Pro Wrestling

Remembering Hot Rod – Rowdy Roddy Piper’s 7 Greatest Matches

Credit: WWE

Sadly, the wrestling world has lost another one of its superstars as Rowdy Roddy Piper passed away in his sleep. Piper, the tough guy who dressed in a traditional Scottish kilt, will be considered one of the greatest villains in wrestling history, particularly due to his rivalry with Hulk Hogan that was the catalyst to professional wrestling’s mainstream popularity boom in the 1980’s. Roddy Piper was The Joker to Hulk Hogan’s Batman, in a sense.

Piper, one of the greatest talkers of all time, could create heat and promote a match unlike anyone else in wrestling history. While Piper’s career highlights are not necessarily always focused on his in-ring matches, here is our list of Piper’s 7 greatest matches that should be considered when looking back at the legendary career of “Hot Rod.”

#7. Royal Rumble 1992 – vs. The Mountie

Was this match deserving to be on this list because it was a technical masterpiece? Hell no. However, it was significant because it was the only time that Piper held a championship in the WWF. Piper would defeat The Mountie with a sleeper and would go on to spend the next few months as the reigning Intercontinental champion in the lead-up to WrestleMania VIII.

#6. Various Events – vs. Chavo Guerrero, Sr.

Before becoming an established name in Jim Crockett’s NWA and a mainstream star in the WWF, Piper launched his career in Roy Shire’s NWA San Francisco Wrestling and established the early pieces of his game as a provocative heel in a three year feud with the Guerrero family. It was in California during this time where “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was born. Piper, who would play the bagpipes to the ring, would play traditional Mexican songs such as “La Cucaracha” to enrage the hispanic audience. Some of the antics Piper employed during this period would be considered flat out racist in today’s society. Piper would feud with Chavo Guerrero from 1976 thru 1978 and the feud was a financial success for the territory, leaving Piper with a blueprint for how to play the role of a edgy wrestling heel for the following years.

#5. War to Settle the Score – vs. Hulk Hogan

Although Piper and Hogan never had a chance to main event a WrestleMania together in a one-on-one setting, the War to Settle the Score event, broadcast on MTV a month before WrestleMania I, was almost as important and is sometimes overlooked. In effect, this was the “pay-per-view” on the road to the original WrestleMania, and the audience that the WWF was able to reach through their collaboration with MTV was incredibly large. The match would end in a disqualification when Bob Orton and Paul Orndorff stormed the ring, starting a brawl that involved Mr. T and finished with Piper kicking pop star Cyndi Lauper in the head. The takeaway: MTV, “Rock and Wrestling” and Rowdy Roddy Piper were just as instrumental in the monumental rise of the WWF as Hulk Hogan was.

#4. WrestleMania XII – vs. Goldust

The Hollywood Backlot Brawl at WrestleMania XII was a last minute addition to the card, forced by the sudden departure of Razor Ramon who was scheduled to work with Goldust at the event. Piper, who was acting as the interim WWF President for storyline purposes, would begin a program with Goldust that led to the smoke and mirrors filled “brawl” at WrestleMania. The match featured some brutal spots, including Piper being legitimately ran down by a car and breaking his hand with a stiff punch, and featured a tongue-in-cheek recreation of the OJ Simpson car chase. Technical masterpiece? Like some of the matches on this list, no. But, the match with Goldust will be linked to Piper’s career as it was certainly a match that stood out and was one of the best executions of Piper’s brawling style.

#3. WrestleMania VIII – vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart

From a technical standpoint, Piper’s Intercontinental title match against Bret Hart at WrestleMania VIII was likely his finest match. The style clash worked well – Piper’s traditional brawling style and Hart’s technical game, grounded with a bunch of well paced high spots, led to a match that should be considered one of the best Intercontinental title bouts of all time. Hart would defeat Piper with a creative sleeper reversal pin and would go on to win the WWF Championship from Ric Flair later that year. For Piper, this match marked the end of his main single’s career run in the WWF as he would transition into a non-wrestling role before leaving the company in 1996.

#2 – WrestleMania I – w/ Paul Orndorff vs. Hulk Hogan & Mr. T

The infamous first WrestleMania main event featured Piper and Paul Orndorff teaming up against Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. Although the match itself was built on smoke and mirrors and the inclusion of celebrities such as Mr. T and Muhammad Ali, it was still a historically significant match that will forever be linked to the “best of” Piper’s career. The build-up to the match was focused on Piper’s clashes with Hulk Hogan, Mr. T and pop music superstar Cyndi Lauper, who would make a number of WWF appearances that brought a significant amount of mainstream attention to Piper and the WWF. The build paid off in a big way – WrestleMania forever changed the wrestling industry and was the launching point of Vince McMahon’s national and international expansion strategy that monopolized the pro wrestling industry.

#1 – Starrcade 1983 – vs. Greg Valentine, Dog Collar Match

Along with WrestleMania, Piper has the distinction of headlining the first ever Starrcade for the NWA and Jim Crockett Promotions, the early WCW. In what was considered one of the most violent matches of its era, Piper would face off with Greg Valentine in a gruesome dog collar match that blurred the lines between “work and shoot.” Piper would suffer an extremely graphic laceration to his ear that left viewers thinking that his ear was partially severed by the collar. Piper would be victorious in the bout and it was considered a highlight of the card, which was a launching point for the NWA and for the concept of a “supercard” of its magnitude, followed by the first WrestleMania only 15 months after. Both competitors would find themselves on Vince McMahon’s roster during the WrestleMania era, a move that opened up the doors to household fame, fortune and their likenesses being found on ice cream bars around the country.

Although Roddy Piper’s career involved these incredibly important matches, his legacy will be tied to the action before and after the bell. As a heel, Piper may have been the best ever. He knew how to create heat and used groundbreaking tactics, some that would be absolutely impossible to employ today, to make fans want to pay to see someone take him down. There will likely never again be another wrestling star quite like Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Jack Sackman

Jack Sackman

Jack Sackman has been writing about movies and TV for Goliath since 2013.