Roddy Piper Interview
January 3, 2007 - From Hulk Hogan and Mr. T to Superfly Snuka and the aliens in They Live, Roddy Piper has had his share of classic battles.
Today, he's fighting for his life.
Piper was recently diagnosed with Lymphoma cancer, and while some would call it quits and cry, Rowdy Roddy Piper is back chewing bubble gum and kicking ass…and he's all out of bubble gum.
In fact, Piper called me after receiving radiation for his cancer and was the same smack talking Hot Rod wrestling fans have loved to hate throughout the years.
These are the same fans Piper believes saved his life.
"The fans saved my life, I truly believe that," Piper explains. "There was this pay-per-view called Cyber Sunday and the fans voted between myself, Dusty Rhodes, and Sgt. Slaughter, some pretty good company there, and it was for who was going to be Ric Flair's partner going for the tag team titles. Kindly, the fans voted me in, we won the titles, then we're over in Europe and something goes wrong with my legs…they're not working.
They fly me back to the States, put me on the slab, cut open my back and they discover I have cancer. Lymphoma. But there's a really happy ending to it. First off, they picked the wrong guy to bully, I'm going to kick its butt. Also, they caught it at its very early stage. They put me on the rotisserie every day now, I'm going to be on radiation for the next 4-5 weeks, and they think they can clear it up. I'm going to be walking down that hall again, Jon.
"If the fans didn't vote me in, I wouldn't have went to Europe, I wouldn't have had a reason to have my back checked, and from what has been explained to me, in two to three years, this would have been all throughout my body and I would've had to go out that day. But you know what, the fans have been taking care of me all my life. What can I even say to them for that. It's pretty special for me."
Also special to Piper is the new DVD WWE released about his chaotic career. From Piper's Pit to Wrestlemania, all the moments that made the man (and helped make the industry what it is today) are captured.
If only there was a camera to capture some of the road trips Piper and Flair talked about at the Hall of Fame, now that's Must See TV.
IGN Sports: Did you ever think that one day you'd be an action figure, a videogame character, and a person celebrated with a DVD about your career?
Roddy Piper: Only thing I ever thought I'd see is a picture with me in a uniform with stripes on it and a number under my mug shot. [laughs] I'd never seen a professional wrestling match. First one I saw, I was in. It was just an accident.
I left home when I was 13. When I was 15 I was living in a youth hostel and I was the 167-pound amateur wrestling champion. My coach came up to me one day and told me how there was going to be a wrestling match, but Larry Hennig's opponent missed his plane. He told me I'd lose my amateur status but he could get me $20.
I'm sure the match is still the world record for shortest match. No joke, the bell went ding, and the match lasted about ten seconds. It has to be the shortest match in the history of the Winnipeg Arena. You figure the match lasted ten seconds, and that includes the referee counting to three. [laughs] I walked in the back after the match and my nose was broken.
The promoter comes up to me and says "Kid you did great, how would you like to go to Kansas City?" Is Larry Hennig going to be there? [laughs] They put me in a van and here I am. What's funny is, when I was coming down the aisle, the announcer didn't know who I was because I was a substitute, and my pipe band was playing me down just as a kind gesture, and so the guy says "Ladies and gentleman, here he comes…Roddy The Piper!" That's how it all started.
IGN Sports: And here you are, all these years later still in the ring. Is this the first time you ever won the tag belts in WWE?
Roddy Piper: That's true. I was never much of a belt guy. In Born to Controversy (the new DVD), they talk quite a bit about that. Mick Foley, Flair, and some others come on and talk about my life, and it's not like the other DVD's where people have a flair for the gold, oh so pretty. This is Born to Controversy. It's a kilt guys, it's a kilt. That's another thing that's discussed in it. When I was 15-16 years old, coming into the locker room with a kilt on, it's a little bit of a tough gig. In Texas, "Martha, what's that boy doing with that cat, and why is he wearing a dress?" [laughs]
IGN Sports: You and Ric Flair have such an amazing chemistry. The stories you guys tell at the Hall of Fame inductions keep everyone in stitches. I can only imagine some of the stories you guys aren't telling.
