Dedicated to Gordon Solie
January 29, 1929 - July 27, 2000
Finally, with Roddy Piper so much in the news these days, it seemed like a good time to run Part 4 of the following Classic Wrestling Article from somewhere in Oregon in 2001:
by ZACH DUNDAS
Besides popularity and a crunching workload, the other mainstay of Piper's early career was conflict with promoters. Through the National Wrestling Alliance, the various regional hucksters maintained an uneasy peace and kept wrestlers in line. Wrestlers who tried to buck authority could find themselves blackballed, frozen out of all the territories for transgressing in one.
According to Piper, his first run-in with wrestling's powers-that-were came when he was 19 and distributed a newsletter urging solidarity to other grapplers.
"I took the NWA's circular crest and changed the words to No Wrestlers Allowed," Piper says. "I had a picture of a promoter with his arm around a wrestler. In his left hand, the promoter had a bag of money. In his right hand, he had the wrestler by the nuts. They were both smiling."
One night, when he had two engagements booked in Southern cities hundreds of miles apart, Piper showed up late for the second. The NWA blackballed him. Piper turned to chaotic Third World gigs to make ends meet. He remembers hiding out in a bunkerlike locker room while half the Dominican Republic chucked bricks outside. Then there was the bout in Kuwait, before a heavily armed audience of thousands and many of their camels.
In the midst of this madness, Piper got a call from Vince McMahon Sr. McMahon was a longtime promoter, operator of something called the World-Wide Wrestling Federation. He and his son, he explained, were putting together a new effort to use cable and videotape to transcend the old regional boundaries. Because they were breaking from the NWA, they needed wrestlers just desperate enough to take a risk. Wrestlers, in other words, like Piper.
"He called all the lone wolves," Piper says. "Now you've got 30 of us in a room. You've got George 'The Animal' Steel, André the Giant. You gotta understand, these guys don't care about nothin'."
The WWF soared to national prominence, riding savvy cable deals and the salesmanship of Vince McMahon Jr. It was the early '80s, and the younger McMahon was the first to see the potential of hitching wrestling to other rising pop-culture forces, specifically MTV. Singer Cindi Lauper plunged into wrestling at the height of her brief fame.
A blond surfer dude named Hulk Hogan became the first mega-hero of the rock 'n' wrestling era. In wrestling, of course, every hero needs an antihero, a foil. Hogan found his in Piper.
"Hogan, he was billed as American-made, but he wasn't blue-collar," says Rose City Rudo. "He was from Venice Beach, y'know? Piper was someone you hoped you didn't run into behind the pub after nine Guinnesses. He was a more realistic, blue-collar brawler."
The pair became inescapable; there were lunchboxes, dolls, cartoons. Hogan was the popular favorite, while Piper nurtured a classic "heel" image with his zest for belittling interviewers. Wrestling attained an unprecedented pop-culture saturation level.
"Geraldine Ferraro was running for vice president, and she was going, 'Rowdy Piper, why don't you fight like a man!'" Piper recalls. "Cindi Lauper wins Female Vocalist of the Year, and finishes her speech saying, 'Roddy Piper, you are going to get yours.' I walk into Madison Square Garden, and there are the Rockettes, there's Liberace--and what's wrong with that picture, eh? Little Richard's handing out Bibles. It's a circus."
That circus reached its highly lucrative crescendo in the spring of 1985 with the first Wrestlemania, an extravaganza billed as the wrestling equivalent of the Super Bowl. Piper's hilariously vitriolic feud with Hogan and Mr. T, at the time a bona-fide TV star, came to a head in the Main Event. Though Piper and his tag-team partner Paul Orndorff lost the showdown, wrestling's new gold standard had been set.
"Hogan and I were the original lab rats," says Piper of his old rival, now friend. "If somebody recognizes me, it's like, 'That is the guy who started Wrestlemania.' For kids who aren't even 19 yet, that's like saying, 'Oh yeah, he started the Super Bowl.'"
To be continued...
If any of you read the Crossface Report, you know that we ran our 'Best of/worst of.." column this week. I know such a column is not the most terribly original thing to do, but, hey, gimme a break.....like in pro wrestling, some gimmicks work well over and over, especially if executed properly.
What drives me more bonkers than anything is the way some columnists will just write down their favorites, or most unliked persons or personas, and not explain their opinion. They figure that you will divine out the secret meaning of their thoughts and minds. Not very proper, nor understandable. I endeavor to explain my opinion to you, so that, agree or disagree, you and I understand each other.
