A very interesting look at pro wrestling from a very influential figure in its history. Written in 2002.
Before we get to the review, I just wanted to address a few life events that effect the frequency of my posts here. Namely: WORK. Basically, since I have started my new job, six weeks ago, I received two raises in the span of three days, have been introduced by my GM to the higher ups in the company as, I shit you not, a “Shining star”, and have all been promised a management position. All great things to have happen to you, especially as a recovering drug addict. The problem is, I have performed to such a high level that I am being whipped like a dog and am working six days a week. Hell, I have today off, get to see my Patriots rout the corpse of the Steelers, and I can’t even enjoy it because I have to work seven straight days after today before I get next Monday off. I also work at a mall, so come about a week, all the holiday shenanegans are going to start, so really, this may be the last one for a while. God willing, I will try, but I may just not have much time for these reviews come a week or so. I was actually going to pick up Dusty Rhodes book the other day at the store…but Artie Lange’s new book was too much for me to resist, so sorry old Dust, I went with Artie’s as sort of a reminder of WHY TO STAY OFF DRUGS.
To top that off, a new girl, who, like me, worked for years at Papa Gino’s (It is a Northeastern United States Pizza chain, for the uninitiated) was hired to be my right hand woman at my station (pizza maker) as I have NO ONE ELSE to help me…at a pizzeria. A good one. In a very busy mall. She is just fucking awesome at her work, and in the process of sucking down a couple of lung darts together on break, I come to find out that, much like me, she is a recovering addict. So we are basically kindred spirits who kick names and take ass (or is it the other way around) during a rush…so the restaurant decides to take her from me and put her on the front. So I am getting fucking boned at work when this girl could be working with me every night while we boned the rush and maybe I could bone her (she is very easy on the eyes fellas, trust me…plus she wears a thong working in a restaurant. That is very daring in an industry where you are constantly bending over. Not that I am complaining.) She seems to be doing very well in her recovery process, as am I (alcohol excluded, I freely admit that. I stayed away from that whole QOTD Thread), and her poison of pleasing was heroin (mine was Oxycontin and Perocets), so I figured reading a book from the KING of heroin and pill abuse and his recovery was something that would benefit me, and allow me some more ammunition to talk to her about recovery, as well as a friend who is likewise in recovery, and who I am basically sponsoring. I work with the girl and every day, on my walk to the train station, this dude, who is living in a shelter and I believe has hit rock bottom and sees my successes at my job and sees that there IS indeed life at the end of the tunnel, wants to do the right thing and resume his life. I buy him a pack of smokes and a coffee here and there, but NO MONEY. He asks for money, he gets the big fat NO. So in dealing with these two, as well as my own insecurities and imperfections, Artie’s book is almost cold comfort from change. I am halfway through it, and if anyone wants a review on that, which would be chock full of some of my own debauched drug tales as well, please hit up the comments. Just keep it reasonable.
But enough about my life. You, kind sirs, are here for a book review. And I am fixin to give it to ya (That is the Holly book talking there) so let us get to the autobiography of one of the most influential wrestlers to ever wear a kilt; a true icon and wrestling legend with legendary stories of debauchery to tell: Rowdy Roddy Piper.
As I mentioned earlier, this book was published in 2002, so some significant stuff that has occurred since then is left out. The book is good, but has some significant flaws…such as Roddy admitting to using copious amounts of drugs, yet never naming what he was taking. Another huge flaw is that Roddy does not describe any of his WCW tenure. Sure, there are odd paragraphs here and there that mention WCW in passing, but anyone looking for insight into WCW at its peak are going to find a whole lot of nothing.
What the reader WILL find, though, is a very fun read, especially the early years of Piper’s career. Piper grew up basically destitute in Canada, which led to Roderick Toombs actively pursuing a life in the carny world of pro wrestling at the age of 15. Immediately, though, one of the books flaws is exposed, as Roddy does not describe his foray into boxing, and becoming a Golden Gloves champion, very much. He skips that and goes straight to the mat wars. The first portion of the book, Roddy’s upbringing, training, first wrestling experiences and first match, can be best described as totally scatter-brained. The dude is just all over the place, much like the character he portrayed, or should I say embodied. Suffice to say, whippet thin Roderick Piper debuted at 15 years old in Winnipeg (“I’m from Winnipeg you idiot!”) in the early 70’s using his given name…only the announcer fucked up and inadvertently made wrestling history. You see, Roddy really is a phenomenal bagpipe player, and back then you could incorporate just about anything into your character. Roddy chose to show up his first night with his reeds, and as he was coming to the ring, the ring announcer was so thrown off by the site of this raw, skinny newcomer blaring away on an unfamiliar instrument that he introduced Toombs as “Roddy the…uh…Piper.” 15 seconds later, Piper was staring at the lights after the three count, the recipient of a thrashing at the hands of Larry “The Ax” Hennig, and the landscape of wrestling, unbeknownst to anyone actually present at the arena that evening, had been dramatically altered.
Roddy Piper had arrived.
Roddy spent the next half decade of decadence (the 70’s) working in Los Angeles with the LaBells and in Portland with the Owen’s, becoming the top draw and biggest shit stirrer on the left coast. Meanwhile, another young upstart was tearing up the east coast, particularly in the Carolina’s, a slick young man customly called Slick Ric. While many more central territories were featuring such outstanding talent the likes of Harley Race, Dory and Terry Funk, Jack and Gerry Brisco, and Dusty Rhodes, along with Northeastern stars such as Sammartino, Morales, and Superstar Billy Graham, it was really Piper out in Blassie country and Flair in Wahoo country that were moving up the charts, and it was inevitable the two would meet eventually in their meteoric rise to superstardom, and when Piper decided to venture out east to Mid Atlantic, it happened.
