Pulse Wrestling’s Top 100 Wrestlers of the Modern Era: #17 – Roddy Piper

Piper is a rare individual – someone who was thoroughly hated as a heel and just as beloved as a face.

17. RODDY PIPER

Real Name: Roderick Toombs
Aliases: Masked Canadian, Piper Machine; Roderick Piper
Hometown: Portland, OR
Debut: 1969
Titles Held: NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight (3x); NWA Mid-Atlantic Tag Team (with Big John Studd); NWA Television (3x); NWA United States Heavyweight (2x); WCW United States; NWA Americas Heavyweight; NWA Canadian (Vancouver) Tag Team (with Rick Martel); NWA Hollywood Americas Heavyweight (4x); NWA Hollywood Americas Tag Team (7x – 2 with Crusher Verdu, 1 with Adrian Adonis, 1 with Chavo Guerrero, 1 with Kengo Kimura, 1 with Ron Bass, 1 with the Hangman); NWA World Light Heavyweight; NWA San Francisco United States; NWA San Francisco World Tag Team (with Ed Wiskoski); NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight (2x); NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team (5x – 1 with Killer Tim Brooks, 3 with Rick Martel, 1 with Mike Popovich); NWA American Tag Team (with Bulldog Brower); WWF Intercontinental; WWE Tag Team (with Ric Flair)
Other Accomplishments: Co-Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Best Interview award in 1981 (tied with Captain Lou Albano); Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Best Interview award in 1982 and 1983; Winner of PWI Inspirational Wrestler of the Year award in 1982; Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Best Heel award in 1984 and 1985; Winner of PWI Most Hated Wrestler of the Year award in 1984 and 1985; Winner of PWI Match of the Year award for 1985 (with Paul Orndorff vs. Hulk Hogan and Mr. T – March 31, 1985); Winner of PWI Most Popular Wrestler of the Year award in 1986; Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Worst Worked Match of the Year award in 1986 (vs. Mr. T – April 7, 1986); Winner of WWF Slammy Award for Best Personality in 1986; Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Worst Worked Match of the Year award in 1997 (vs. Hulk Hogan – February 23, 1997); Ranked #17 of the Best Wrestlers During the PWI Years by Pro Wrestling Illustrated; Member of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1996); Cauliflower Alley Club Reel Member Inductee in 2001; Member of WWE Hall of Fame (Class of 2005); Accomplished actor

Roderick Toombs was born in Saskatchewan. After being expelled from junior high Toombs left home to seek his future.

Toombs seems to have loved sports. He was a Golden Gloves champion in boxing. He trained with Gene LeBell in judo and received his black belt. (LeBell is a well-respected trainer, having trained other famous names such as Chris Adams, Ken Shamrock, Larry Zbyszko, Bruce Lee, and Chuck Norris).

Piper soon began training as a pro wrestler. His first match (at age 15) was against Larry “The Axe” Hennig and lasted sixteen seconds.

Piper worked until 1975 as a babyface jobber. Some of the territories he visited included the AWA, Fritz Von Erich’s Big Time Wrestling, and Paul Boesch’s NWA Houston.

Things turned around in late 1975 as Piper arrived in California and started working for NWA Hollywood (based in Los Angeles). The promoters saw something in Piper and decided to give him a try as a heel. On February 28, 1976 Piper finally won his first title as he and Crusher Verdu defeated Chavo and Gory Guerrero to win the NWA Americas Tag Team titles. Chavo regained the belts later in 1976 with new partner Butcher Vachon. Piper and Verdu would regain the belts that summer, finally losing them again to Porkchop Cash and Frank Monte.

Piper was breaking out on his own as well. On March 12, 1976 Piper captured the NWA Americas Heavyweight title from Chavo Guerrero. He held it for about a month before dropping it back to Chavo. A pattern for Piper’s career had begun to emerge and he would feud with the Guerrero family for the next several years.

October of 1976 saw Piper and new partner the Hangman regain the Americas Tag Team belts from Carlos and Raul Mata. Cien Caras and Victor Rivera would take them away the following January.

1977 saw Piper becoming a true thorn in the Guerreros’ sides. In April he captured Chavo Guerrero’s NWA World Light Heavyweight title – which he would hold for two days before losing it back to Chavo.

In July Piper and Keith Blanks took the Americas Tag Team titles away from Mando Guerrero and Tom Jones. This time their reign would last a week until Mando and Jones took the belts back.

Piper primarily focused on the Americas Heavyweight title for the rest of the year. In August he took it from Chavo and dropped it back a week later.

In late October/early November Chavo with a new wrestler – the masked Canadianto win the Americas Tag Team titles. On November 2 Black Gordman and Goliath took the titles away after the Canadian (who of course was Piper) turned on Chavo and left him to get pinned.

In November the Canadian took the belt from Chavo again and held it until Mando Guerrero took it away on December 9. The Canadian took it back a week later and held it until February of 1978 when Hector Guerrero won the title (and unmasked the Canadian as Piper).