I wrote in my last column that this last year was probably the worst in the history of wrestling. I re-read that column before I submitted it to Earl, and thought about something that Earl had told me.......that being that 'downer' columns were not necessarily the best thing going. I thought about that as I read the worst downer column I had probably ever written, and I felt a couple of regretful pangs. What would Earl think? Would he put me on an extended vacation? The possibilities were daunting.....
However, Earl just gave his normal thanks and kept going. It was a relief, but maybe, just maybe, there might be a better reason (though I will let Earl speak for himself).
The fact is, 2002 just might have been the worst year for pro wrestling.
Let's see....according to the Connection from 11-4-2002, the year-to-date rating for Raw was 4.095. Now, here at the end of the year, the average finished at 4.03. From the year previous, it dropped 18% That was after a 20% drop from the year before that. If you ever heard the saying, "One time, shame on you...two times, shame on me.", you know what I am leading to. If the WWE knew they had a problem with the way they were doing things, why didn't they do more to repair the damage?
I listed out the different things that the WWE did, like keeping Kurt Angle heel, HLA, having HHH book Raw and simulate sex with a corpse, and other, more mundane errors, but there are other things. Though it turned out much better (through the talent of the man alone), the introduction of Brock Lesnar was not the most original one ever thought up. The misuse of Chris Jericho, Booker T, and RVD, especially throughout the second half of the year, was troubling, doubly so because it was caused by HHH, and to a lesser extent HBK. The push of the Big Show to the WWE Title, after knowing that he could not maintain enough heat to make a flea stop shivering, was another mistake, though I would not penalize the bookers for hoping against hope.
Let's look at Smackdown, because that was the best the WWE offered this year. I spoke of Kurt Angle already, so I will avoid that subject. Matt Hardy's angle is an irritant, but I spoke of that before. Let's see.....How about Chuck and Billy, the evil twin angle to Lenny and Lodi. That was the tag team I didn't want to watch, and I felt increasingly uncomfortable about the angle the further it went. These guy actually were probably the worst thing to happen to the gay community in years, as they exhibited the most stereotypical and shallow tendencies associated with homosexuality. Although I think the way they ended the angle (the build-up, wedding, and run-in) was a great example of what Vince McMahon does well, the angle as a whole sucked. The only other thing that troubles me about Smackdown (the clearly better production) is the fact that 80% of the big names are there. That was the case before they moved Lesnar, Undertaker, and Benoit/Eddy G. there. Now, with Austin gone, Steiner under performing at house shows, and HHH dominating the decision making process, Smackdown will become the 1-A show, and Raw will become 'Smackdown Lite'. Though it isn't a bad thing for Smackdown to be a good show, the two offerings should be more balanced.
I also see problems growing for this year. Vince either thinks we are stupid, or thinks he can squeeze more trash out of wrestling. Rumors of three or four weeks ago had told of a frustrated Vince, wondering where to go next with the angles and storylines, since the shock was gone from his shows. The Al Wilson/Dawn Marie fiasco was embarrassing to watch, and another example of what went wrong in 2002. The sex video will probably be the undoing of this program, if not my ability to watch the show. God willing, it won't be a long-lasting angle.
You know, after some thought, I think 2002 can be summed up in one phrase:
"If it failed before, it will fail again."
Does that make sense? The bad part is that HHH, Vince, whatever bookers there are that can get their ideas across, and even the workers themselves (to a lesser extent) are all helping this mentality along. Until people can get HHH off of the booking team, get wrestling back into the ring, and reduce the dominance of non-wrestling storylines on wrestling shows, this last year's drop in wrestling quality will continue.
There are bright spots, sure; Test is making progress with his little face turn, and I think the return of the Dead Man, in what is obviously his swan song, is a great idea. The return of Nash, Lita, Jazz, Rhyno, and Undertaker will add some interest to the shows, and they need it. They need it bad.
OK. Make sure you come to bodyslam.cc and see the new format. We hope you like it, and come back often. Of course, intersperse your visits with trips through the long and full aisles of Solie's Vintage Wrestling.
See you next week with another Connection.
SmackDown! came to us live (for a change) from the Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque, New Mexico and opened with a silly match between Rikishi and John Cena. Cena was getting his butt kicked when B2 got dragged into the ring. The referee was knocked down. By the time it was all sorted out, Cena had rolled Rikishi up and pinned him with a handful of tights.
Then the wedding march started up and Dawn Marie showed up in a white (oh, really..?) wedding gown. She stood on the platform and Dawn started to extoll her own virtues ("I'm a beautiful, blushing bride!") then announced that she intended to get married without the dress...in the nude! Backstage, Stephanie told her she better not try to strip for her wedding. Dawn agreed...to the bosses face, but made her true intentions clear as soon as Stephanie walked off camera. This is getting stupider (is that a word?) and stupider...
