish Stratus in a table match. In this case, only one member of the losing team needed to go through a table, also, it was legal for men and women to fight each other in this one. The heel team seemed to be having a lot of trouble keeping out of each other's way - they kept accidentally striking each other instead of their opponents. Bubba was getting ready to powerbomb Victoria through a table in the ring when we cut to commercial...
...but it didn't happen. Jericho prevented it with a chop block during the break, and was in control of the action as we returned. Bubba was bleeding from the nose by the time he got D'Von back into the frey. A minute or so later, the Dudleys had Victoria and were about to end the match when Steven Richards ran in and broke that up - then Spike showed up to even the odds. The Dudleys regained control of things and were about to do Jericho when Regal and Storm, then Booker T and Goldust arrived to further complicate matters. The match was no DQ, so all of this was legal. Eventually it was Trish putting Victoria through a table, ala the Dudley Bomb that ended the match.
Out back, Flair and Hunter headed out to the parking area to look for the "Show Stopper". HBK surprised the Game with a shovel in the face! Then he threw him into a dumpster and started to walk away. He then noticed that there was a ladder propped against a trailer next to the dumpster. he climbed to the top and dropped an elbow on HHH in the dumpster!!
Sunday should be a good one...
At least that's the way I see it...
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