April of 1978 saw Piper and new partner Ron Bass take the tag team titles away from Chavo and Gordman. They held them a little over a month until Gordman and Hector won the belts.

The feud with the Guerreros saw Piper perfect the fine art of being a heel. He ridiculed Mexicans regularly until he was finally forced to apologize. Piper promised that the next week he would come out and play the Mexican national anthem on his bagpipes.

Piper came out as promised and launched into a beautiful rendition of the anthem. Piper has recalled how the fans were standing in appreciation. In a shining moment, Piper paused in the middle of the song and then launched into La Cucaracha. Piper did manage to escape the ensuing near-riot.

In 1978 Piper also began working for NWA San Francisco. In June he captured the United States title from Moondog Lonnie Mayne and held it about a month before Mayne took it back.

Back in Los Angeles Piper and Pak Choo won the Americas Tag Team titles from Gordman and Ryuma Go on September 1. About a month later they lost them to the Twin Devils.

Piper wasn’t too worried. On September 29 he’d again dethroned Chavo for the Americas Heavyweight title. He held it for two days before Twin Devil #1 took it away.

Not long after, Piper departed California and headed to Don Owen’s NWA Pacific Northwest territory which was based out of Portland, Oregon. On December 31 Piper closed out the year by teaming with Killer Tim Brooks to defeat Dutch Savage and Jonathan Boyd for the tag team titles.

Piper became a double champion in February as he defeated Jonathan Boyd for the heavyweight title.

April saw the end of Piper’s tag team title run as Adrian Adonis and Ron Starr defeated him and Brooks. Stan Stasiak followed that up by taking the heavyweight belt in June.

It took until March of 1980 for Piper to regain a title. On the 29th Piper teamed with Rick Martel to defeat the Kiwi Sheepherders (Butch Miller and Luke Williams – better known as the WWF’s Bushwhackers). Piper spent the rest of the spring with Martel feuding with the Sheepherders with the Sheepherders finally taking the titles on May 12 and Piper/Martel being awarded the belts on August 5 after the Sheepherders left the area.

The feud with the Sheepherders had also crossed promotional lines as Martel and Piper followed the Sheepherders to NWA Vancouver. They defeated the Sheepherders for the Canadian Tag Team titles on May 19. The belts then faded into the background and were quietly vacated later that year.

August brought a new threat to Piper’s gold – Buddy Rose and Ed Wiskoski. Piper’s team and Rose’s team traded the belts in August.

On August 16th a new problem reared its head as Martel lost a loser leaves town match to Buddy Rose. Piper selected Mike Popovich as his new partner (and co-champion). They were defeated on September 12 for the titles by Rip Oliver and Fidel Cortez.

As 1980 died down, Piper left Portland and headed to Jim Crockett’s Mid-Atlantic promotion. On November 1 Piper defeated Paul Jones in a tournament to crown a new television champion.

Piper vacated the television belt in January of 1981 as he defeated Ric Flair to win the NWA United States title. About the same time, Piper won the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight title from Ricky Steamboat.

Piper lost the heavyweight title to Ivan Koloff in April. He kept the United States until August when he was defeated by Wahoo McDaniel.

November 1 saw Piper regain the heavyweight title as he again beat Ricky Steamboat. Piper would hold the belt for a long time, eventually feuding with Jack Brisco the following summer. Brisco won the title on May 10, Piper took it back on July 7, and Brisco ended the feud with another victory on August 3, 1982.

Piper left Mid-Atlantic in 1982 and headed to World Class Championship Wrestling. While there, Piper and Bulldog Brower won a tournament in October to crown new American Tag Team champions. However, Piper wasn’t happy there and later in the month they dropped the belts to the Super Destroyers and Piper headed back to Mid-Atlantic.

On March 27, 1983 Piper regained the television title from Dick Slater. Slater won the belt back a week later.

From there Piper turned babyface and quickly moved into a famous feud with Greg Valentine over the United States title. Piper won the belt on April 16 and Valentine took it back on the 30th. Piper kept chasing the belt and the feud ended at Starrcade with the infamous dog collar match.

In 1984 a once-again heel Piper debuted in the WWF as Paul Orndorff’s manager (due to injuries he’d sustained in the dog collar match). Once he’d recovered, Piper began wrestling with Orndorff.

Later in the year Piper began his own interview segment called Piper’s Pit. This allowed the WWF to let Piper recover while pleasing the fans. One edition decided to address the problems between Piper and the newly-arrived Greg Valentine (they decided that since they were both bad guys they’d just respect each other).

Another famous Pit featured Piper talking with Jimmy Snuka and insulting Snuka’s Pacific Islander heritage. The segment ended with Piper cracking a coconut over Snuka’s head and smashing a banana in his face.

Piper soon began another feud with Hulk Hogan. The feud began when Piper attacked Lou Albano and singer Cyndi Lauper, which prompted Hogan to rush to their aid. This led to the main event of the premiere Wrestlemania, where Piper and Orndorff teamed against Hogan and Mr. T. Piper’s team lost after Piper’s bodyguard Cowboy Bob Orton accidentally hit Piper with his cast.

