Sitting Ringside Vol 1 Excerpt: David Penzer on Piper-Hogan

The following is an excerpt from Sitting Ringside, Volume 1: WCW. Purchase the book at this link!  

9: Back to the Future
Behind the curtain, I perceived Roddy’s relationship with Hulk as similar to the dynamic between Hulk and Randy Savage. It was hard to know how much was a shoot, how much was a work, and how exactly they were going to get to where they needed to go. While there would have been an outline in place for their program, I think Hulk wanted to get to a certain place with the storyline, and Roddy wanted to get somewhere else - if you follow me. That makes for an interesting back-and-forth that doesn’t always get talked about, because to work together, guys have to meet in the middle sometimes. If you’re looking at it on paper, you might say, ‘This is easy - Piper comes out at Halloween Havoc, they have a match at Starrcade, do the return at SuperBrawl in San Francisco’ - and that all happened, sure - but it would have been a tug-of-war all the way.

As much as Roddy liked and wanted to make money for his family - and to continue supporting his lifestyle - he did not want to put Hogan over. In his mind, Piper would have equated losing to Hogan as an admission that he was second to Hogan, and even though Hogan was now a heel - and typically ‘won’ after some kind of shenanigans - Piper still didn’t want to do it anyway. Similarly, once Hogan found out about Roddy not wanting to do the job, he didn’t particularly want to put Piper over either (although, in fairness, there are stories about Hulk being ecstatic after the Starrcade finish, following the crowd’s reaction to Piper’s win).

Knowing Piper, I doubt that he ever would have agreed, when first coming into WCW, to lose to Hogan in any fashion - irrespective of whether he got the ‘thumbs up’ first. Piper was a very smart businessman, and rather than show his hand, he probably would have said something like this: Let’s talk about it when we get there.

When it did come time for their rematch at SuperBrawl, I don’t think Hulk trusted Piper to put him over, particularly in San Francisco, a city with which Piper had history. Ultimately, I think it all came down to Hulk’s creative control, and he came out on top - this time with the belt on the line - aided by the interference of Randy (which also gave Piper somewhat of an ‘out’). I know one thing for sure - behind the scenes, it couldn’t have been easy to get there. 

In their promos building up the matches, Roddy and Hulk argued about who was the true icon of the business; who was the bigger draw, who made wrestling, and who was the reason why everybody was watching. They probably could have taken it further than they did, to be perfectly honest with you, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of it at the time. I was enthralled by it, from a fan’s perspective, and their interviews, in particular, were brilliant.

Away from the cameras, I know that both guys truly believed their own promos, but there was one key distinction between them. The difference was that Hulk, in my opinion, didn’t care all that much about the ‘icon’ label (his motivation was elsewhere), whereas Piper, conversely, really did care about it - a lot. From his standpoint, Piper would argue that the heel usually gets an angle over; therefore, he would have thought of himself as the reason why WrestleMania (and the Piper-Hogan rivalry in the ‘80s) worked in the first place.

Now, don’t get me wrong - there was certainly a respect between each of them, and even a mutual admiration at times. Both guys started the entire dance of where wrestling is today, and I think they recognized that fact, albeit to differing degrees. There was just no trust there.

The above is an excerpt from Sitting Ringside, Volume 1: WCW. Purchase the book at this link!