Flair and Piper had a magical rivalry in JCP, and it involved many of the same tricks that promotion liked to feature. Namely, reality based angles that ended up with one of the participants getting the Harley Race/Gene Anderson sandpaper/iodine treatment, and, in this case, it was Roddy. Piper ran strong through JCP for a good few years, culminating with his Dog Collar match with Greg Valentine at the initial Starrcade in 1983 (for my money, Piper’s best match ever…he was never really a technical wrestler, more of a savage brawler. There is one other match I hold right up with it, but that is yet to come). That Starrcade match with “The Hammer” was, and still remains, a lesson in brutality as Piper relates on the pages of his book, confirming what a certain author of “The Buzz on Pro Wrestling” said many moons ago. But Piper was, is and remains his own man. He despises promoters and all the manipulation that they…well…manipulate. If you are a big fan, you will love to read the portions of the book that describe Piper’s first run in WWWF in the mid seventies. Grand Wizard, Lou Albano and, particularly, Freddie Blassie just railroaded the poor kid while being nothing but sunshine and lollipops to his face. It was a different animal back then, the wrestling biz, and Piper was thrown into the cage as feed. But the informed and educated reader can find out those facts reading this book, so let us continue on with the narrative.
Piper, who despises promoters, grew weary of Jim Crockett, and was soon to receive a call from a fairly novice new promoter who happened to be running the biggest territory in the States and also happened to share a name with the man who ran it before him: Vince McMahon Junior. Piper was heading to the big time, but it was far from wine and roses to begin with.
Young Vince the lesser (soon to be the greatest) saw Piper as more or less a mid card comedy player, someone who could DEFINITELY talk the talk. He turned the still relatively young Piper into a manager, interview taker and just general all around loud mouth. It was not Vince McMahon Jr who made Roddy into the Roddy we all know through the segment we all, and all fans and non fans, remember him for, but instead a road agent that Shawn Michaels eventually had fired (Had to get my shot in.)
The agent was Chief Jay Strongbow, in reality my paisan, a fellow Siciliano, Jay Scarpa. Jay knew Roddy was an impact player, and WWF in 1983, now under the watch of Vinnie and not Senior, was looking for impact players to help go national. So Roddy arrives at a taping one week (no doubt hungover AND stoned) and Jay asks him to incorporate some fruits he has purchased into Piper’s new on screen talk show, Piper’s Pit, into his bit, specifically asking Roddy (remember…this was LONG before wrestling was scripted, and in the crazy, drug fueled 80’s, anything was possible. Add into the fact that the participants were PIPER AND SNUKA, two of the biggest users of the decade…watch out) to smash a rock hard coconut over Snuka’s Polynesian hard head. The rest was history, as Piper became the biggest heel WWF had ever seen. He headlined in a run with Snuka for a good while, while the big changeover from McMahon to McMahon happened. Junior didn’t think too much of Piper, but Roddy was hot shit at that point, thus we get the angle that infected MTV for 1985. Does Dave Schultz pull off that angle alone? Orndorff? Orton? Nope. Piper made that shit, and he knows it, and it is reflected in the book. Roddy also vents his personal hatred for Mr. T, but many of us are privy to just how much Mr. T (oombs) hates Mr. T, so we will leave it at that.
The biggest black spot I can give this book review is Roddy’s recollection of his CLASSIC Wrestlemania 3 run up with Adrian Adonis. Don’t get me wrong, Roddy has opinions on everything, but his resuscitation of fact relies not on the match or angle or ending of his Mania 3 match with Keith Franke, but of his love for him as a person. It is touching, but that match has played such a seminal role in many of our lives that I felt Piper owed us a bit more in describing the angle, the events we saw on TV, all that. What Roddy begins to describe is how all wrestlers, and fans, have a “sickness” that makes all wrestler’s lives hell, yet makes the promoter maximum dollars. There is a whole chapter dedicated to what Roddy feels is “The Sickness” and it really is truly enlightening and makes this whole kit and kaboodle worth the purchase. The chapter he dedicates to “The Sickness” is undoubtedly one of the most informed, educated, well written chapters you will read in any wrestling book, and for that reason alone I give this tome my highest recommendation. For just that one chapter. Find it, read it, learn it, love it. Roddy is not a book smart type of cat, but he is a fucking Rhodes Scholar (see what I did…oh fuck you) when it comes to the science of the mat wars, and he is not shy about telling you his thoughts and experiences.
The book basically covers Roddy up to his Mania 12 match with Goldust…and nothing after that. We get some of his late 80’s/early 90’s covered, but for the most part, the book concludes with Roddy in his feud with Rude. After that, the narrative dies and it is just Roddy Piper’s thoughts on the business of wrestling. All in all, I would recommend it as a fun read for a die hard, but not absolute material.
But the dude is related to Bret Hart, and Bret writes his forward…and I am a Bret Mark. READ IT!!!!!! BRET BRET BRET BRET BRET!!
In all seriousness, track the book down in your local library. It is fun, a little disappointing, but, ultimately, not worth purchase. But still fun.