- Rewriting Wrestling History: Roddy Piper Was a World Champion
In Piper's epic feud with Hulk Hogan, he never won either the WWF or WCW World Heavyweight Championships. In the WWF, Piper was the heel and in WCW, he was the babyface. Piper's fans point to this as an injustice and they claim that Piper's role as Hogan's nemesis was necessary in helping Hogan get over. Ironically, Piper's inability to win either the WWF or WCW Championships has actually helped his legend grow among older wrestling fans.
However, it would be inaccurate to say that Roddy Piper has never been a World Champion. In fact, he won a World Championship for a wrestling organization that was much more powerful than the WWF at the time and has been in existence much longer than WCW was. In April of 1977, Roddy Piper was the NWA World Light Heavyweight Champion for two days.
NWA World Light Heavyweight Championship
The National Wrestling Alliance has been officially in business since 1948. However, the NWA experienced its greatest success prior to 1993 when WCW left the organization. The NWA's business model is far different from modern wrestling promotions such as ECW, WWE, and TNA. The NWA is not a wrestling promotion. Instead, the NWA is a conglomeration of smaller promotions that each pledge allegiance to the NWA World Champions.
The NWA also has a confusing slate of champions from all over the country. In the pre-Internet era, local fans of these smaller NWA promotions believed that their local champions had much greater status than they really had. However, the NWA World Light Heavyweight Championship that Roddy Piper won was the NWA's legitimate World Championship of that weight class, although it was primarily defended in Los Angles, CMLL, and EMLL in Mexico.
Another urban legend is that Roddy Piper got his first big break in wrestling in Portland under legendary promoter Don Owen. Although Piper is a legend in the Portland area, he first became a star in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s. At that time, he had an incredible feud with Chavo Guerrero, Sr. that lasted for several years. Although much of this feud is lost to history, it received mention in Roddy Piper's latest WWE DVD and in his autobiography.
Before political correctness ruled America, Piper utilized an incredible amount of racial overtones in his promos to get over as a heel in wrestling. You can still see this in his early Piper's Pits and they were not lacking in his feud with Chavo Guerrero. In fact, Roddy Piper wore a "White Is Right" shirt in Los Angeles, did an interview with a donkey to mock Guerrero, and he started a riot by playing "La Cucaracha" on the bagpipes as the Mexican National Anthem.
In early 1977, Chavo Guerrero was the NWA World Light Heavyweight Champion. On April 13, he defended his title against Roddy Piper in Los Angeles. Piper defeated Guerrero for his first and only World Championship. Two days later, Guerrero wrestled Piper in a rematch and won back his title. Shortly thereafter, Guerrero lost the title and it returned to Mexico. Today, the NWA World Light Heavyweight Championship is still defended in Mexico, though it is now known as the NWA World Historic Light Heavyweight Championship.
Piper's world title reign is never mentioned on his DVD and it only appears as an aside in parentheses in his book. But the fact that Roddy Piper was an NWA World Champion at the age of 22 should be recognized by wrestling fans and historians.