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Who Made Who? 

April 3, 2003 (Originally published on The News From Dayton website in January 1997)

by Rick Scaia  
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


[Prefatory Note: Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon have spent the last six weeks arguing about who made "WrestleMania" the phenomenon that it is today...  and then Roddy Piper came out of nowhere to assert that HE belonged in the equation somewhere by interfering in their match at WM19.  Which caused me to flash back to a 6-year-old "Video Vault" column that I wrote back for the old NFD, in which I asserted that "watching this tape now, you can reach no other conclusion than that between Hogan and Piper, Piper was the more important guy in this feud."  Wow, a 1997 column, but it's timely, as if ripped from today's headlines!  All you really need to know before reading on is that this is a recap of the entire year of events leading up to the first WrestleMania as aired on MTV, and that I wrote it a couple weeks after Starrcade '96 (headlined by Hogan vs. Piper, natch), so if you note a difference (or deficiency) in my writing style, blame it on me still being in school, still years away from being the fully formed rhetorical mastermind I was to become.  The hyperlinks are the only new addition for the '03, and you should definitely check them out...  enjoy!]  

NFD Video Vault #2
January 1997

Having just sat through WCW's 1996 Starrcade PPV at some friends'  house, my gang and I were a bit fired up to see if this whole Hogan/Piper ordeal ever *really* meant anything. Luckily, at home, I just happened to possess a great MTV Special called "Rock 'n' Wrestling: The War Continues." 

This was a lengthy (2 hours or more...) retrospective on EVERYTHING that lead up to Hogan and Mr. T taking on Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff at the first WrestleMania. And watching the entire year long saga play out is impressive. Not only because Titan actually had people like Ted Nugent, Dick Clark, Tina Turner, some guy from Duran Duran, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, and of course, Cyndi Lauper (all of whom, believe it or not, were actual bona fide super mega stars at the time) throwing their two cents into the matter. But because Roddy Piper was just that damned good. I don't think I really understood how good back then; but watching this tape now, you can reach no other conclusion than that between Hogan and Piper, Piper was the more important guy in this feud. In the grand scope of things, though, even I have to admit that the two wrestlers involved took a backseat to the mainstream appeal of the participants like Mr. T and Cyndi Lauper...

Anyway, this incredibly entertaining program recapped the entire year-long saga, and that means that now, I'll be doing the same for you, Constant Reader.

Alan Hunter, onetime MTV VJ hosts this retrospective, and immediately takes us back to May of 1984, when Lou Albano (or "Lou Albino" as Roddy affectionately called him) started showing up on Piper's Pit, taking credit for all of rock star Cyndi Lauper's success, and saying he (Albano) was her personal business manager. After this went on for a couple weeks, with Cyndi not actually showing up -- often despite Lou's promises that she would -- a legal letter from Dave Wolff (Cyndi's real manager) said Lou should stop. Lou didn't, so Wolff came on Piper's Pit to deflate Lou's out-of-control ego and obviously rampant dementia. The upshot of it all was that Wolff decided to prove he was really Lauper's manager by guaranteeing that he could deliver he on the next Piper's Pit.

And so he did. Lauper made her debut on a WWF show, and was quickly introduced to Piper's rapier wit, and he laced into her (along with Albano) without regard for her status as a super mega rock star. In fact, Albano started making ridiculous comments about how he guided Cyndi from nothing because without a good man like him, no women would ever amount to anything other than being barefoot and pregnant. This got Cyndi Lauper -- a firm believer in being an 80's Woman -- pissed off. She said anything Lou could do she, could do better. So she challenged him to a battle of managerial wits; Cyndi would go get a woman wrestler, Lou would do the same, and then the two would manage the foes to see who was the better wrestling manager.

Leading up to this epic battle, there were tons of other interesting interludes, including Lou Albano crashing the set of a new Lauper video, saying he had a contract saying he had to be in all Cyndi's videos. In crashing the set, Lou used words I know for a fact you can't say on MTV in 1997, but for some reason, they made it on the 1985 broadcast of this show. Finally, Lou was given a role... in a robe and curlers.

