Monday, August 1, 2022

Wrestling Moments: WrestleMania VIII- April 5 1992 Hoosier Dome (Indiana)

Hey, remember back in the index when I said I didn't know which two moments would be replaced by ones I'd talked about before?

I lied, it's this one and the next one.

I wasn't watching much wrestling by this point, but these two matches not only impressed me when I got them on disc after getting back into it, but also provide excuses to talk about two fantastic storytellers, both of which were favorites back then, and now.

They're both in this one, but I'll be covering the one who's in ring abilities are even more fun to watch now that I know what I'm watching next week. (That sentence almost made sense.)Therefore, this story will mostly focus on the man I consider the greatest performer on the microphone in wrestling history. 

The Million Dollar Man was the best heel everyone loved to hate, the Rock was masterful on the microphone, but Rowdy Roddy Piper brought both sides of interviews to a completely different level.

He was loud, he was obnoxious, most of the time he refused to be beaten in a clean pin fall leading to all forms of kayfabe cheating and disqualifications...

But he was insanely likeable.

He had old school in ring moves, finishing with a classic sleeper hold, and a non steroid enhanced build. Yet his athletics and performance in that ring kept the crowd fully focused on whatever emotion he chose for them.

While his physical antics were outstanding, put a microphone in his hand, and there was sheer magic.

In fact, the whole concept of an in-story wrestling talk show was created specifically for him:
Piper's Pit.

Was it unparalleled ability to talk that led to it, or was it a way not to waste the money already given him when he had an injury?  
Perhaps a little of both?
For the man who invented a Scottish heritage (he's Canadian), being relatives with the Hart family (He could be?) and 
the "I have come here to chew bubblegum..." line in wrestling long before he made They Live anything is possible.

Piper worked equally well as a heel or a face, depending on who he turned his insults and shenanigans on.  He'd often show up ringside, sort of to support one of the wrestlers in action. With Roddy though, it was more about annoying the other one. And he would as only he could. With words alone he could believably drive a competitor into losing focus on his opponent and therefore, the match.   

Pitting his performing abilities against one person was something, but the way he could manipulate a packed arena on his own was even more impressive. 

No one could motivate a crowd any way he wanted to like the Rowdy one.

What may be the greatest example of this came in his match defending the Intercontinental title against Bret "The Hitman" Hart on the grand stage of the eighth WrestleMania.

Brett was always quieter on the mike, letting "The Excellence of Execution" speak for itself in the ring. Piper, though they were supposed to be relatives and allies, ran his mouth constantly (and entertainingly) for the weeks before (and up to the seconds before) the match, as per usual.

It was a solid, fourteen minute match, with a great deal of technical moves, back and forths, and outside the ring brawling action combined.

At one point in that back and forth, Hart was able to run up the turnbuckles and flip over Roddy to escape his sleeper hold. It was that kind of match.

When The Hitman was prone in the ring, Piper grabbed the bell from outside it, looking completely prepared to brain his "cousin" with the solid metal object.

Then, this master of words completely wordlessly conveyed his internal struggle between deciding whether to cheat, thus keeping the Intercontinental Title by disqualification, or continuing the match fairly.

When he tossed the bell away, Piper earned the largest cheer of the night. (Simply for doing what the rules said he should, may I point out.)

Brett leapt off the canvas and rolled up Piper, netting him not only the belt, but the first clean pin ANYONE had against Rowdy Roddy Piper in his history with the WWF. 
(Not to mention an extremely rare one in any promotion.) 

After selling for Brett like he did no other in the WWF, Piper put the belt on The Hitman himself and walked out of the arena with him arm in arm.

Those actions allowed Piper to go out on his hiatus as a face after hearing an arena full of thunderous cheers. 
It also kept Brett moving forward on a wave of popularity that would eventually lead him to the Heavyweight Championship.

An aside on "Color"
Brett and Roddy showed an incredible understanding of crowd dynamics, the actual and meta skills of wrestling and the then current (and once again, now current) rules of the family friendly WWF.

Getting color (or in normal human terms, "bleeding") was a big part of the territory wrestling days. Most performers knew how to hide a small piece of razor blade in their wrappings or elsewhere, discreetly freeing it at the right time in the match, and blading their forehead. Even a small head would will bleed profusely, and make injuries look huge. Look at the heads of any of the real old time wrestlers. They look like road maps...or worse.

At this point in WWF history, they were fully dedicated to family entertainment. Hulk Hogan's kid appeal was still driving the ship. The only blood that was allowed came "the hard way." 
That is- by accident.

Two matches after the Piper-Hart altercation. Ric Flair took on the Macho Man. Flair was tossed out of the ring and was caught blading on camera. (Possibly a downfall of being used to playing to the arena, not the camera...who knows?) Flair got in a huge amount of trouble, was fined, and almost fired.
Woooooo! indeed.

Meanwhile, earlier that same show, Piper rammed Brett's head into a post, causing his forehead to gush "the hard way."  The Rowdy one apologized profusely back stage after the match to both his opponent and the authority figures for being so careless.

Brett bladed during his match the same way Flair did on the same night, and got in no trouble at all. I know a large part of the reason is due to Brett's skills at doing it discreetly, but I have to believe a chunk of the reason was also due to Roddy Piper's unmatched abilities in acting and his equally unmatched levels of all around B.S..

Wrestling Moments Index


longbow said...

I forget if I related this to you. Sister once told me she'd used Roddy's Gum/Ass-kicking line at work. Shortly thereafter she got promoted and it was her birthday so I sent her a present. Cue edited email thread:

On Mon, Apr 25, 2016 at 10:13 AM, I wrote:
Forget to ask, did you like the gumball machine? is it on your desk with the sign?

Monday, April 25, 2016 7:23 AM She wrote:
i love the machine but it didnt come with any gumballs so sarah is rememedying that and then I will bring it...great gift!

Next day I wrote:
No no, you don't put gumballs in it. You leave it empty and put the attached file from the other email: a little sign that reads "... I am all out of chewing gum"

Jeff McGinley said...

You did not, and that is a truly awesome gift.
thanx for sharing.