The SmarK Rant for Born to Controversy: The Roddy Piper Story
The DVD set has a bunch of matches that I’ve already reviewed, so I figured I’d just check out the documentary portion on the WWE Network because it’s supposed to be good.
Hosted by Roddy Piper.
Piper says he’s not really from anywhere, but he was born RIGHT HERE, in Saskatoon Saskatchewan and then moved around all over Canada as a kid. He got really into the bagpipes but left home at 13 because it was “time to go” and lived on the street in Winnipeg for a while. Yikes.
While living at a youth hostel, he was doing crappy in school and so a priest told him that he’d end up robbing a 7-11 and getting raped and shot, so maybe he should try wrestling instead? “You sure you know that?” Roddy quips, but he decides to try this wrestling thing. He was carrying his bagpipes and the ring announcing called him “Roddy the Piper” and he worked with Larry Hennig in his first match for Al Tomko’s promotion and made $25, and got beat up, but never looked back. So the guys would rib him and beat on him, but Roddy met Judo Gene LaBelle and learned how to take care of himself in and out of the ring.
Piper went all over, through Moncton and Minneapolis as a jobber. He hated Japan, and ended up in Dallas and then finally Los Angeles, where Leo Garibaldi made him into a manager and told him he could say ANYTHING he wanted. Piper was like “….anything?” and away we go.
We clips of Piper against Chavo Guerrero, and Piper has a t-shirt that says “White is Right” in case you didn’t know who the heel was. So then Piper goes down to Mexico and does an interview while riding a donkey, which got him in some hot water. So he apologizes to the audience and offers to learn to the play the Mexican national anthem on the bagpipes, which turned out to be “La Cucaracha” and nearly triggered a riot. And people up North heard about that and brought him back to the US as a top guy.
Piper talks about his relationship with Don Owens, who gave him his first big breaks, and he refused to work against Owens when he was with the WWF out of respect. So then Piper was off to Mid-Atlantic in 1977. Flair notes “Piper showed up and I’ve never stopped being entertained since.” Piper talks about working matches with Flair and getting polish that he had been lacking before. This is where he really took off, but the kilt stuff wasn’t a gimmick, and we get clips of his greatest hits in Mid-Atlantic. This leads to the famous double dog collar match at Starrcade 83 against Greg Valentine, which of course was ridiculously brutal and graphic. Piper still claims that Valentine ruptured his eardrum with the chain, although I’m pretty sure that has since been established as Piper kayfabing people because the injury was a pre-existing one.
After Starrcade, Jim Crockett gets a call from Vince McMahon and asks to have Roddy Piper. So Roddy gets used as a manager because he was having trouble with his equilibrium, and he gets put with Dr. D and Paul Orndorff. He was confident that he would get himself over, plus then he wouldn’t have to wrestle on TV, so it’s win-win. This leads to the creation of Piper’s Pit, and Roddy was just kind of making it up as he went along. Case in point, they put jobber Frankie Williams on the show one week, in the world’s first interview squash match, as they told Piper to go out there and eat him alive. Frankie went long, so Piper improvises a beating to end the segment and history is made.
Next up, Andre is on the Pit and they take a backstage rib where Andre went around going “None of your business” to every question and turned it into a whole bit, which led to Andre throttling Piper and Roddy improvising “You don’t throw rocks at a man with a machine gun”.
Of course, Jimmy Snuka and the coconuts is next. JR pops in to note that the greatness of Piper was that he could get both himself and the guest over at the same time. Piper was worried that he had knocked Snuka a little too hard with the coconut after he fell through the set, but then decided to whip him with his belt anyway, just to make it good. Unfortunately this whole thing was basically done with both guys kayfabing it.
We get more highlights from the Pit, like shaving the midget (one of Orton’s favorites!) or the Andre turn.
Piper talks about his relationship with Bob Orton and how he had worked with his father, which gave them a bond right away. Bob talks about how it was his favorite time in the business because Piper was so much fun to be around. The clip of Piper harassing Orton’s doctor and quacking at him is amazing.
