The legendary Roddy Piper surprisingly made the jump from WWE to WCW in 1996. Former WCW president Eric Bischoff recently discussed what it was like to work with Piper on an episode of his 83 Weeks podcast.
Bischoff said he was amazed at how much Piper was interested knowing about the creative side before he would commit to signing with WCW. When the two of them met, Bischoff was impressed with how much Piper knew about what was going on in WCW and he revealed that Piper was a fan of their storylines involving the nWo. Piper's attitude was a stark contrast from other wrestlers who were more concerned about the financial gains they would make if they joined WCW.
"You know what... Roddy Piper wasn't all about the money. Roddy was way more interested in the creative. When I say that I say it in a general sense, like a macro sense," Bischoff said. "I think what Roddy was really interested in from what I remember at that meeting because I do remember that meeting quite well, Roddy got so animated when we started talking about pro wrestling. His passion for it became really evident.
"In the first part of the meeting it was a regular greeting, but once we started talking about what was different about WCW Nitro and why it was working. There were several things that he loved. He loved the nWo," Bischoff continued. "He loved the fact that we were breaking the mold and disrupting the formula because that was how Roddy Piper was. In many ways he was a traditionalist in pro wrestling. He was a 'throwback' as far as someone who believed in the product and gave a lot to it, but he was also a progressive-thinking guy, which I believe he was because of his experience in television and in movies and his interest in it, and with discussions that he had with people outside of pro wrestling that all content had to evolve. Pro wrestling was no different, and Roddy Piper saw what a lot of others saw, which was, holy s**t, this is hot. What are you guys thinking? What was the psychology behind this? Where was the nWo going? We did discuss those things with the kind of big ideas were between WCW and the nWo and where it was headed, which were things that he did like."
After his famed rivalry with Hulk Hogan in WWE, it was expected that Piper would feud with "Hollywood" Hogan in WCW. Bischoff said there was backstage tension between the two, but Piper was still excited to reignite the rivalry.
"Of course we also talked about the possibilities of matches against Hulk Hogan, because Piper hadn't talked to Hulk at that point because, yes, there may have been some professional tension between them as who the top guys were, and who didn't want to do a job to the other, which is really childish, but when you think about how much money was involved it really wasn't that childish, but they had both more or less gotten all over that," Bischoff said. "There was still a little residual of comments that were made towards one another, including me, but Roddy was really looking forward for the opportunity to work with Hulk, with Randy [Savage] and certainly with Ric Flair. I mean, Roddy loved Ric Flair. Ric and Roddy were tighter than that."
When Piper agreed to join WCW, most of the superstars were excited to have him on the roster. Bischoff said the only wrestlers who were concerned were mid-carders who were afraid they would get pushed further down the card. As far as the top superstars, they welcomed Piper with open arms.
"There may have been people who felt--like, some of the mid-card guys who maybe thought they were on the verge of breaking into the top-tier with the semi-main event status of storylines, which is a better way of saying it may have thought that here is one more guy who has now become one more rung to the ladder I have to climb now," Bischoff said. "You can't deny that, but nobody really expressed it to me. Of the people that I dealt with more regularly at the time, more creatively like Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, who didn't have a problem with it, as long as they got their checks on time. Hulk Hogan was actually excited about it. Randy Savage was supportive of it and Ric Flair couldn't wait so unless somebody had feelings that weren't articulated to me, it pretty much was everybody was pretty supportive of it."
Piper ended up making his debut at Halloween Havoc and immediately entered into a feud with Hogan and nWo. Bischoff said it was perfect timing for him to make his debut when Hogan was already at the top of the card, especially since fans knew about the real-life tension between the two of them. Bischoff wanted his storylines to be based of real life as much as possible, so it was a great way to get Piper started in WCW.
"Probably more than anything it was a coincidence. It would be easy for me to make it sound like it was a master plan. Oftentimes it was just coincidence of good timing. Roddy was available and we had worked on his deal. We were obviously excited to have Roddy Piper on the roster because it opened up a lot of creative opportunities with Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan because of their history and the legacy they had previously. Everyone was aware of the heat between Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart. We had heard about it a million times, and Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper had their share of tension that the core, the hardcore, not the passive audience or the mainstream audience was aware of, but your hardcore audience, who knew the ins and outs and followed it closely with the dirt sheets where they were well aware of that," Bischoff said. "To me, it was like okay, now we have something to work with. In this period of time from 1996, 1997 & 1998 I tried to capture real relationship, real life heat, whatever was real to some degree that the audience knew about I tried to capture those moments or relationships and turn the volume up on them, and Roddy brought that up to the table, so there really wasn't a master plan other than the fact that Roddy was excited. He was probably excited because we had a lot of momentum. It was a two way street--we were excited about him but he was also excited to be there. He saw all of those same opportunities that we did. WCW Nitro was on a roll and it was the talk of the town where we were outperforming everybody and Roddy wanted to be a part of it as much as we wanted him to be part of us."
If you use any of the quotations from this article, please credit 83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: 83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.