Thursday, November 12, 2020

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

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Salem, Oregon, June 18, 1981
Clipping from the Mark Eastridge Collection

One of my favorite scavenger hunts in wrestling research is tracking down defenses of Crockett's championships in other territories. There were many times during the territory days in the late 1970s and early 1980s that the World Tag Team and United States championships traveled to Georgia, Florida, Texas (San Antonio and Houston territories), Mid-South and elsewhere.

Now add Portland to that list. Mark Eastridge, a Mid-Atlantic Gateway contributor for many years and an amazing collector of newspaper ads and results from around the world, recently sent me this clipping from the Portland territory. I was thrilled to see it because it documented a "Rowdy" Roddy Piper defense of the United States Championship in the NWA's Pacific Northwest. 

The card featured here is from June 18, 1981 in Salem, Oregon, roughly 30 miles south of Portland, and features Piper scheduled to defend the title in an open challenge to the winner of a battle royal earlier that same night.  Salem was just one stop on a near week-long tour Piper made in the territory that June, with other stops including Portland and Eugene, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington. 

Piper wound up successfully defending his belt against The Destroyer that night, who came out on top in the earlier battle royal. We don't have information on who was under the mask as the Destroyer, but we'd love for any longtime Portland fans to let us know.

Just before leaving on this short tour of the Oregon territory, Piper challenged Harley Race for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in Charlotte, NC. Piper won that match by DQ, but not the title of course. Race was only a week away from losing the NWA title to Dusty Rhodes in Atlanta.

Piper was in the middle of his first reign as United States champion for Jim Crockett Promotions having defeated Ric Flair for the title in January of that year in Raleigh NC's Dorton Arena. Piper had become the most hated heel in the area at that point and he and Flair went round and round for the title. Piper also had other memorable feuds over the U.S. title from 1981-1983 including with Wahoo McDaniel, and Greg Valentine. He was a 2-time U.S. Champion, and also held the other singles titles in the area including the NWA TV championship and the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship.

Piper never lost it back to Flair, though, and their feud continued on after Flair won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in September of 1981. Piper was Flair's early number one challenger for the title whenever Flair came back to his home territory to defend the world championship.

Piper was a very big deal in the business during those years. Not only was he one of the top wrestling stars for JCP, he would become a top TV color commentator on both Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (with Bob Caudle) and the nationally televised Georgia Championship Wrestling (with Gordon Solie.) After being stabbed by a fan in the summer of 1982 in Raleigh, Piper turned good-guy (in both Georgia and the Mid-Atlantic) and instantly became one of the most popular wrestlers in the country. After wrestling in the famous Dog Collar match on Thanksgiving night at Starrcade '83, Piper left for the WWF in early 1984, becoming one of the top heels there, and wrestling in the main event at the first Wrestlemania in 1985. 

Although Piper was a top heel as U.S. Champion in June of 1981, he was the returning hero in Oregon, where he had been one of the top draws for Portland promoter Don Owen in the years before coming to the Mid-Atlantic area. Piper had a great deal of affection and loyalty for Owen, and made many returns there, even once when he was working for the WWF. 

Piper joins Ric Flair and Wahoo McDaniel during that era as U.S. champions for Jim Crockett Promotions who took the title on the road outside of the Mid-Atlantic area.

Thanks to Mark Eastridge for providing the newspaper clipping.  

For a detailed history of the United States Championship and the five different belts that represented it from 1975-1988, check out our deluxe full-color U.S. title history book in the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Book Store through the link below.