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Roddy on a Rail, and Other Weekend News
June 27, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Pop quiz, kids: when was the last time the Rick actually clocked in on a Friday afternoon to write a weekend column?  I thought it was the first weekend of June, but I went back and looked, and it turns out I haven't done one of these since May.  Man, I remember a wedding in Milwaukee one weekend, and my band doing a show/my mom's birthday the next, but what was my excuse on June 6?

As I sit here doing the hilarious ("strained") banter at the top of the column, I'm thankful that WWE saw fit to give me something halfway decent to talk about today.  Cuz otherwise, I might have just left Jeb's Haikus up as the main story for the weekend and not done jack shit of my own.

So.  Let's shuffle up and deal:

  • It's probably the least shocking "surprise" in recent memory...  WWE has decided to part ways with Roddy Piper.
    It's not really a "release" or a firing, since Piper was basically working on a show-to-show handshake agreement, pending the finalization of a real contract.  But it's definitely a case of WWE saying, "take this handshake deal and shove it."  They didn't want to be in the Roddy Piper business, any more.
    I had my suspicions on Wednesday when I wrote my column, as Piper's outspoken behavior -- not just on HBO's "Real Sports," but elsewhere, too -- seemed sure to ruffle some pretty important feathers.  Go back to Wednesday's column if you want the full report on Piper's comments about wrestling deaths and WWE's creative direction...
    Last night, WWE.com made the decision to terminate Piper's employment public.  In making the announcement, WWE actually did reference Piper's comments on HBO as a motivating factor.  Although they didn't come right out and say, "Piper bad-mouthed us on national TV, and so now we must sack him," they did say that Piper's comments about hating the person he becomes while performing convinced WWE that Piper should be released so as to prevent any further self-destructive behavior.
    Also of note in the official WWE.com statement: they acknowledged that Piper was still negotiating a final contract, and in fact, played it up as if the inability to come to mutually-agreeable terms was the primary reason that Piper's services will no longer be needed.  I found it odd that WWE stated that a contract was being drawn up that would have retained Piper's services only through August.  Though no solid creative plan was in place, I'd been hearing that there was a general assumption going around that Piper would be kept on board long enough to appear at WrestleMania XX.  This does not jibe with a deal that would have terminated in August.
    And so now, the issue before us is this:  was WWE in the right here, or was this just a purely vindictive move to punish a guy who dared to speak his mind?
    I say: the company is 100% in the right.  
    Look, with all due respect to Roddy Piper -- who is as responsible as any one for me becoming a wrestling fan -- he had to know he was not making those comments in a vacuum.  He had to know that they would get back to WWE management.  If he didn't realize these things, then his release from WWE is nothing more than carte blanche to spend even more time in his imaginary fantasy world where your boss will never find out about it if you bad-mouth his company on television in a segment for which he, himself, has been interviewed.
    By accepting a WWE gig, even if on a show-by-show basis, Piper showed that he's willing to compromise his beliefs for a paycheck.  That is not a value judgment, merely an observation of fact: Piper, for years (and especially in the last few months leading up to his WWE return), had been openly critical of WWE and its creative direction.  Then one day, BOOM, there he is on TV.  It's not that I begrudge him the chance to make some dough off the company that had been, apparently, the devil incarnate as far as he was concerned...  it's just that if Piper was willing to compromise to get a job, I think he should have been able to compromise a bit in order to KEEP the job.
    But he chose not to.  Radio interviews in which he critiques the creative direction of the company and HBO interviews in which he bad mouths the entire industry and openly states that he hates going to work and hates himself for going to work, but that he's gotta do it to make some money are not the work of a man who is showing an interest in staying employed.  From where I sit, Piper left the company very little choice...
    Though I don't believe it's a major factor for even one second, he even gave them the justification: WWE can now claim that they are merely trying to help Roddy to maintain a healthier, happier state of mind by not asking him to come to a job that he hates so much.  I'm sure the real response on Wednesday morning was a lot more kneejerk and vindictive, but in terms of public relations, the Fed doesn't look so bad on this one.  The guy already didn't want to work there; they just cut him loose.