Bill DeMott finally got an opponent who could match him in size and power, if not in experience, in Chuck Palumbo. The experience told the story as the fight got underway - DeMott dominated the youngster in the early going. Palumbo tried to come back once, but DeMott stopped him cold. Then Palumbo made his move a second time and seemed to be making some headway until DeMott hit him with a big clothesline...and pinned him.
Right after that match, we got a promo indicating that the Undertaker will be back for the Royal Rumble. The promo seemed to be implying that he may be returning to his old "Dead Man" personna.
Backstage, Billy Kidman tried to cheer up Torrie by doing an impression of her dad and Dawn. Then, Kurt Angle stood up to talk about his WWE Title match against Chris Benoit at the Royal Rumble, and also the debut later tonight of "Team Angle" in a tag team match against Benoit and an as yet unknown partner. Oh...he's gonna win and so are they...yadda, yadda, yadda...
Eddie Guerrero (w/Chavo), sporting a buzz cut, took on Billy Kidman in the next match. This was non-title, of course, because Eddie is no Cruiserweight. In the middle of the match, John Cena and B2 showed up apropos of nothing... I guess they want to challenge for the Tag Titles. B2 started a fight ringside with Chavo, then threw him into the ring - then Rikishi showed up. All the while, Kidman and Eddie continued to brawl out on the floor as we cut to commercial.
When we returned, the ring area had been cleared of unnecessary personnel, Cena was at the announce table and Kidman and Eddie were back in the ring. Eddie was dominating his opponent, no surprise there... Kidman kept coming back, but Guerrero thwarted him time after time. As Guerrero was ready to win it, Cena went to the ring and walloped him with a chain wrapped around his fist. Eddie went out like a light, Kidman hit the Shooting Star and took the pin.
Next up - the wedding. Al showed up in a tan leisure suit. Dawn wore her gown - but when the "minister" ask if anyone had an objection, Dawn scared Al to death by raising her voice...to state that she couldn't marry All "...this way" - she wanted to take off her dress. Unfortunately, she stopped at her underwear, saying that Stephanie wouldn't let her get naked...but she didn't say anything about he husband to be! She started stripping off his clothes (thank GOD - she got rid of that suit!) She stripped him to his underwear, with his shoes still on, then started to pull down his briefs - but thought better of it and left them on. They continued with his vows, which he flubbed. He put the ring on her finger, and then she recited her vows, the "minister" didn't actually "pronounce" them husband and wife - but "presented" them as such. They walked off together, him sporting (probably) the biggest erection of his life...and stupider...
Benoit's team mate for the tag match against Team Angle turned out to be Edge. This was another silly match - Edge and Benoit against a couple of amateurs - give me a break... Of course, they did have the advantage of Angle at ringside, and after a while it helped turn things in their direction. To tell the truth, it also became apparent after a bit that Haas and Benjamin are not amateurs at all. Edge and Benoit came back and slapped on a series of three, double German suplexes on their opponents. Then all hell broke loose as Benoit was trying to put the Crippler Crossface on Benjamin, Angle exploded into the ring and got them disqualified. Meanwhile, Team Angle attacked the victors, then Angle dragged the ring announcer in and forced him to say that Team Angle had won the match (but they didn't...)
Paul Heyman was in the ring as we returned, and after a short rant, called the Big Show to the ring to join him. He laid out the scenerio that Brock Lesnar might end up winning the Royal Rumble and thus getting a shot at the WWE Title at WrestleMania - so he proposed that Lesnar and the Big Show face off in a singles match at the PPV. The loser of that match would be barred from entering the Rumble. He then stated that he figured Lesnar would refuse the match because he is afraid of the giant. Lesnar showed up and started down the ramp to deliver his response...when Matt Hardy and his young sidekick, Shannon Moore, attacked him from behind with a chair. Brock was bleeding, but came back and cleared the ring. Did I mention that Lesnar and Hardy have a match later?
Funaki (SmackDown's #1 announcer) interviewed Dawn and Al as they got ready to depart - still in their underwear. Dawn promised to videotape the entire honeymoon - including the naughty parts...and stupider...
Nuncio (w/Nidia and Jamie Noble) took on Crash in the next match. Nuncio won, but I wasn't paying attention enough to tell you how he did it... By the way, is this guy "Nuncio" the same as Little Guido from ECW?
