Good-guy Roddy: Piper/Hart at Wrestlemania VIII

(WWE Network)
(WWE Network)

“Mrs. Hart used to come down, make them sandwiches, throw on that bologna. Of course only one piece of bologna, but that don’t matter, I was hungry!” — “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

Roddy Piper passed away on Friday of a heart attack at 61. Piper is best known from his time as a heel in the 1970s and ’80s, but my first memories of Piper are of him as a good guy in the early ’90s. I loved him as a kid because he was incredibly entertaining and because his theme music was bagpipes, which I thought meant Piper was Irish (he was not). My all-time favorite memory/match involving Piper involves him taking on Bret “The Hitman” Hart for the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania VIII.

Before the match, the two are being interviewed by Mene Gene Okerlund. Hart doesn’t say anything until the end of the interview, with Piper, not surprisingly, going on a rant. Now, both were “good guys” at this time — Piper was champion, having defeated the evil Canadian Mountie for the belt at the Royal Rumble — but Piper being a good guy doesn’t mean he can’t also be kind of a jerk. He doesn’t hit Hart with a coconut, but he spends his entire time talking taking minor jabs at the Hitman while reminiscing about growing up together until it ends with them standing face to face ready to throw a punch.

The match itself is also very good. Hart has always been known for his in-ring skills, while Piper’s style was more of a brawler. Here is the PLAY BY PLAY I did while watching post-work at 3 in the morning:

Wrestle normal match, basic moves. Hart dumps him, Piper spits on Hart. Piper calms, challenges him to test of strength. Hart appears to hurt shoulder, Piper backs off, Hart small package. Piper loses it, slaps him in the face. They both dump over the rope. CHANGE. Piper holds ropes so Hart can get back into the ring, fans cheer, Hart goes to fix his boot, then Piper punches him in the face. Piper starts brawling, busts Hart open. Biting. Hart comeback with FIVE MOVES OF DOOM.

Piper throws Hart into ref while trying to escape headlock. Ref = KNOCKED OUT. Piper grabs bell. Reluctant to use it. Fans pleading no. Heenan, “Give it to me, I’ll hit him!” Piper drops bell, puts Hart in sleeper. Hart uses turnbuckles to push Piper back, gets the 1, 2, 3.

It’s a great storyline for a match, with Hart wrestling a bit dirtier than usual because A) he wants to be champ and B) he knows it’ll rile Piper up. Piper, on the other hand, tries to keep things clean at the beginning, reverts to his more dirty-pool ways for a bit after Hart ticks him off, then, when he has the chance to slam Hart in the head with the bell for the easy victory, he does the RIGHT THING (which causes him to, uh, lose).

After the match, Piper returns to the ring, hands Hart the belt then secures it around his waist. They exit the ring together. The match basically ends up being this …

“We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.  The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” — Abraham Lincoln

… in wrestling form.

RIP Piper.

Brian Cougar

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Good-guy Roddy: Piper/Hart at Wrestlemania VIII

Peak America: David Lee Roth performs with the Boston Pops on the 4th of July

Saturday is the 4th of July. On Sunday, Van Halen kick off their 2015 tour. On July 4, 2004, David Lee Roth played with the Boston Pops in the greatest 4th of July performance of all time. I’m not saying it’s the reason I ended up moving to Boston nine years later, but let’s just say as a matter of fact it is.

David Lee Roth is a ludicrous human being. He was the frontman for one of the biggest rock bands of all time, split with them when they were at their most popular, spent the next 20 or so years releasing solo albums of varying degrees of success, put out an entertaining autobiography, got arrested in Washington Square Park for purchasing $5 worth of pot, reunited with Van Halen, immediately got booted from Van Halen, toured with Sammy Hagar, somehow became the person chosen to replace Howard Stern, got fired from that gig and eventually reunited with Van Halen again, although — since they’re Van Halen — his return signaled the end of original bassist Michael Anthony’s time in the band, as Eddie Van Halen brought in his son, Wolfgang, to play bass. The latest incarnation of Van Halen has actually held together, although fans always assume the whole thing could blow up at any moment.

In the summer of 2002, I attended the Hagar/Roth show in Scranton, Pa. Hagar opened and was a good time despite his Hard rock Jimmy Buffet shtick. Roth closed and strutted out with platinum blonde hair and a skin-tight pink jumpsuit. His performance was … not well received by the crowd. My buddy Mike and I had purchased David Lee Roth T-shirts. On the way out to the parking lot after the show, a guy behind us started singing a reworked version of Roth’s solo song “Just Like Paradise,” changing the lyrics to, “This must be just like David Lee Roth sucks ass.” And in the only instance of anyone finding Mike and I intimidating in our lifetimes, the man’s significant other said to him, “Honey, shhhh! There are Roth fans ahead!”

Anyway, getting back on track, Roth’s performance with The Pops. Or, as the bald guy who introduces Roth to the stage says, “I think it’s time we make the Pops … Rock! What do you say?”

This guy rules
This guy rules

“Jump” kicks in. Roth comes out. No platinum blonde hair this time. No pink jumpsuit. Classy attire for a classy occasion. Most of the crowd, either waving American flags or wearing clothing featuring American flags, do the only proper thing when “Jump” is playing and jump along to the song. At one point Roth joins the conductor of the orchestra so they can sing a few lines together.

These guys also rule
These guys also rule

Roth is in fine voice. Well, for him. Roth’s strength as a live performer is less his singing and more his spinning jump kicks, of which he does several (one of my favorite parts of his autobiography is when he makes it known that those kicks are not just for show, but are in fact an ancient method of kicking a person off a horse). Roth’s other strength as a live performer is his ability to twirl a mic stand, which he does during the guitar solo. When the War to End All Wars occurs in the next 15 years, Roth will be at the front of the side fighting for the good of humanity twirling away. You know this to be true.

As the song nears its end, members of the orchestra begin leaping out of their chairs. Roth pulls out a few more jump kicks. He looks to the sky, his arms outstretched. A job well done? A fireworks display properly opened for?

For those about to rock (we salute you)
For those who have successfully rocked (we salute you)

Damn right it was. Bowzebowzebop.

Brian Cougar

Peak America: David Lee Roth performs with the Boston Pops on the 4th of July