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CIRCA
Rowdy Roddy Piper and the 
"Meaningless" Hall of Fame
February 18, 2005

by Denny Burkholder
Courtesy of WrestleLine.com

 

There are so, so many reasons to rejoice that "Rowdy" Roddy Piper will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.
 
But before I get into them, let me first address the prevailing attitude that the WWE version of the Hall of Fame is a load of horseshit. There are a few reasons for this increasingly common opinion, pretty much all of them circling around contempt for Vince McMahon and WWE in general. The most valid argument, from where I sit, is that

WWE's Hall of Fame isn't a TRUE Hall of Fame because it's chosen by one guy - Vince McMahon. Thus, the roster of WWE's HoF is essentially a list of everyone Vince McMahon wants inducted. I do think this is a valid point - most other Halls of Fame involve some kind of clear-cut selection criteria and several esteemed experts voting on who gets in. That makes those Halls of Fame more of a consensus. It gives a satisfactory cross-section of that sport's "community" the chance to be heard, and gives others the chance to be personally involved in who gets inducted. As a neat little bonus, that process also lends credibility and honesty to the Hall of Fame.

Once again, of all the reasons to bash the WWE HoF, I'd agree with this one the most... but it still isn't enough to dissuade me from enjoying the WWE Hall of Fame. Here's the thing: Vince McMahon no doubt has hidden reasons behind his choices. I'm sure he considers the potential DVD sales figures. I'm sure he considers those in good standing with WWE first. I'm sure he makes selections based on which inductees will make his own personal Hall of Fame more "legit," even if it means inducting someone (such as Roddy Piper) that he might not completely trust. And I'm sure he excludes a lot of worthy "experts" from the selection process.

But the way I see it, EVERY panelist or voting member of a Hall of Fame *could* have that kind of thing in the back of his or her mind when voting. What's the difference if 40 arrogant assholes vote according to their own bullshit personal agendas, or if one asshole does? In the end, as a FAN, all I really want to see are the legends *I* think belong in the Hall of Fame.

So far, the WWE HoF is batting .600 or .700 in terms of what I, as a fan, think are "deserving" inductees. That's about what the baseball, football, and for that matter, rock 'n' roll halls of fame are doing for me. So it's not like having a shitload of red tape and 100 people involved has helped other genres much, in the grand scheme of things. It all boils down to this: the hall of fame is for the legends first, and the fans second, and ideally, the company third. The trick is to do right by as many people - IN THAT ORDER - as possible, knowing all along it would be impossible to please every person in those three categories. I think the WWE Hall of Fame, with the glaring exception of Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund still MIA, is doing just fine at pleasing all three categories. Even if Vince *is* the only guy voting.

Side note: love him or hate him, Vince McMahon knows a thing or two about wrestling history. He's Vince McMahon. He's not the most impartial person on earth, but I think he's got enough perspective on the business to pick a Hall of Fame.

My other favorite argument is the "all about profit" point of view. Folks, you pay a cover charge to get into most halls of fame. And they all have merchandise shops inside featuring hideously overpriced crap, and they all really NEED to make money to thrive, so the "profit" argument doesn't go very far for me. Firstly, the majority of those inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame were given a big career boost by WWE. WWE doesn't deserve ALL the credit for those guys' success, but they do deserve SOMETHING. By selling DVDs, they're giving fans like myself something we're dying to pay money for. I'd preorder the 2005 DVD right now if I could. So what if WWE makes money off these guys' footage. They OWN the footage! It's theirs to sell! Who SHOULD get the profit, if not the owners of the footage? Or should WWE respect the memories of these legends by SITTING on all of the footage and keeping fans from ever seeing it again, just so they can't be accused of profiting from it?

I think fans are too quick to play the "criticize WWE because it's WWE" card on issues like the Hall of Fame. If WWE had no Hall of Fame at all, they'd be criticized for ignoring the men and women that made WWE what it is today. Instead, WWE DOES have a Hall of Fame. It ain't much, but it exists. True, WWE makes money on the DVDs. True, WWE has a shady selection criteria and a nonexistent voting committee. But at least they're acknowledging their history. At least they're TRYING to give credit where it's due. I think Rowdy Roddy Piper, Paul Orndorff and the rest of the 2005 class BELONG in a Hall of Fame, and I'm not gonna change my opinion just because Vince McMahon feels the same way. I think WWE owes them some recognition. Apparently WWE thinks they do, too. Excuse the fuck out of them for not inviting the rest of the world in on the process.

