Hogan v Piper is one of the most recognized and influential rivalries in pro wrestling history. It stood at the forefront of the revolution that catapulted the business into the mainstream of sports and entertainment. The feud was a Wrestling 101 blueprint on how to preserve longevity and fan interest, by living vicariously in the boots of the perfect protagonist and the perfect antagonist.


It is often said that the success of a babyface is heavily dependent on the strength of their opposing heel. The jarring actions of that villain escalate the necessity of a hero to bring balance and restore hope. Much like the President of the United States, your wrestling champion is the top guy; the face of the company; and leader you want on the front-line when looking to resolve crisis or declare war. Yet, without conflict or a significant threat, the value of a babyface is downgraded to that of a “paper champion”.

Rowdy Roddy Piper wasn’t your traditional “monster heel”. What he lacked in size, he made up for it with his mouth, and the venom he spewed from it. It was his mischievous and cunning demeanor that made the world hate (or admire) him, and the element of unpredictability that made them fear him. Hot Rod’s motives and actions triggered strong emotional reactions from the audience, and while he was constantly lambasted for “crossing the line”, in his world, the line didn’t exist.


As if he didn’t have enough to work with, you also have to credit his genius of bravely choosing to wear his native kilt. In a business built on boasting the toughest men on the planet, here is an average sized Scotsman in a “skirt” talking smack with the best of them. He was the epitome of the kid poking the wild bears with a stick at the zoo. The visual of a grown man in a kilt drew instant heat, giving fans the emotional ammunition to attack his character’s insecurities by questioning his manhood. But the kilt was never his weakness – it was his bait!


Pound-For-Pound, Piper didn’t seem like a physical threat to the massive and muscular Hulk Hogan, but he was a psychological menace. The strength of their feud wasn’t in their matches – but in the constant taunting by the antagonist, and the constant chasing but never catching of the protagonist. The rivalry was never overexposed on television or in a constant series of matches. In fact, Piper masterfully found alternative ways to indirectly attack Hogan’s psychological stability, by tormenting his closest friends – Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Junkyard Dog, Andre The Giant, and Cindy Lauper. He’d even feed his bodyguard Cowboy Bob Orton to the furious bunches to do his dirty work for him, while he escaped scot-free without a scratch or wrinkle in his kilt.

The blueprint was brilliantly crafted in only three simple matches – all with significant purposes: The Escalation. The Showcase. And, The Blow-off.


The War To Settle The Score (The Escalation) – This highly publicized one-on-one encounter set the stage for the first WrestleMania. Piggybacking on the heat that had been brewing between Hogan and Piper, with a series of preludes that included an attack on pop-star Cindy Lauper during the Rock–n-Wrestling crossover, the match was expected to live up to its name by promising to cleanse the WWF of Piper’s antics once and for all. Instead of ending the war, this was a sign that that it had only just begun.

From a business standpoint, this match garnered national exposure by being broadcast live on the MTV Network, but most importantly, it opened the door for celebrity and audience crossover. Wrestling was the cool new fad that everyone wanted to be part of. New fans were introduced to the world of modern day gladiators because their favorite Hollywood stars like Cindy Lauper and Mr. T were aligning themselves with these larger than life heroes and villains. Internally, it was also setting up post-war subplots featuring “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, who interfered in this match causing Piper’s disqualification and provoking Mr. T to make the save.


WrestleMania (The Showcase) – This event speaks for itself. It was the spectacle where worlds of sports and entertainment came together for a universal synergy and traditional extravaganza. Names like Liberace, Billy Martin and Muhammad Ali joined Cindy Lauper and Mr. T to “put-over” pro wrestling and have it accepted into the mainstream media.

Keep in mind; this is the only Wrestlemania in its 30-plus year history that did not have a World Heavyweight Championship match. Instead, Hogan teamed with Mr. T against Piper and Orndorff in a tag team contest. The end finale saw Orndorff take the pinfall loss and leaving him abandoned by his team of Piper and Orton. The friction resulted in Orndorff turning babyface, forming an alliance with Hogan, and setting up a post-Mania feud with Piper.

The Wrestling Classic (The Blow-off) – Personally, this is my all-time favorite PPV event, but that’s a discussion for another time. There aren’t many wrestling fans from the last few generations of the last 25 years who know about this event. Long story short – it was WWE’s first ever PPV event, formatted like a King of The Ring tournament. The only featured match on the card was a championship match between Hogan and Piper, built around the fallout of WrestleMania.
Remember – WrestleMania did NOT feature a match for the heavyweight championship. This is the official title shot and rematch from The War To Settle The Score that DIDN’T happen at WrestleMania.. Obviously, Hogan and Piper continued their animosity towards each other after this event – which saw yet another run-in from Paul Orndorff, but this time, making the save for Hogan and launching Mr. Wonderful’s program with Piper – but this match brought closure to Hogan and Piper’s program allowing them to explore new challengers.


This rivalry has spanned decades and is still highly regarded as one of the most influential of all-time. The ingredients were perfect – a perfect babyface champion; a perfect heel; and a perfect build-up that was technically resolved within three high profile matches. But those weren’t the only ingredients to the magic, and for that you have to peel back more of the psychological layers.

As I mentioned before, Piper was a master at psychological warfare, especially when he antagonized Hogan by attacking his friends. Weakening the alliances of your enemies is in the first chapter of War 101. Hot Rod was an evil master of puppets when it came to tugging on emotional strings. Theoretically, how could the champion focus when his mind and vision has been blurred by rage?

The genius of this rivalry is …Hogan NEVER pinned Piper! While there was never a title change throughout this feud, the champion NEVER successfully retained his title via pinfall. If there wasn’t a run-in by either Orndorff or Orton, then Piper found a way to get counted out or disqualified – but, his shoulders were NEVER on the mat for the three count! He may have taken the big boot to the face and the leg drop, but never the 1-2-3 pinfall. Even in tag team matches, it was always Piper’s partner who took the loss for the team. The fans who were invested in this bitter war never had the satisfaction of seeing the villain properly defeated once and for all. Rowdy Roddy Piper maintained his heat because he was ALWAYS “the one that got way”.


While WWE did not have the abundance of television time to build this feud week after week, the truth is, they didn’t need it, and for that, the feud was much more effective. Today’s generation does not understand the concept of “less is more”. With the dominance of social media, EVERYONE now has a severe case of A.D.D. Within 5 minutes, your tweet or post is already old news. This generation is living way too fast in the moment to actually appreciate the artistry of pro wrestling. The overexposure and over-saturation of talent and storylines has completely spoiled the ability for fans to be passionate about the business. 10,15,20 years from now… this generation of fans won’t remember any significant storylines or matches from this era. They won’t have anything to look back on and remember how, when and why they fell in love with the wrestling business. To them, this is just another piece of entertainment being scrolled thru their media feed.

Hogan v Piper didn’t have countless hours of weekly television segments to justify their heat. They didn’t need it. They didn’t have to be face-to-face or competing in a variety of matches week after week. They never needed to touch each other or end a show in a cliffhanger by laying the other out before the credits rolled just to get people to watch and order the PPV. The magic was that keeping them apart actually made their coming together that much more valuable. The strength of a feud, the value of a champion, and the success of a company wasn’t contingent on ratings, but on the money the attraction drew.