I had the pleasure of going to watch Roddy Piper at The Stand Newcastle a few weeks ago. Touring one-man wrestler shows in the UK have had a bad rep the last few years (it’s always the amateurs that ruin it for the professionals), so I waited this long to type it to make sure the tour went alright and Piper wasn’t killed in some bizarre incident.
If you heard his tales, you’d understand why I was cautious.
One thing that irks me when it comes to reviews of wrestler’s comedy shows is that they’re all reviewing the wrestler in the same way they’d review a (for want of a better term) ‘real’ comedian.
Was I expecting Piper to be on the top of his form at the age of 60? Of course not, and neither was anybody else there. With the majority of people wearing a Hot Rod or They Live shirt, the room was filled with people eager for Piper in any form. If there were any curious people there who didn’t know who he was at the start, they sure as hell knew him by the time it finished.
It’s easy to see why Piper has enjoyed such a degree of popularity in the UK, he does a great impression of the Grandad everyone knows. You know, the vaguely drunk one with crazy stories and is essentially Lord Flashheart with a few more miles on the clock. Armed only with a black jacket, a Powerpoint and a sharp wit, Piper explained at length how he got started in the wrestling business and reminded us all every ten minutes that he shouldn’t be here today. From avoiding wolves on an Indian Reservation to running from knife-wielding thugs as a teen, there’s never a moment that doesn’t mix comedy with danger. Which has always been the appeal of Piper to me. There’s all kinds of heels in wrestling but Piper’s one of the only true punk ones. In his heyday, you never knew what he’d say or do next. Much like this gig.
Moving on from ‘Mad Dog’ Vachon having heart attacks in roadside diners to get out of paying, Piper also talked about the things he was most proud of. Appearing in They Live, releasing a single and touring with his son brought out genuinely happy emotions in Piper. Then he’d realise he was in front of a crowd and start talking about wrestling a bear with romantic tendencies.
He’d spruce it up with the cheap pop (”Ric Flair? What a dick”) and although the event was advertised as a Q ‘n’ A session, this was abandoned as Piper was better at telling his own stories then the audience was at asking questions (the only good one was ”Who were your influences as a wrestler?” to which Piper replied ”Satan!”). He finally ended a crazy two hours by playing the harmonica theme from They Live and we left the walking-Hunter-S-thompson-story feeling adulated.
So to sum it up? One part comedy, one part motivational speech, one part musical.
He was the funniest country song you ever saw.
And then I got to meet him backstage where without prompting he showed me photos of him playing football with Frank Bruno, Pele and others in a charity football match. Google brings nothing up but there were photos, dammit. Ya gotta believe me.
In short, wrestlers coming over to the UK is a great thing. But only if Eros Comedy are doing it.