And excuse me for looking forward to this year's ceremony without a trace of smug cynicism about how "meaningless" the WWE Hall of Fame is. Cheer up, fans. Roddy Piper to the rescue. If you ever had a chance to see a Hall of Famer cut Vince down to size in his very own acceptance speech, this might be your guy.

Two years ago, Vince McMahon invited Roddy Piper back to WWE to manage Sean O'Haire, to revive Piper's Pit and to stare across a WWE ring at Hollywood Hogan one more time. Almost as soon as he got there, Piper was full of complaints, all of them valid. WWE was scripting Piper's Pit heavily, and Piper called them on the carpet for it. Piper is as much of a businessman as the next superstar, but he's also a free spirit. Whenever his instinct to make money and his instinct to think for himself have been at odds, Piper has always chosen to be his own man. I can't help but respect that. Piper has repeatedly spoken out about issues like wrestler's unions, steroids, drug abuse, unfair promoters, and other taboo issues with absolutely no regard for whether it would cost him his job. Roddy Piper has never thought for more than two seconds about risking his livelihood in order to protect his right to his opinion.

I think that's pretty noble. Some would call it stupid. You know those people... they're the wrestlers who give coached, company line answers in all of their interviews and won't say a damn thing that could harm their pocketbook, even if they secretly want to. People like Tom Zenk, the Honky Tonk Man and the Ultimate Warrior became really outspoken once they were gone from WWE. Once their wallets weren't in jeopardy, they pulled no punches. Piper didn't have to change his tune when he was fired from WWE, because he never edited himself in the first place. Hell, his mouth was usually the REASON he wasn't employed, in the latter years.

Roddy Piper can seem like the craziest mo fo in the business at times. When he gets ranting, he sometimes forgets to bother with things like diction and complete sentences, and snaps into stark-raving lunatic mode. In the 1980s, Piper's most famous antics might never have seen TV time if they were performed today. Some of the names he called Mr. T weren't very PC. The entire angle with Jimmy Snuka and the Tonga Kid walked a thin line between edgy and downright offensive. And don't forget the WrestleMania where Roddy Piper "prepared" for his match with Bad News Brown by painting half of his own body black.

You simply never knew what you were going to see when "Rowdy" Roddy Piper was in town. During the most family-friendly days of WWE TV in the mid-1980s, Piper was screaming into the microphone about impregnating Hulk Hogan's wife and knocking out female pop singer Cyndi Lauper.

The list of memorable Roddy Piper moments is almost never-ending. The dog collar match against Greg Valentine. Destroying Adrian Adonis' "Flower Shop" set with his crutch after turning babyface against Adonis and Bob Orton. Knocking out Andre the Giant with a pair of brass knuckles. Mocking jobber Frank Williams on Piper's Pit for being a loser, then beating the crap out of him just for fun. Dropping the Intercontinental Title to Bret "Hit Man" Hart at WrestleMania in probably the best pure wrestling match of Piper's career.

Outside of wrestling, Piper left us with cult classic movies like the hilariously terrible rock-n-wrestling abortion Body Slam, the so-awful-you-can't-stop-watching Hell Comes to Frogtown, and of course, the sci-fi flick They Live, in which Piper utters the line "I came here to kick ass and chew bubblegum... and I'm all out of bubblegum."

Understandably, Roddy Piper is a different man today than he was in his prime. He's very devoted to his family. Years of watching his friends die as a result of a wrestling phenomenon Piper calls "the sickness" has made him a lot more somber. Maybe it's old age, or his family life, or the loss of his friends - or more likely a combination of the three. But Roddy Piper is not the free-wheeling, hard-partying wildman he once was. And believe me, that's in everyone's best interests, especially Piper's. But one thing he still hasn't lost is his free spiritedness. Piper plays along with things like the WWE Hall of Fame or TNA PPV appearances when he's invited. But he never does it at the expense of keeping his mouth shut.

If Roddy Piper feels like ranting at the podium during his WWE Hall of Fame acceptance speech, he will, no matter who is listening. With Orton, Orndorff, the Iron Sheik, and potentially Hulk Hogan all on the same stage - and Ric Flair no doubt in attendance - Piper will have plenty of people to riff on.

Welcome to the Hall, Hot Rod. It really does mean something to be there... despite what you've heard.

 
E-MAIL DENNY
BROWSE THE CIRCA ARCHIVES


  
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