    It's a shame, too, because I really do think that Piper could have been a major contributing member of the WWE roster if only his head was in the right place.  Not that he was difficult backstage or anything (on the contrary, most reports have him being very cooperative, if a bit distant and self-absorbed), but somebody who really does not care for the business is ultimately going to be a drain on others' enthusiasm.
    In the short term, I think the big loser is Sean O'Haire.  Not because he needed Piper to do his talking or whatever, but because he really could have used Piper to break out as his own man.  The storyline to me would have been a no-brainer: O'Haire gets full of himself and turns on his mentor.  The inverse (Piper starts taking advantage of his young protege, who decides to go it on his own, away from his manipulative handler) would have worked, too, so long as O'Haire's promo skills were more developed than they seem to be today.  The value of the O'Haire/Piper team is not in what Piper gave O'Haire TODAY, it's in what he should have given him down the line.  I actually thought the deal with the two teaming up against Los Tajiros might have signalled that "down the line" was coming up sooner rather than later.  But that's neither here nor there.
    Instead, O'Haire's gonna be on TV next week (or will he?), trying to explain (or will he?) why Roddy Piper -- one of the industry's most iconic names -- has evaporated.  The alternatives -- O'Haire going away for a couple of weeks to be re-introduced with his "I'm not telling you anything you didn't already know" vignettes, or simply ignoring the Piper thing altogether -- are not any more attractive to me.
    In the longer term, I honestly thought that having Piper around for WrestleMania XX would have been very cool.  I know the creative team has put no energy into this, but that's only because they're busy worrying about NEXT WEEK instead of next March... but since I've got the free time, I kind of had it going through my head that Piper and Chris Jericho should have worked together come WM20; they've already traded taunts across brands, and whether it's a dueling Highlight Reel/Pit segment (which is what I'd prefer) or a wrestling match, I think they could have done something really fun together.  And though Piper's departure today does not preclude his participation as a guest at WM20, it does seem to eliminate any chances of him being involved in a significant way (such as in a major storyline with Jericho).
    If this is, in fact, Piper's last hurrah, it's kind of disappointing to think that it all ended with an ignominious pinfall loss in a tag team match.  I mean, even last summer when we thought maybe Hulk Hogan was gonna just walk away, his "goodbye" was getting his ass positively kicked by "The Next Big Thing."  Maybe not a happy ending, but it was a big one.  Piper, face full of green mist and pinned by Eddie Guerrero, can't even claim that.  So you won't mind if I just quietly tell myself that it's inevitable that Piper will get some sort of more fitting farewell down the line.  Sort of like the one that I find myself hoping Bret Hart will get, too...
    Hopefully I won't sound too contradictory by simultaneously stating that I believe WWE was 100% in the right to release Piper AND hoping for his eventual return for a more fitting farewell...  I don't think the two opinions actually are contradictory, but they might seem so, especially since I get this feeling I'm not making myself as clear as I could.  But hey, at worst, if you think I'm making little sense and contradicting myself, well, just consider it my own personal homage to Rowdy Roddy Piper!
    Just kidding...  in all seriousness, I hope that this story winds up having a happy ending.  Although I'm dubious of WWE's public claims, I'd like to think that this chance to get away from the business WILL have a positive affect on Roddy Piper's mindset, and that -- contrary to his comments on HBO's show -- he'll find a way to be healthy and happy to age 65 and beyond.  If "the Sickness" is a real thing, then moving away from the contaminated locker rooms and arenas just might be a step in the right direction for Piper.
  • In addition to featuring Roddy Piper's first MSG in-ring work in over a decade, last night's SD! was just an all-around solid show.  I think they fell short of matching the big-time atmosphere that RAW had, but just about every segment was entertaining and either paid off on its own or set up something interesting for coming weeks.
