Matthew Roberts takes a look at the latest release from WWE Home Video, Getting Rowdy – The Unreleased Matches of Roddy Piper.
First up, I have to declare a bias. If you were asking me to name my favourite five wrestlers of all time there’s a fine chance that Roddy Piper would make the cut. If the art of wrestling includes “talking a crowd into the arena” then there were few better at that than Piper. That decades later I met him and he proved to be one of the nicest wrestlers I’ve ever met only cemented his place in my wrestling fandom. So it’s understandable that this was a release I was looking forward to.
For obvious reasons, there is no new Piper footage on this, with brief interview clips lifted from previous releases. Ronda Rousey, who’s love of both professional wrestling and Piper himself shines through, appears at various points to give a perspective on her fandom and although it seems a little odd to focus on her as much as this release does, it adds some context to just what a performer Piper was in his prime.
We start in the NWA days, with a couple of matches from their early 1980s TV tapings in a set that any long-term fan will recognise. The action is “basic” but it’s all about the storytelling. A tag team match pitting Piper and Ole Anderson against Mike Davis and Buddy Landell is a case in point. If you subscribe to the “five-star” system of match rankings you wouldn’t be going very high but in the space of a few short minutes the heels get over as the despicable fiends they are, the plucky young babyfaces show a lot of fire and even someone with no previous experience of watching a wrestling match would pick up all the characters right away.
Of course, the majority of the set focuses on his WWE days, with a mixture of matches and Piper’s Pit segments. The latter features the likes of Paul Orndorff, Andre The Giant, Jimmy Hart and The Brooklyn Brawler. There’s perhaps a reason that these are “unreleased” as they are not the classics that the segment became famous for (and, indeed, have been featured on previous releases) but they never outstay their welcome and do show how Piper could make “something” out of almost anything on the mic.
A tag match pitting Piper & Orndorff against Jose Luis Rivera and S.D. Jones again is more a showcase for dastardly heels than being a “great match” but that’s how wrestling worked in the 1980s. The heel heat for his match with Jimmy Snuka from 1984 backs up the adage that Piper could talk fans into the building and the fact that two years later Piper can draw great heat from a match, this time as a babyface, with the useless Mr Fuji shows that Piper was far from a one-trick pony.
Matches with the likes of Rick Rude, Rick Martel and Mr Perfect are more entertaining and if none of them are must-see forgotten classics they all have good entertainment value and again effectively showcase the all-round appeal of Piper.
Piper, as we know, jumped ship to WCW in the mid-’90s and that period of his career is covered as well. There are some ever-entertaining promos, including a fantastic one where Roddy and his son Colt are confronted by Hollywood Hulk Hogan, and a pair of Nitro matches pitting him against Randy Savage and Hollywood Hogan. Both are the typical “main event Nitro” matches of the time, placing the emphasis on entertainment rather than hard-hitting wrestling but both are worth a watch even when you know that the nWo antics are on their way.
Piper would return to the WWE in the years to come; a 2003 match with Rikishi is something and nothing, but it does remind you of the short-lived alliance Piper had with Sean O’Haire. A pair of 2005 matches involving Randy Orton and his father “Cowboy” Bob Orton from WWE TV round off the action. From there we get a number of Piper’s Pit segments, including ones with John Cena, Daniel Bryan & AJ Lee and The Shield. They highlight the enduring popularity of Piper and his mic work.
If you never got to see Piper in his prime, this might not be the set that wholly convinces you of his greatness. The previous documentary release from years ago is a better example of the very best of Piper. This, however, is a great set that fans of the man will love and cherish. There was never quite anyone else like Piper and there probably never will be again.
Format Reviewed: DVD
Photographs courtesy of Fetch and WWE
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of ‘Getting Rowdy – The Unreleased Matches of Roddy Piper‘ which is out Monday 26 September on DVD. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk by clicking here.
You can find me on Twitter @IWFICON