Sunday, November 22, 2020

Follow-up: Roddy Piper and the U.S. Championship in Oregon (1981)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Earlier I published a story on Roddy Piper defending the United States Heavyweight championship in Salem, Oregon for promoter Don Owen in 1981. It was part of a week-long tour for Roddy of the Pacific Northwest territory (Portland.) Piper was the reigning U. S. champion for Jim Crockett Promotions, having defeated Ric Flair earlier that year.

Following that article's solicitation for more information from longtime Portland fans, I received an email from a nice fellow named Steven in Seattle who filled in some gaps for us on the previous story, as well as some terrific information on Roddy's appearance two nights earlier in Portland.


Classic Portland Wrestling (Instagram)


On Tuesday June 16, Piper also defended the U.S. title against arch-rival "Playboy" Buddy Rose, who was the top heel in the Portland territory. (The special referee was former NWA World Champion Lou Thesz.) In this amazing photo from the Classic Portland Wrestling page on Instagram, Rose is seen squatting down in front of a prone Piper, holding the United States championship belt. It isn't clear in this photo whether Rose is taunting Piper (likely) or in a show of respect handing him the belt (less likely) following a grueling match. I wish we knew more about that match and its outcome, but obviously Piper retained the title that night. He also defended the title against Rose the following night in Seattle, Washington. (See a great photo of Piper signing autographs on this same Pacific Northwest tour with the Crockett United States Championship belt on Classic Portland Wrestling.)

Piper's return to the Portland territory in 1981 was a really big deal, and he was received as the returning hero. Piper was one of the biggest stars ever there, and so his return really meant something to fans there. The promotion took advantage of Piper's status as United States champion, and even though the Crockett U.S. title was actually a territory title in and of itself (the top singles title in the Mid-Atlantic territory), it was occasionally seen on the nationally cablecast Superstation WTBS for Georgia Championship Wrestling, and was regularly featured in national newsstand wrestling magazines as one of the stepping stones to the NWA World Heavyweight championship. 

Months after Piper had left Portland for the Mid-Atlantic area, Steven told us about the cool moment on the KPTV channel-12 "Portland Wrestling" television broadcast when legendary Portland host Frank Bonnema announced that there was a new United States Heavyweight wrestling champion and his name was Roddy Piper. This surely got a nice reaction from the Portland faithful. Bonnema told the TV audience that they had received a telegram that Piper had won the title "back east in North Carolina." Piper indeed had defeated Ric Flair for the belt in Raleigh, NC, on 1/27/81.

As I reported in the preceding article about Piper's 1981 Pacific Northwest appearances, Piper's opponent  in Salem, OR on 6/18/81 was The Destroyer, but we had no idea who might have been working under the mask there as the Destroyer at that time. Steven let us know that it was David Patterson, who was better known in later years as Dave Sierra as well as the Cuban Assassin. Patterson is a Mid-Atlantic alumnus, who worked in lower card matches and as enhancement on TV matches for JCP in the early 80s, and always demonstrated the potential he had through his time here, but never got a break in the Mid-Atlantic area.  

If haven't seen the article on Piper returning to Oregon that preceded this one (including the 6/18/81 newspaper ad for Salem), check it out here:

Roddy Piper Defends the Crockett U.S. Title in Oregon (1981)

Visit the excellent Classic Portland Wrestling Instagram page for more Portland wrestling memorabilia. (Direct link to the Buddy Rose/Roddy Piper photo above.) (Piper wearing the U.S. belt, back turned.)

(See a great photo of Piper signing autographs on this same Pacific Northwest tour with the Crockett United States Championship belt on Classic Portland Wrestling)