Roddy Piper: I need to tell you some inside on this. McMahon had fired me for this HBO interview I did (Real Sports), and I had no idea what I was going to say. That night was the first time I'd seen McMahon since he fired me, I got a hello, and that was it. I'm on next and Flair comes up to me and says: "Pipe, just tell my you'll go for it." What that means to Ric is, c'mon, entertain me. I wasn't sure what I was going to say, but I'm standing there with my chest out and Vince is sitting down on my right hand side, he's got the headphones on and he's watching the monitor. They edited it for Spike TV, I don't know how they did it so fast, but there's Flair and he's talking about how we used to get the flight attendants and take them up to Puerto Rico. My family is in the audience and as I'm listening to Flair, my shoulders start dropping, and Vince McMahon, maybe you had to be there to see it, but snot came pouring out of his nose, he was drooling and he just about fell out of his chair as he watched me get destroyed in a minute with Ric Flair doing an induction for me. So from that time, we shook hands, and it's the same love/hate relationship, he loves to hate me. That's why I said, is HBO here. I thought I was going to get fired again.
IGN Sports: Instead he brings you back and gives you a title.
Roddy Piper: [laughs] Gives me a title, can you believe that. Maybe if I slap him I can get a car.
IGN Sports: With the intense travel schedule you had throughout your career, is it difficult to retire and try to stay home and live a normal life?
Roddy Piper: I don't know what normal is anymore. I do movies, so I still only come home in spurts. I like to come home and stay for a couple of months and then I'll go when the kids are in school. I'm kind of a go-get'em kind of guy. I live up on a mountain, a little ranch we have here, and I have cancer, so I'm dealing with that now. I have Born to Controversy, and John Carpenter is talking to me about They Live the television series. Then you have Wrestlemania coming up this year, 70,000 people in Detroit, and I would love, love to be in the ring against Vince McMahon. By that time I will have killed that cancer and I'll be ready to roll. Wouldn't you love to see me in there against Vince? I'd do it for free.
IGN Sports: You were in the ring against the new breed of heels in the sport, Edge and Randy Orton. How are the top heels of today living up to your legacy?
Roddy Piper: I think they're great. I don't get a chance to catch too much, but one I saw, it explained everything you need to know about the differences between old school and new school. New school, you carry a bed to the ring with you. [laughs] I see Edge and Lita, and she's taking his jeans off, then he had trunks on underneath, and it looked like he was smuggling an olive. [laughs] Then they're going and doing their thing and they get under the covers and he starts getting excited. [laughs] I'm thinking, Edge, you are so much smarter than me. Here I am challenging Andre The Giant and you have a half naked lady in the middle of the ring and are getting paid for it. He's so much smarter than me. I think it's outstanding. And Randy Orton, I wrestled his grandfather, and I'm really proud of those guys.
When I come to the dressing room, Randy Orton and Edge, if there wasn't a place to sit down, those guys would get up and give me their chair. Be mean to me, slap me, I know exactly what to do. Don't be nice to me, I haven't a clue how to react. You're getting me a chair? There's so much respect, and the class of the wrestler today is so much higher than anything I've seen in the business in my 37 years in wrestling. That's the style of athlete that's come out that we started 20 years ago, and I'm really proud that these guys are great people, and I want them to know that coming from a guy like myself. They're just outstanding.
IGN Sports: You talked about Orton and his grandfather, is this a business you'd want your kids to get into?
Roddy Piper: No. I would blackball them. When you see this Born to Controversy, I forgot how much stuff I did. I forgot I painted myself half black. And it's brutal watching this for me. There's a three-disc version, and if you buy it off the Web from WWE, there's a fourth disc, and I can only watch the first disc. [laughs] I don't think I'm mature enough to get to the other discs.
All of these guys are talking about me, they're talking about some of the stuff I've done, and I'm thinking to myself "What a jerk!" But that's me! Holy cow! It's really a good piece of business for the fact that it's just not praising somebody, we're telling the weaknesses, the strengths, and the in-betweens, and it's coming from people who carry a great amount of respect themselves. But it shows how many people care. I'll tell you this, Jimmy Kimmel just sent me a gift. It's a four-leaf clover inside this huge piece of glass, and I've been getting so many nice things…please keep them coming, I get no Santa gifts now, but I've been getting calls from so many people ever since word got out about my cancer, I'm just a lucky guy