Piper would continue to feud with Mr. T and that would lead to a boxing match between the two at the second Wrestlemania. Piper was disqualified after he grew angry and bodyslammed Mr. T.

Piper took some time off after Wrestlemania and returned to find himself turned babyface. Piper soon discovered that Piper’s Pit was being replaced by Adrian Adonis’s Flower Shop. Things escalated as Adonis, Orton, and Don Muraco attacked Piper and put makeup on him after destroying the set. In response Piper showed up on the Flower Shop with a baseball bat and destroyed Adonis’s set.

A hair vs. hair match was signed between the two for Wrestlemania III. In addition to that, Piper announced that this would be his final match as he planned to go to Hollywood and work on an acting career. Piper won and Brutus Beefcake shaved Adonis’s head.

At Wrestlemania V Piper returned with Piper’s Pit and his guest actor Morton Downey Jr. Piper began doing commentary while still wrestling part-time and having feuds with Rick Rude, Bad News Brown, and assisting Virgil against Ted DiBiase.

At the 1992 Royal Rumble Piper defeated the Mountie to win the WWF Intercontinental title. He held the belt until Wrestlemania when he lost to Bret Hart. After that year’s Summerslam, Piper left the WWF.

He reappeared in 1994 at Wrestlemania X where he refereed the title match between Bret Hart and Yokozuna. This led to a feud between Piper and Jerry Lawler, which Piper won.

After the feud ended, Piper disappeared again until Wrestlemania XI, where he refereed the match between Bret Hart and Bob Backlund. Soon thereafter he was named President of the WWF after Vader had attacked Gorilla Monsoon. Goldust soon got a crush on the new President and this led to a match at Wrestlemania XII. Piper won and left the company again as Monsoon returned to his former position.

Piper jumped to WCW later that year and began feuding with Hollywood Hogan and the New World Order. In early 1997 Piper wound up joining forces with the Four Horsemen as they battled the NWO. Piper and Flair wound up in a feud and Piper vanished again.

After a cage match against Hogan in October of 1997 Piper returned in 1998 to his feud with the NWO. On the February 8, 1999 Nitro Piper defeated Bret Hart to win the WCW United States title. He lost it to Scott Hall two weeks later at Superbrawl.

Piper spent the last part of 1999 feuding with Vince Russo and his Powers That Be. He showed up to referee a match between Sid and Jeff Jarrett at Superbrawl 2000 and then vanished again. He was officially released from WCW later in the year.

In 2003 Piper made a surprise return to the WWE by attacking Hulk Hogan during a match with Vince McMahon. Piper soon allied himself with Sean O’Haire and began a feud with Rikishi (a relative of Snuka’s). Rikishi won the feud after hitting Piper with a coconut.

Following that, Piper and O’Haire wound up allied with Vince McMahon against Mr. America (a masked Hulk Hogan). At the same time, he began feuding with Chris Jericho.

In June of 2003 HBO aired an episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that focused on the darker side of wrestling. Piper shot an interview where he honestly discussed some of the demons that he’d fought and that pursued professional wrestlers. The WWE, trying to distance itself from the special, released Piper not long afterward.

From 2004-2005 Piper made sporadic appearances for TNA, mostly as part of their championship committee.

In February of 2005 it was announced that Piper was being inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame (which also chronicled Piper’s departure from TNA and return to the WWE). At Wrestlemania 21 Piper interviewed Steve Austin in Piper’s Pit. The segment ended with both Piper and Austin attacking Carlito.

Piper made sporadic appearances throughout 2005 which led to a feud between Piper and Randy and Bob Orton. On November 4 Piper got a win over Orton which ended the feud.

Piper returned again in 2006 for the Cyber Sunday PPV where he and Ric Flair challenged the Spirit Squad for the tag team titles. Piper and Flair won the belts that night. They lost the belts to Edge and Randy Orton in November after Edge attacked Piper earlier in the night.

Piper’s latest appearance on WWE television was on October 27, 2008 where he served as a guest commentator with Goldust and the Honky Tonk Man for Santino Marella’s match against Charlie Haas. At the end of the night Goldust and Piper kept Marella in the ring so Honky could smash a guitar over his head.

Piper had all the tools to be a star. He had a good look and a great gimmick as a fiery Scot. His time in Los Angeles gave him the opportunity he needed to refine his personality as a heel who would say or do whatever it took to get inside his opponent’s head. Add to that a great set of wrestling skills and you had the total package.

And yet as good as Piper was at being a heel, he was just as good at being a face. When he returned at Wrestlemania V the fans loved him.

Piper was also responsible for several of the most memorable moments of the 1980’s. As mentioned above, who could forget Piper hitting Snuka with a coconut, or taking a bat to the Flower Shop?

Piper may be truly Rowdy, but he’s also unforgettable. That’s why he finds himself on this top 100 list of the greatest wrestlers of the modern era.

The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.

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