Also, there was dramatic footage of each manager selecting their combatant: Lou went to some seedy bar and chose the cagey veteran women's champion of the world, the Fabulous Moolah (BTW, "cagey veteran" is my nice way of saying that even back in '84, Moolah was still wwaaaayyyy past her prime), while Cyndi unveiled her protégé, the much younger, much trimmer Wendi Richter. Then the training sessions began. Cyndi and Wendi went through rigorous physical workouts, while on the flipside of the coin, Lou's training technique included hilarious segments where he'd be laying on a couch with food debris all over his expansive and exposed belly, and weaning Moolah on an untested high carbohydrate diet of "unborn virgin goat's milk." You can't make this shit up. Unless you're Lou Albano, apparently. 

Finally, it was time to get in the ring and have "The Brawl to Settle it All." In an extremely tame 10 minute match that none-the-less had the entire Madison Square Garden live crowd (and undoubtedly the majority of the millions watching the match live on MTV) rocking, Richter won the title from the 28-year reigning champ after a controversial double pin situation. But the ref saw Richter lift her should at the last second, and he counted Moolah down. Cyndi, Wendi, and Wolff all celebrated, as Lou and Moolah took their frustrations out on the official.

Backstage, Cyndi and Wendi were congratulated by a ton of dignitaries, from Gene Okerlund to Sgt. Slaughter to Hulk Hogan (who, in an act the likes of which we haven't seen in over a decade, actually did an interview where he put somebody else over more than himself). Hogan pledged his allegiance to the Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection. And it's a good thing, too, because pretty soon, it was going to need a male defender.

In the couple months long break before the action would pick up again hot 'n' heavy, there was an interesting interlude that essentially turned Lou Albano back to a babyface. I had always wondered how they did that, because I didn't remember him doing anything earth-shattering to return to being a good guy. All I remembered was that one day, he was against Cyndi on the MTV show, and the next, he was on her side and defending Rock 'n'  Wrestling. How'd they do it? Simple: they pretended Lou Albano had "organic brain damage" which was capable of causing many symptoms such as feelings of extreme self-importance and anti-social behavior. Along with a ton of other hilarious psychobabble out of a completely poker-faced guy pretending to be a doctor. This was so funny, I missed a lot of it due to laughter-induced tears.

But the comedy only goes so far, because the shenanigans started up  again late in 1984, again at MSG in NYC. After guiding Wendi Richter to  the women's title, and guiding her through a number of successful title defenses, Cyndi Lauper was deemed worthy of a special Achievement Award, to be presented to her by the WWF. Dick Clark was brought in to present the award in the middle of the WWF event at MSG. Dave Wolff was there with Cyndi, as was Lou Albano, as Dick Clark made the presentation. But an uninvited guest soon appeared: Roddy Piper. He took the mic, ran down rock music and all is stood for. When Lou Albano tried to settle Piper down, Piper broke one of Cyndi's gold records over Lou's head. When Lauper and Wolff tried to stop Piper from doing any more damage to Lou, they were kicked 6 feet across the ring and power slammed, respectively. Luckily, Hulk Hogan was in back, and came to the rescue of rock 'n' wrestling. And unluckily, nobody decided to hit Dick Clark with anything. Now *that* would have been pretty funny!

With that, the battle lines were drawn for the ultimate rock 'n' wrestling confrontation. Hogan, Lauper, Albano, and all that is right and good about America in one corner against Piper, any number of morally vacuous henchmen, and all that America despises in the other. They simply *had* to do battle one-on-one. They had to. And in Gene Okerlund's own words on the announcement of the match to be contested on MTV, "This match had social, political, and artistic implications beyond any wrestling match in history." Good god, those are big words. I seem to recall buying into them at the age of 10. I definitely recall laughing my ass off at them last night at the age of 21. Gene Okerlund ought to go back to reading Vince McMahon's heavy-handed (but hilarious) copy off a cue card, instead of making up  his own pathetic ad-libs.

