Man, it still feels so weird to think Rowdy Roddy Piper is dead. So many of the great times I had with WWF pro wrestling growing up centered on angles and matches with Piper. He was so entertaining at his peak.
Piper has some interesting history in the old Boston Garden. For those who don’t know, the Garden was an arena built in 1928 that was torn down 60 years later to make way for the stadium now known as the TD Garden. By the time I was going to WWF shows at the old Garden in the 1980s, it was run-down place with old, rickety seats that were way too small and the occasional rat scampering along the walls upstairs. It also had an overhanging balcony that gave you a great view for hockey, basketball, or wrestling — thus the name of my blog.
I first saw Piper live sitting in that balcony, taking on Bruno Sammartino in their first match in Boston following a famous Piper’s Pit at Madison Square Garden during which Piper called Sammartino a “wop.” Piper’s feud with Bruno is well remembered in Boston, and in their initial quick meeting, Piper was DQ’d.
After a tag team rematch in January 1986 that included “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff and Cowboy Bob Orton, Piper and Sammartino clashed in a steel cage match that is still talked about today here in Boston. Piper was at his bad-guy best in this bout, even taping posters of the Chicago Bears onto the cage to razz Boston fans who had seen the Patriots go down to the Bears in that year’s Super Bowl.
Sammartino beat a bloody Piper in the match, which drew on of the largest crowds I can ever recall at the old Garden: 16,180. It was the same night that Randy Savage defeated Tito Santana for the Intercontinental Title, which shocked people because it was a house show. I was not there in person that night, which is a huge regret of mine because this particularly show was probably the most historical WWF card of the 1980s in that arena.
Piper also claimed another piece of history in Boston with Hulk Hogan. Their first meeting in a WWF ring — and perhaps in any ring — occurred at the Boston Garden in October 1984, when Hogan was WWF Heavyweight Champion, according to The History of WWE website. Piper won that match via countout, but then lost to Hogan by DQ the next month in Boston. They never had a blow-off match in Boston.
Other moments that still come to me about Piper in Boston in the ’80s:
- I remember arguing with a friend who went to the August 1984 card and saw Piper pin Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. I refused to believe that a heel could pin Snuka in a feud; what I didn’t know was Snuka’s star was already fading in the WWF.
- Likewise, I was blown away that Andre the Giant did not pin Piper at the Garden in September 1984 (Andre won by countout). It was very rare for Andre not to win convincingly at house shows.
- One of my favorite Boston matches was watching Piper, Hogan, and Billy Jack Haynes beat Orndorff, Hercules, and Adrian Adonis in an elimination match in March 1987 leading up to WrestleMania III. Piper got eliminated early and waved to the crazy crowd, as we at the time believed it would be his last match in Boston because he claimed to be retiring after Mania.
In fact, I saw Piper many times more in Boston, including 1990s feuds with Ric Flair and Ravishing Rick Rude in the WWF, and later in the TD Garden during Monday Nitro when Piper wrestled for WCW. The Wrestling Observer noted in Piper’s obituary that he and Kevin Nash had a locker room spat after a Nitro match in Boston in June 1997.