One of the highlights of running this here website for the last sixteen years (yes, WrestleCrap turns Sweet 16 this April 1!) has brought me is the ability to talk with various personalities in the wrestling business. Be it my dear friend “Earthquake” John Tenta, Lance Storm, or Vince Russo, I’ve been blessed to be able to pick the brains of folks I’d seen for years on TV as I always learn from those who have worked for the largest wrestling company in the world. While I always thought that was cool, nothing could have ever prepared me for a phone call I received last year when a producer of a podcast wanted me to appear to talk about the new 1oth Anniversary Edition of The Death of WCW. I’d been interviewed about it many times of course, and I always enjoyed doing that. It helped to promote the book, but more than that, I still to this day find it a fascinating event in the history of the industry. What was going to be different about this particular interview was the host.
It was going to be none other than “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
I’d talked to Roddy a couple of times at conventions, but really nothing more than a quick hello and photo op. Never anything in depth. I’d have loved to have interviewed Hot Rod on WrestleCrap Radio, no question…but that wasn’t what was happening here. No, in this instance, Roddy Piper was going to be interviewing RD Reynolds.
Yeah, I don’t know either dude.
It was truly an honor to be considered for the show, and I won’t lie, I was pretty dang nervous going into this. I mean, this was RODDY PIPER…and he was asking all the questions! Would I know the answers? And if I did, would he just change the questions (as he was known to do)?
Thankfully, the interview turned out great (you can check it out here). It was clear at the beginning Roddy had zero idea who I was, but by the end we were getting along famously. In fact, I had been contacted by the producer of the show that Roddy wanted me back on and I was on the schedule to return to Piper’s Pit later in the year. That never happened due to Roddy’s far too premature death.
When Roddy passed away, like many of you, I was devastated. This was one of the main guys who got me interested in wrestling in the first place, and while we were never friends or anything, we had formed something of a bond recently…which made it hurt all the more.
Long story long, hopefully no one will be offended with me inducting this storyline with Roddy today at WrestleCrap.com. Again, I love Roddy…but trust me, a LOT of folks were offended when it actually hit airwaves back in 1990!
Make no mistake, part of what made Roddy great was that he was a true loose cannon….but there were times when I believe even he himself would tell you he went way past the limits of good taste. Such was the case in the build up to his WrestleMania VI match versus Bad News Brown. It started as the most common of rivalries do in wrestling, with Brown costing Piper a match, in this case the 1990 Royal Rumble.
It ended with Roddy channeling his inner Bing Crosby and slapping on black face.
I mean, I love Holiday Inn and all, but I never once would have thought, “You know what would make for a great pro wrestling intrigue? This”:
Now before I get too far, I want to state, for the record, that I do not blame only Roddy for this. At some point, someone in the WWF, be it Vince, Kevin Dunn, whomever, had to have watched some of this and thought, “Hmmm, you know what? This might offend someone.” But no one did.
That’s why it is often tough to argue when people say wrestling is behind the times.
During his first interview following the Royal Rumble, Bad News made it clear that he nearly had the match won, as men were apparently throwing themselves over the top rope just to avoid him. “LIAR!” responded Tony Schiavone. Piper hadn’t thrown Bad News out, we would learn – instead, Mr. Brown tripped over Roddy’s skirt and fell out on his own. Maybe it’s just me, but I think I’d rather be thrown out than to have caused my own elimination due to being that clumsy. Everything came to a head when Roddy started to make his way toward the podium, and things escalated when Brown noted that Piper and “his kind” like to look like Bad News so he should head to the beach and get a sun tan.
No, really, he did. Listen!
Roddy took this and ran with it in subsequent interviews, painting his face half black, and going off about how he was part white, part black, part Russian, part Chinese (seriously), part everyone. He would then argue with himself. He followed this up by asking Sapphire about him (since apparently she and Brown grew up together in Harlem?), and she told him that the people there weren’t proud of Bad News; they just thought he was a jerk.
OH! Then he belted out a medley of songs from Michael Jackson and Tiny Tim.
AND also this little ditty from Cyndi Lauper.
Wait, didn’t they hate each other?
Regardless, I did NOT see that coming.
Nor did I see him quoting AL JOLSON (with Jesse Ventura confirming it as such!) coming in his final appearance on the syndicated WWF Superstars prior to the big event.
Did I say “Woof” earlier? If I did, can I use it again?
It all led to the inevitable: a battle between the two at WrestleMania VI. Right before the match we would learn that not only had Roddy painted half his face black, this time he painted his WHOLE BODY half black.
And yes, we got the obligatory pre-match song and dance, this time with a quick rendition of “Billie Jean” as he did something that somewhat resembled Michael Jackson and somewhat resembling a disco dance while also resembling fully neither.
The match itself starts with more dancing before quickly becoming a battle of fisticuffs. Brown scored a couple of two counts before Roddy reaches down into his trunks and pulled out…
…why of course…it’s a Michael Jackson glove!
Sadly, Piper didn’t grab the house mic and belt out “Smooth Criminal”, but instead hits Bad News with it upside the head. They roll to the outside, brawling for over ten seconds.
And you know what that means.
Yes, all this build up, with black face and dancing and singing Michael Jackson songs and talk of white folk getting sun tans because they want to look like Bad News Brown…all of that led to a WrestleMania match that ended in a DOUBLE COUNT OUT.
I never really understood why some people thought the bit on this show where Steve Allen sang with the Bolsheviks in a shower was somehow great. And yes, these people do exist.
As it immediately followed that horrible finish to Piper-Bad News, I now kinda get it.
Shockingly enough, this feud leading to a pretty boring match leading to a completely unsatisfying double count lead to the creation of an action figure commemorating it. Don’t ask me, I ain’t in the toy business. But yes, in 2007, Jakks Pacific gave folks this:
As best I can tell, only 100 of these were ever made. You know it’s rare when you can’t even find a live listing for it on eBay.
But hey, wait a minute…no Michael Jackson glove?
To quote Roddy Piper, “Beat it beat it beat it!”