    Even the Vince/Steph/Zack Gowen stuff was a quantum leap better than last week.  Though I again found the talk of Vince "deflowering" Stephanie to be awkward, disturbing, and superfluous, the fact is they finally moved past the nonsensical "Zack is everything that's good in the world and is the only hope for Steph to save her soul" garbage.  Next week, all that expositional crap is gone, and they're putting it in the ring, with Zack and Steph taking on the Big Show, with Zack's contract on the line.  I'll bet you a body part that Mr. America gets involved, too... not that I mind.  This is still the most interesting storytelling they've done with Gowen so far.
    Also: all appearances by Vince McMahon's ass are also disturbing and superfluous.  But that should probably go without saying, no?
    Setting up next week's debut for Zack was cool, and it also came on a night when two other guys debuted.  Sort of.  If you don't count "Velocity," or years of service in WCW, and those sorts of things.
    Ultimo Dragon looked pretty good for a guy who's spent the majority of the past 5 years retired.  You'll have to take me word for it that he can kick even more ass than you saw last night, too.
    As far as Orlando Jordan goes:  I'm not sold quite yet.  He looks like a million dollar prospect, but so did Ahmed Johnson (with whom Jordan shares a certain sort of un-smoothness in the ring, at least at this point).  Note to Whoever: you should play up the Billy Blanks thing, and if Jordan ever works as a heel, some face should drop "Taebo" into the conversation and see if the crowd picks up on it as a sing-songy chant.  Blanks' younger brother played for some A-10 school or another, and on his trips into the U. of Dayton Arena, he usually got a "Taaaaeeeeeee-booo" chant or two directed at him.  I always thought that was hi-fricking-larious.  But I am easily amused.
    You can get the full results from last night's show right here, courtesy of Big Danny T.  My own additional thoughts are in the Battle of the Brands: Round 4.
  • Speaking of which, OO staffers gave this week to SmackDown, while I personally thought RAW was the better show by a couple tenths of a point.  That's two weeks in a row my own people have mutinied on me!  Maybe I should start counting my own ratings like two or three times?  You know, like a weighted average on the grounds that I do about 3 times more columns per week than anyone else....
    Damn ingrates, the all of them...
  • The overnight rating for SD! was a 4.2.  That should settle down in the mid-3's somewhere, once the final rating is available.  I'll be sure to mention that final number in Monday's column, though I'll also update BotB with the final number tomorrow if you just can't wait.
  • Allow me to second Damian Gonzalez's rave review of this week's TNA PPV.  I wound up catching the 10pm replay on Wednesday on the advice of some gushing e-mails that came in shortly after the show-opening cage match, and I was very impressed.
    Both the tag title cage match and the Sabin/Kazarian match were very good, better than anything served up by WWE this week.  On top of that, the angle with Styles and D'Lo was tremendous, and Shane Douglas was back in master storyteller mode, cutting really good promos explaining his motives in TNA.
    I think there is also a weekend replay on inDemand, and I cannot suggest strongly enough that you give TNA a look.  Of the maybe 10 or so TNA shows I've seen, this one ranks as my favorite.
    You know what else from Wednesday night you should check out if it's replayed this weekend?  The finals of the World Poker Tour...  I've gotten hooked on those tourneys in the past two months, and the finals were wild.  Wednesday night turned out to be a very fun night to be sitting around on the couch with clicker in hand....
  • Last thing for today is just a quick follow-up on the Steve Corino situation that I talked about on Monday...  as it stands now, Corino has told RF Video/Ring of Honor that all the felony charges against him have been dropped already.  I guess some misdemeanor charges remain for Corino to defend himself against.
    Looks like Corino's protestations of innocence were on the money...
  • With that, I'm done for today and for this week.  Here's hoping it's not another month before I'm motivated to holler at ya on a Friday, playas.  B'lee dat.
    Go Reds, Crush the Indians! 


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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