Editorial Note: This article was a Creature vs. Creature 2.0 "Play-In Article" for the B/R Wrestling Section.
I know what you’re thinking.
“Ah man this dude is going to say Roddy Piper is the greatest talent to never hold a WWE Championship. How predictable and cliché.”
Am I right? Well get that thought out of your head—now. Read what I have here objectively and with a clear mind. I know you’ve probably heard that Piper was the most deserving talent to become WWE Champion before, but hear my argument. I promise that I will bring up things that you haven’t thought of before. I hope you enjoy.
There are two ways to get noticed in the World of professional wrestling.
The first is by using one’s natural ability to wrestle, and having entertaining and engaging matches that help tell a story.
The other—and more difficult—way is by grabbing a hold of the audience’s attention. You never let them not pay attention to what you do and say, just by being your character.
The latter of these two is by far the more difficult. You see, to be able to do this you have to have something called charisma.
Charisma is not simply learned in the independent wrestling promotions after years of “paying dues” or “perfecting your craft.” This takes a natural ability, and either you have it or you don't.
Sure, plenty of wrestlers have gotten by without this natural ability. But some of the greatest performers in WWE history are remembered not because they were the most technically brilliant mat wrestlers, but because of their ability to captivate the audience.
This man pictured above is the epitome of charisma and passion in the wrestling business. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you one of the most entertaining, talented, hardworking and unique individuals to ever step foot into a wrestling ring—the "Hot Rod" himself, Rowdy Roddy Piper.
Strangely enough my first name is Rowdy, so this is sort of an honor for me to write about him.
Piper, along with fellow WWE Hall of Famer inductees Mr. Perfect and Ricky Steamboat, has been the poster child for WWE's greatest talents to never win "the big one." There is a very good reason for this, too.
Piper has, over the years, become one of the most beloved legends in WWE history. He is one of the most fondly remembered personalities from the “Golden Era” of the WWE by fans all over the World.
A trail blazer, Piper was the first wrestler to be so good on the microphone that he got his very own talk show. The now infamous Piper’s Pit is where Rowdy’s ability to captivate the crowd with his words and his sheer comedic timing was best displayed.
Over the years dozens of wrestlers have tried to duplicate his success with their own talk show, but none have ever come close to the legendary Piper’s Pit.
The "Hot Rod" came along at a time in wrestling where the focus was on personalities, and not on one's ability to have a 30-minute blockbuster of a match.
For the first time ever professional wrestling had integrated itself into the pop culture of America. People tuned in not looking for a 5 star wrestling match, but to see all of the colorful personalities on Vince McMahon’s wrestling show. There weren’t many more colorful than The Rowdy One.
Based upon all of this, you would think that Piper would have been an easy pick to be a heel WWE Champion for any baby face to chase after.
However, a problem arises from time to time in pro wrestling. It is in some ways a good problem, as this is often good for the business, but not so good in the long run for guys like Piper.
Something stood in Piper’s way of becoming one of the few men to hold the WWE Championship. It was the same thing that stood in the way of many great talents during this time period in the WWE.
His name was Hulk Hogan.
Hogan was and still is the biggest name pro wrestling has ever seen. While making Hulk Hogan the WWE Champion was good overall for the company because of his popularity, it meant that other popular talents like Rowdy Roddy Piper had to take a back seat to the mega star.
I’m sure no one on the roster minded working on the same card as the Hulkster because of how many fans came to see him. But it made it very difficult for other talents to get noticed.
Piper was one of the lucky ones. While he never got to hold the coveted WWE Championship, his name has survived—and is still very recognizable amongst all generations of wrestling fans.
However, you would think that because of his fantastic ability to entertain and draw heat he would have been the perfect person for Hulk Hogan to feud with, right? Well, as a matter of fact,he did.
In the first ever Wrestlemania, Piper was in the main event against Hulk Hogan in a tag team match. Piper and several other popular talents were pivotal in the success of the WWE during the mid-1980s, but he was never considered as vital to the company’s success as Hogan—no one was.
This, I believe, was what kept Roddy Piper from becoming the champion of the company he helped revolutionize.
He was viewed as a fantastic talent and one of the greatest heels of the era. But unlike Hogan, Piper was thought to be replaceable. To McMahon, or possibly others working backstage, he was just another talent for Hogan to run through on his nearly endless reign as WWE Champion.
There was no way McMahon was about to take the title off of the money making machine, Hulkamania. Piper was fantastic at drawing heat, getting the crowd into whatever he was doing and having entertaining matches—but there was nothing Piper could have done to make himself more over than Hogan at this time.
Hogan was current and Piper was ahead of his time. Sometimes fans look at something and don't immediately appreciate it as much as they should. The work Roddy Piper did in the WWE has become some of the most important examples of what a superstar should be.
“The Scot” set the blueprint for the future of the WWE. If you want to succeed you need more than a good set of in-ring moves. You have to be able to connect to the crowd and get a reaction out of them—and make them remember you by any means necessary. No one has ever done those three things better than "The Hot Rod,” Rowdy Roddy Piper.
All of these are necessary to become a good world champion in the WWE now.
The thing is Hulk Hogan did this too. Hogan connected with the audience better than any other superstar at the time. The difference is—and this is really a crime if you ask me—that Piper was the total package, and way better than Hogan in many ways. Sure, Hogan kept the fans coming back, but Piper did everything Hogan did—and did almost all of it better.
Piper was far more entertaining to watch. He was a thousand times better from an in-ring perspective and was far more charismatic and engaging. His character was dynamic, while Hogan’s act began to wear thin.
I’m sure plenty of people within WWE wanted to see Rowdy Roddy Piper as the WWE Champion, but when you see something that works—in this instance Hogan—you would have to be hard pressed to take the title off of him.
Why take a chance on Piper when they were sure Hogan was selling tickets? From a business standpoint that worked for a while, but I’m sure McMahon now sees the missed opportunity that he had with Piper.
You see, I look at like this. There has never been another talent like Rowdy Roddy Piper. His ability to entertain, engage and enthrall fans with what he did and said made him a natural choice to become a World champion.
While Piper was popular during his era and is still remembered as one of the greatest talents from the time, he was the unfortunate victim of circumstance. Many talents were pushed aside to allow room for Hogan to shine. But I guarantee you that if Piper had shown up on the scene today he would have been an instant success, and would have won the WWE Champion multiple times over.
Every superstar that has stepped into a WWE ring has a deep passion for what they do.
However, there are only several individuals that know how to convey these deep emotions back to the audience. The men and women who do this go on to become some of the greatest pro wrestlers of all time. There are few other men in the world who had more of a passion for what they did than Rowdy Roddy Piper.
His passion for this industry was written all over his face every time he walked to the ring. His love for what he was a part of was seen in that sly smirk he wore as he entered the ring with his bagpipe filled entrance music playing behind him.
The only thing that could have made it better was if his name was linked to the WWE Championship.
Many great pro wrestlers have held the title and Piper’s name certainly deserves to be among them, but some things are lost to time. The Scot will never become a WWE Champion and I think he has come to terms with that. The only solace we have is knowing that Piper will never be forgotten. His ability to do what he loved will forever captivate whoever finds his work.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what makes Piper stand head and shoulders above the rest. He is remembered among the best—without ever holding that title. His name and his talent have persevered through time, while so many others have faded away…
“Old School is (and always will be)…Cool.”
Thanks for reading. Be sure to visit my profile for my Pro Wrestling Countdowns and other insightful wrestling articles: Ross Rutherford's Profile