So sure, Okerlund put a nice spin on this match, but how did we know he was telling the truth? Simple: Every single major rock star of the day had bad things to say about Piper. Ted Nugent didn't like him. Dee Snider of Twisted Sister didn't like him. Tina Turner and Dick Clark both despised him. When Piper said that *he* was the moral fiber of America, because no parent alive would want his kid growing up on Duran Duran, a member of Duran Duran went on record saying *he* didn't like Piper either. Go figure. Record company execs, and a handful of other "rock stars" that probably were pretty famous back in '85, but who I don't know from dirt today, also weighed in with anti-Piper sentiment. And in a *really* amusing sidebar, even 1984 Vice-Presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro was caught on camera by the WWF running down Roddy Piper, proving that long before Jesse Ventura mayored some podunk town in Minnesota as he simultaneously announced for WCW, politicians have been obsessed over the Sport of Kings! 

This thing was huge. Hogan/Piper really was "The Match of the Decade," just like WCW said. What they kept leaving out was that the decade in question was the '80s. When it was finally time for them to battle in front of 23,000 at MSG and millions more at home on MTV, the crowd was super-pumped up. And it wasn't just typical stupid marks; people like Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo (both bona fide 80's stars) paid for tickets to see this thing live. And -- gosh darnit -- Mr. T got himself ringside seats, too. I wonder if he'll get involved?

Just by walking into the arena, Piper generated more jeers and more debris thrown at him than any heel could ever hope for today. It was ungodly how much people hated him. Hogan, entering to "Eye of the Tiger," was just as impressive at drawing cheers. And when they both got in the ring, there were no ludicrous introductions by Michael Buffer. There was a bell, and two guys who actually looked like they wanted to beat the piss out of each other. Hogan sold for Piper a bit, even. Piper then gave Hogan a heat sequence, which included Hogan taking the injured arm of Piper's corner man, Cowboy Bob Orton, and ramming it into the steel turnbuckle. Paul Orndorff soon appeared to take the place of the injured  Cowboy. With Hogan drawing strength from the fans and from the ringside entourage of Lauper, Albano, and Wolff, things seemed under control for a while. At least, until Piper arranged for a ref bump. The ref was out of commission. And then Piper and Orndorff double teamed Hogan into unconsciousness. Finally, Lauper could take no more. She got on the apron to give the duo a piece of her mind. So Piper and Orndorff began stalking her, preparing to corner her and finally get rid of the cause of this whole rock 'n' wrestling mess. But suddenly, out of the crowd, Mr. T came to Cyndi's rescue. After getting Lauper back to safety, T actually decided to get in the ring with Piper to punish him for what he almost did. Bad idea. Mr. T started getting pummeled. But luckily, Hogan was recovering, and was able to make a save to once again even the score at 2-on-2. But bad guys don't like even scores (they like unfair advantages), so Piper and Orndorff retreated while Hogan and T were madly cheered by the crowd. The ref woke up and decided that somehow, Hogan had won via DQ.

Back in the locker room, Piper did a great rambling interview that put WM1 into motion. He challenged both Hogan and T, and said he'd fight 'em both. Of course they accepted. Piper took Orndorff on as his partner. The tag team main event of the very first WrestleMania was inked. But that's for a whole other "Video Vault" segment, now isn't it? :)

Between this and the 1985 Wrestling Classic, I hope you've gotten a flavor for what Hogan vs. Piper was like when it really meant something. When the "Match of the Decade" was actually being contested in the proper 10 year span. Twelve years ago, these men weren't worried about who the "icon" was... and neither did anyone else. Because their natural charisma and skills to tell a story (especially Piper) along with a unique mainstream appeal set up a situation where all that really mattered is that these two guys wanted to fight. Maybe it really was just as contrived back then... but somehow, it seems a hundred times more interesting than what WCW served up at Starrcade.

Thanks for reading....


Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.

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