“Rowdy” Roddy Piper, in an exclusive interview with WrestleNewz, said Bruno Sammartino’s upcoming induction into the WWE Hall of Fame is an overdue — and perhaps even insufficient — recognition of Sammartino’s talent and influence.
“I don’t think there’s a Hall of Fame good enough for him,” Piper said over the phone while driving through the Oregon mountain range where he lives.
Piper, a proud inductee himself, wasn’t trying to diminish the honor of being named to the WWE Hall of Fame. But he does wonder if Sammartino belongs in a category all his own, given the enormous contributions he made to professional wrestling.
“He outranks me,” said Piper. “He is what a professional wrestler should be. He’s a man’s man. We get along great, and always have.”
Although Piper and Sammartino have always liked and respected one another outside the ring, it was a different story entirely inside the ring.
Piper reminisced about how, in the fall of 1985, he invited Sammartino to be a guest on a live, in-ring edition of Piper’s Pit at Madison Square Garden, where Sammartino had long been revered as a God by the largely Italian-American audience.
“I called him a wop!” Piper recalled with a laugh. “I said that on my way to the arena my tire got flat and it went ‘wop wop wop wop.’ And he got angry.”
As this clip demonstrates, Piper was at his villainous best when confronting Sammartino that night:
The incident nearly started a riot, which is exactly the reaction Piper was going for: “I have no problem with riots,” he said. “I incite them — it’s what I do.”
About 27 years after the near-riot at Madison Square Garden, Piper and Sammartino met again at WrestleReunion in Toronto, where Sammartino was feted with a Lifetime Achievement Award during an exclusive breakfast ceremony.
The men embraced for a long time, and then Piper introduced Sammartino to his son, Colt Toombs (himself a professional wrestler in-the-making).
“The first thing Bruno said to my son was ‘Your dad called me a wop’! Then he broke out laughing.”
Piper says Sammartino deserves every honor he receives for his contributions to professional wrestling, and for his qualities as a human being.
“He’s a complete natural and an incredible human being,” said Piper.
“I can’t give him enough accolades.”
Stay tuned to WrestleNewz for the entire Roddy Piper interview, with questions provided by you, the WrestleNewz readers!