Frankie Pays The Piper!
It's been said that talk is cheap. Not so in professional wrestling where a silver-tongued grappler can equal sales, TV ratings, and more. Wrestling captivates its fans with wrestlers’ amazing displays of athleticism, but it also enthralls them with the wrestlers’ gift of gab. Some wrestlers are so good on the microphone that it’s said that they can talk fans into an arena.
The wrestling world has had its share of great talkers. These men could get the fans so worked up that they wanted to see the wrestlers in action or to see another wrestler shut them up. Not everyone is an eloquent speaker. Some wrestlers are naturals on the mic, some develop mic skills over time, and some never go very far as
talkers. For those wrestlers who lack microphone skills, there is hope. Just as a good worker can make a poor worker look good in the ring, so can a good talker help a poor one sound good. One way to do this is to pair a poor talker with a manager who is a good talker. Another method is the talk show or interview segment.
While interview segments were around for some time before, they really came into their own with the introduction of “Pipers Pit”. Hosted by “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, the interview segment quickly became the highlight of WWF programming (this during the time when weekly shows routinely featured squash matches). As we have seen many times before, professional wrestling (and to be fair, all forms of entertainment) is quick to copy a winning formula and spin off as many copies as it can. Just as the Road Warriors’ success led to several carbon copy teams, the success of “Pipers Pit” spawned many imitators, some good, some bad. “The Body Shop”, “Blackjack’s Barbeque”, and “A Flair for the Gold” are just a few of the shows that followed the Pit. Today, the talk segment isn’t as prevalent as it used to be but promoters still bring it back when they want to stage and angle or help someone get over thanks to their eloquent host.
Canadian wrestler Roddy Piper (born Roderick Toombs) began wrestling as a teenager and while he was slight of build, he made his presence known with his big mouth. It didn’t take promoters long to see that Piper’s phony bravado matched with a scrawny frame, was a good way to rile up the fans as they wondered who this pipsqueak with the big mouth was. Before long, Piper was soon one of the most hated wrestlers on the West Coast.
After building his reputation in Los Angeles and the Pacific Northwest, Piper was wooed to the East Coast not by one, but by two promotions; Jim Crockett Promotions and Georgia Championship Wrestling. His star continued to rise and he caught the fans’ attention with his work as a wrestler as well as his work in Georgia as a color commentator. Piper also caught the attention of promoter Vince McMahon.
McMahon was building his promotion the World Wrestling Federation to a national level and he needed a villain to play against the promotion’s top babyface, Hulk Hogan. Piper was soon signed, but could he live up to McMahon’s expectations?
This question was quickly answered with the introduction of Piper’s weekly talk segment, “Piper’s Pit”. Every week, the Rowdy Scot would run off at the mouth, taunting baby faces (often coming close to blows), or praising heels. No matter who was Piper’s guest, he got them over (as well as building himself as the promotion’s top heel). Many a wrestler was put over by Piper and his pit. One of the greatest was the infamous coconut incident in which Piper verbally assaulted “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka before breaking a coconut over Snuka’s head.
Piper got his audience and guests so heated that he soon found it necessary to introduce a bodyguard to the set. Piper recruited “Cowboy” Bob Orton, a second generation technical wrestler who was eager to beat down anyone who got too close to Piper. This was made abundantly clear when preliminary wrestler Aldo Moreno got into Piper’s face. Orton quickly dispatched Moreno and “Ace” (as Piper liked to call him) became a fixture on the Pit. After a broken forearm saw Orton’s arm encased in a heavy cast, Piper’s henchman became even more dangerous.
Piper proceeded to taunt the Columbus, Ohio native, pointing out that he’d never lost a match in Columbus while Williams had the distinction of never winning a match in Columbus. The verbal dress down continued with Piper suggesting that Williams hang up his tights and go to work in a pizzeria.
Williams defended himself, arguing that he wasn’t afraid of anyone (“I’m not afraid of nobody” as Frankie so eloquently put things) and that he got into the ring every night. Unimpressed, Piper taunted the winless wrestler with his own words before proceeding to beat him senseless.
The formula for “Piper’s Pit” proved so successful that the show continued, even after Piper turned babyface. Now, instead of insulting the faces, he insulted the heels. And just as before, “Piper’s Pit” was used to advance angles (the buildup to the historic Andre the Giant/Hulk Hogan match being a prime example).
While “Piper’s Pit” is no longer a weekly mainstay, the WWE occasionally brings “Rowdy” Roddy back for surprise appearances. And just as he’s always done, Piper helps wrestlers get over and builds up angles with his skills on the microphone.
One of the most talked about segments on “Piper’s Pit” involved “Rowdy”Roddy bringing in an unlikely guest- a journeyman wrestler by the name of Frankie Williams. Williams was a regular to WWF viewers as he appeared regularly on WWF programming against some of the promotions top stars.
Unfortunately for Williams, it was as a human punching bag as he couldn’t seem to win a match. Williams’ lack of wins was quickly brought up by Piper.