Saturday, August 15, 2015

U.S. Champ Roddy Piper Returns to Portland

This is a very cool promo by Roddy Piper from 1983, taped in Charlotte and sent to Portland TV. Piper's home area before coming to the Mid-Atlantic territory was the Portland territory (Pacific Northwest) promoted by Don Owen.

When I was a kid, I always loved it when a wrestler would send in a video taped interview from another territory. It was like a brief peek into another area's TV show. You would see their set, their backdrop, etc. The best example for me was when Harley Race was NWA champion all those years. Whenever Race would come in, he would usually send in a video taped promo in advance. Sometimes a generic promo would air during the program itself, sometimes a promo specific to a certain town and date would be inserted into that town's local promo. Regardless, it was always cool to see where Harley was at that moment - sometimes it was Florida, other times it was Georgia or Dallas, or St. Louis. 

So I enjoyed seeing this video because this was a promo shot in the Mid-Atlantic studio at WPCQ-36 in Charlotte and sent to Portland. You can see part of the familiar Mid-Atlantic Wrestling set behind Piper as he promotes an upcoming shot at Ric Flair's NWA world championship back in his home area of Portland. Fans watching Portland TV got a chance to peek inside Mid-Atlantic Wrestling's TV. It was little things like this that made territory wrestling so much fun back in  the day.

You will notice Piper is holding the United States heavyweight title belt. It's a rare shot of Piper with that particular version of the U.S. belt because he only held it for two short weeks in April of 1983, during his almost year long feud with Greg Valentine that culminated Thanksgiving night at the very first Starrcade. 

The description on the YouTube video page says "This vintage footage comes from Portland Wrestling's April 9th, 1983 event in Portland, Oregon." That date doesn't line up with Piper's short run with this version of the belt which was from 4/16/83 - 5/1/83. More likely, the title event was in May, as Piper and Flair toured there together for a full week in May of 1983. Piper had two title shots during that Portland tour, in Portland and Seattle. Flair also defended the title that week against "Playboy" Buddy Rose and Billy Jack Haynes. 

If this promo did indeed air in Portland on 4/9/83, then Piper had the U.S. belt for this promo before actually winning it a week later in Greensboro. 

Here are the the Portland dates from results compiled by David Baker:

NWA Pacific Northwest:
05/08 Centralia, WA Rip Oliver & The Assassin beat Roddy Piper & Curt Hennig
05/09 Longview, WA Roddy Piper & Billy Jack Haynes beat Rip Oliver & The Assassin
05/10 Portland, OR Roddy Piper beat Ric Flair
05/11 Seattle, WA Ric Flair beat Roddy Piper by reversed decision
05/12 Salem, OR Roddy Piper beat Buddy Rose in a cage match
05/13 Eugene, OR Roddy Piper beat Buddy Rose
05/14 Portland, OR Roddy Piper & Billy Jack Haynes beat Ric Flair & Rip Oliver

Piper then left the Pacific Northwest for a three-week tour of Japan, and did not return to the Mid-Atlantic area until 6/18. While he was away, Ric Flair lost the NWA world title back to Harley Race in St. Louis on 6/10. Piper was actually on that St. Louis card, too, on his first wrestling stop back in the U.S. after the Japan tour.

Piper's absence from the Mid-Atlantic area was explained as a recuperation period from a serious ear injury at the hands of Greg Valentine when Valentine regained the U.S. title from Piper on 5/1 in Greensboro. Valentine had brutally pounded the ear and Piper was a bloody mess, and the absence was used to sell the injury. Valentine even dubbed it "The Year of the Ear", poking fun at Piper for months before their climatic feud ended with the famous dog-collar match at Starrcade 83 on Thanksgiving night.

On Piper's first night back in the territory, he teamed in Greenville, SC with none other than Ric Flair, who had just become a "good guy" again in his home area after losing the NWA title to Race.

- Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

PS - The Portland Wrestling YouTube channel has some awesome video, not only from their TV, in the 1980s but some great history features as well. The 5/14 TV match listed above featuring Flair and Rip Oliver vs. Piper and Billy Jack Haynes can be found on that channel.