So this brings us to December of 1984, as Roddy interrupts the Cyndi Lauper deal with Captain Lou, breaks the record over his head, and then kicks Cyndi as well for the mega-heat. Hogan’s followup interview where he declares “DICK CLARK IS SCARED TO DEATH!” is so classic. Piper was quite impressed at this whole thing going mainstream like it did, which leads to The War to Settle the Score. I’d sure like to review that show on the WWE Network! I may or may not have been sent that Network version of the show from someone, actually, and I might just finally do it soon. But I do prefer reviewing things that are actually on there so everyone has access to it.
Off to Wrestlemania, as Hogan and Piper had a running argument about who really drew the house for that one. Actually I think Mr. T was a big part of it. So Piper told Vince to keep T from doing any moves, because it would have exposed him and killed his big money star. Roddy admits that he didn’t care for Mr. T much. This leads to a discussion of the boxing match at WM2, which Piper calls the worst match of his life, which he wishes he could take back.
In 1987, Piper returns from a brief Hollywood sojourn and turns babyface against Adrian Adonis, although they omit the whole storyline, sadly and just quickly cover his retirement at WM3. So Piper leaves wrestling and gets a gig doing “They Live” with John Carpenter. Carpenter credits Piper with coming up with the bubblegum line.
Piper returned in 1989 for the Brother Love segment at WM5 and we get a bunch of clips of that, which is weird because Morton Downey Jr. is a complete pop culture afterthought now.
We skip a lot of stuff and head to 1992, with the talking heads discussing how Piper didn’t ever win a major title because he didn’t need one. Piper says it was his biggest regret, in fact. But then he won the IC title from the Mountie. Piper says it was a nice moment, but he was more concerned with getting Bret over because he needed it more. Piper complains that the ref should have checked Bret’s arm because he was in the sleeper, so he didn’t actually lose.
Then we jump ahead AGAIN to Wrestlemania X with his surprise return to referee the Bret match. And then we get a bunch of clips of the Lawler feud. The talking heads point out that the match wasn’t particularly, you know, good. And then they move on. I’m not even sure why they bothered covering this but left out most of the 80s.
Jumping ahead again to 1996, with Piper doing the acting commissioner deal. Bruce Prichard does a story about how they wanted a match with OJ Simpson at Wrestlemania, but he wasn’t available, so they subbed in Goldust instead because of his Hollywood connection. Well that’s complete bullshit. Are they just gonna pretend that Razor Ramon wasn’t the original opponent for Goldust? Piper was the substitute, not Goldust. Anyway, they do a backlot brawl that actually looks ahead of its time given where we are in 2020 with “cinematic wrestling”.
Hulk Hogan talks about how “Piper was one of the last pieces of the puzzle they needed” in WCW. OK then. Piper says he left for money, period. Piper says he had some trouble with Hall and Nash and they terminated his contract as a result, and that was that. Well that’s quite the way to sum up those years.
Moving forward again to 2003, Piper makes a surprise return at Wrestlemania 19 and turns on Hogan. He was coming off a severe car accident and was way out of shape, which of course Vince made sure to mock. And then there was Mr. America and Piper wasn’t feeling any of it. Piper thinks that there would have been more money in a feud with McMahon rather than Hulk. I don’t think there was much money in any of it.
They talk about the HBO show where Piper called out all the early deaths in wrestling, which JR calls “Piper being all woe-is-me and whiny” because HBO caught him on a bad day. The irony of Piper complaining about the HBO interview using trick editing and out of context quotes isn’t lost on me while watching this documentary full of questionable editing and out of context stuff.
And then we finish in 2005 with Piper being inducted into the Hall of Fame, since this was released before his tag team title stuff later on and eventual death in 2015. And then we wrap it up with everyone putting him over.
So yeah, overall, this was a nice, safe, documentary despite being called “Born to Controversy”. They mostly just stuck to kayfabe and didn’t really touch on anything past the surface. As a pleasant retrospective piece, it was nice, but you absolutely will not learn anything you didn’t know already and frankly they omitted giant chunks of his career for the sake of moving the narrative along. Like really, skipping directly from Wrestlemania 1 to 2 to 3 in about 3 minutes is ridiculous. That was the entire prime of his career!
Anyway, it’s worth a watch, but it feels like there’s a much better version of this buried in here and we’ll probably never get it now.