Saturday, January 09, 2021

Father and Fighter: Roddy Piper Delivers the Ultimate Babyface Promo

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

"You take a look at me, man. I'm just like James Dean, the only difference is the wrapping is a little different, jack."  - Roddy Piper

On the April 23, 1983 episode of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, the show's first interview is with the new United States Heavyweight Champion Roddy Piper, who has the belt and speaks with show host Bob Caudle. 

Piper had just a week earlier defeated Greg Valentine in Greensboro for the title. It was his second time around holding the belt, the area's most prestigious championship. Valentine was stinging from the loss, promising Piper he would make him the shortest lived U.S. champion ever, and hurt him in the process.

Piper gave the ultimate rebuttal. If you were to look up "perfect babyface interview" in a online digital dictionary, this interview would be the example used to illustrate it. Piper just nails it on every level. He is humble and happy, funny yet serious, but most of all he is real. Not only was Piper celebrating his win over Valentine, he was celebrating some personal landmarks in his life outside of the ring, and he expertly wove them into his interview with Caudle. These were real events and not part of the wrestling storyline, but like so many of the wrestlers of that era, he used part of his real life and his real personality to augment his work. The result was one of the strongest babyface promos you'll ever see.

"I had a week you wouldn't believe, man," Piper told Caudle with a big grin on his face. "On April the 15th you see, I won the United States Heavyweight Championship from Greg Valentine in Greensboro. On April the 17th, I had a birthday." Then looking over at the TV studio audience in attendance, he said, "And on April the 19th I became the father of a 7.9 pound baby girl!"

The crowd exploded with cheers, like it was someone in their family that had just given them this great news. There was this sudden and organic moment of bonding with the fans as Piper grinned ear to ear looking over Bob Caudle's shoulder at them seated on the bleachers in the cramped studio. "That's not a bad week, huh?" he giggled, "Not a bad week at all."

Piper had just connected with his audience in a way few babyfaces could. It was real. And it set the stage for what was next. Piper wasn't grinning anymore; he became deadly serious, and it was his delivery during all of this that added the proper emphasis.

"You see, I got a whole change of thought happening here, Valentine, I'm probably meaner now than I've been in my whole life," Piper said, looking down at the floor. "Because you see, when I first started to fight, I used to fight to feed myself, and it was positively I should win." Piper then looked straight into the camera. "And now it's kind of a necessity, you see, because I'm fighting for others now."

This wasn't someone pretending to be a babyface, this was a real babyface, a guy ready to man up and fight for his family, become a provider, a father, and likely a better husband. Then Piper brings it back around, stepping away from hearth and home, and gets back to the business of selling tickets. 

"I'm fighting for others now, and if you want to beat me Valentine, you're going to have to kill me for this belt." 

Wrestling's James Dean left the interview position shortly after, clearly a man on a mission to defend his title and to take care of his family. 

Valentine, however, made good on his earlier promises to Piper. Just a little over one week later on May 1, back in the ring in Greensboro, Valentine regained the championship, badly injuring Piper's ear in the process. But the people were behind their hero. And now the chase was on.

That angle would serve as the beginning of what Piper would call "the year of the ear" and would lead to climactic dog-collar match seven months later on Thanksgiving night as part of the very first Starrcade. But it was this interview by Piper that first gave the whole program with Valentine a sense of realism and consequence on a level not always achieved in a pro-wrestling storyline. 

You can watch this interview on the 4/23/83 episode of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling on the WWE Network. It takes place at the 4:27 mark of the show

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For you title history buffs out there, Piper mentions in this interview that he defeated Greg Valentine for the U.S. title on April 15, but it was actually Saturday April 16, 1983.