Brock Lesnar came to the ring still bleeding - having refused any medical attention since the attack on him earlier. Hardy arrived and was just destroyed for several minutes as Moore lurked around ringside looking for a chance to interfere. He finally got a chance to grab Lesnar's leg. Lesnar simply jerked him bodily into the ring and then tossed him over the top rope on the opposite side. But Moore was back in in an instant and fell victim to the F5. lesnar turned around and walked right in to a Twist of Fate - but then he kicked out! He delivered a second F5 - on Hardy - and took the pin. Heyman and the Big Show appeared on the platform, saying nothing. The two big guys stared at each other, then Lesnar dedicated another F5 to his opponent at the PPV as we went off the air.
When we returned, Lance Storm and Willy Regal were in JR and Lawler's faces telling them off for beating them in the tag match last week. When they finished the announcers they attacked the Dudleys, who were still out of it in the ring. Bubba was bleeding from the forehead from "the power of the punch" when they left.
Backstage, HHH was examining himself in a mirror when Flair came in and started talking about a posedown, apparently set to happen between Hunter and Scott Steiner later tonight. Steiner barged in and promised to rip his head off if HHH tries anything funny during the contest.
Next up, a womens' tag team match pitting Victoria (w/Steven Richards) and Molly vs. Trish Stratus and Jacquie. This was a short and disappointing match, which ended when Richards got into the action and set up his team for the win.
Backstage, Terri interviewed her ex-husband and his partner, who disputed the assertion (made earlier by the GM) that 2003 would be the year of Eric Bischoff. In another part of the building, Bischoff and Morley were shown watching the interview on a monitor and vowing to "do something" about the Tag Champs' attitudes.
The Millennium Bug came to the ring for his customary, self-centered rant. Tonight his topic is getting a title shot at WrestleMania by entering and winning the Royal Rumble. About the time he'd said as much as we wanted to hear, Shawn Michaels showed up to burst his bubble. He told Jericho that he didn't come out to upset him, he just came out to tell him how to go about becoming recognized as the best in the business. He proposes that Jericho should volunteer to be the first entrant in the RR, then go on to win the title at WrestleMania. Jericho chews on that for a moment then accuses HBK of tooting his own horn (Michaels, of course, did just what he described). Jericho shot back that he had beaten everyone. HBK came back with the suggestion that if Jericho doesn't do it...he will. Jericho's answer to that was to challenge Michaels to a match right here and now...then their was an RNN New Break and Randy Orton came to the ring to announce the "momentous" news that his shoulder is back to 93% mobility. He went on to suggest that there is a "new sexy boy in town." he was continuing his egotistical rant when HBK flattened him. Then Jericho took advantage of the distraction to attack Shawn and put the Walls of Jericho on him. Then Rob Van Dam, and Christian showed up to join the frey, followed by Kane who emptied the ring of bad guys.
Regal and Storm had a shot at the Tag Team Titles in a wild and woolly match that saw the original referee kicked by Storm into unconsciousness and replaced by Nick Patrick then later replaced by Sean Morley, who allowed Regal to use his brass knuckles to win the titles.
Chris Nowinski brought D'Lo Brown to the ring with him to face Test (w/Stacy). Test made short work of the Harvard graduate but then was attacked by D'lo.
Triple H's posedown challenge for Scott Steiner was next. HHH came to the ring and picked some judges from the audience (six guys sitting at ringside - looked like ringers to me...) He recruited the Coach to call the poses and handed each of his "judges" two cards with his name on one and Steiner's name on the other, The judges were instructed to each hold up which ever name then feel was the winner. Triple H mimed having trouble removing his sweat shirt...becsause his arms are so big. As they posed, the two of them kept stepping in front of each other. I noticed again that Coach is really a big guy. He towered over both competitors. Of course all six voted for HHH. Steiner figured it was a set up - and so did I... HHH then offered one more contest - doing push ups. Steiner agreed and the two of them dropped to all fours and started pumping. Around #12 the six "judges" suddenly rushed over and attacked Steiner as HHH and Flair left the ring. Steiner cleaned house after initially going under.
The main event was a tag team match - Jericho and Christian (w/Randy Orton) vs. Kane and RVD (w/HBK). As soon as the introductions were finished, we went to commercial. When we returned, the match was underway. of course the heel team did all they could to keep Kane out of the match. Whenever he got in, he cleaned house. When Jericho and Christian brought chairs into the ring to try and finish off Kane, HBK dragged Jericho out to the floor and clobbered him. Back in the ring, Kane and RVD took care of Christian and won the match.
Backstage, Bischoff announced to the new tag champs that he had booked a match for Jerry Lawler next week against William Regal. As he was making his statement, the phone rang and it was Vince McMahon's secretary telling Bischoff that Vince will be on the program next week...
At least that's the way I see it...
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