Learning the Ropes

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Pitching an idea to “Rowdy” Roddy. He hasn’t hit me with a coconut yet, so he must like it.

After 13 years in the news biz, I have finally branched out into a new television venture. Don’t ask me how this happened, but I am now working on a professional wrestling show alongside a roster of tough guys, a masked legend of the Northwest ring wars and a Hall of Famer who has gone toe-to-toe with Muhammad Ali, Mr. T and Cyndi Lauper. Cue up the bagpipes-  Portland Wrestling is back!

Tonight is the debut of Portland Wrestling Uncut on KPTV. It’s a return more than two decades in the making. From 1953 until 1991, Promoter Don Owen produced a wrestling show that featured a who’s who of the squared circle. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Jesse “The Body” (and future Governor) Ventura, Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig and Billy Jack Haynes are just some of the stars who gained their initial fame here in Portland. And the wrestler perhaps most associated with the Rose City has been instrumental in bringing wrestling back to KPTV.
His name? “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
Look, if you don’t know who Roddy Piper is, just wikipedia his name because I don’t have time to list all of his accomplishments. I’ll just say that he’s one of the most famous and successful wrestlers of all time, and he also achieved fame outside the ring in movies like “They Live”. He also calls Portland home (well, Hillsboro to be exact).
As I’ve written before, I grew up as a big wrestling fan. I watched Roddy when he was in the WWF, and I was also an avid watcher of Portland Wrestling (which was renamed “Big Time Wrestling” when it aired in Seattle on UHF station KTZZ in the 1980s). So, when I heard recently that promoter Pete Schweitzer had reached an agreement for a new wrestling show on our station, I knew I had to be a part of it. I asked my bosses at KPTV if (in addition to my “real job” on Good Day Oregon) I could help out with this new show. So, fast forward a few weeks, and I’ve now helped produce the first four episodes of Portland Wrestling Uncut, while also appearing on camera as the backstage interview guy (think “Mean” Gene Okerlund with a little more hair and a lot less talent). In the process, I’ve had the opportunity to work with two men that were a big part of my childhood wrestling obsession.
First, there’s the Hot Rod. I had interviewed Roddy a few years back, and was very impressed at the time. When you meet him, he comes off as a very nice, generous and respectful man. Now that I have worked closely with him for a couple weeks I can tell you that those adjectives don’t do him justice. It’s actually rather amazing how grounded this guy is. He has sold out arenas all over the world, but he is genuinely interested in the opinions of myself and my co-workers at KPTV. The first time I pitched an idea to Roddy, I was a little nervous. I mean, who am I to tell “Rowdy” Roddy Piper what to put in his wrestling show? Imagine my surprise when he not only listened to my idea, but actually insisted that we incorporate it into the show. Now that I’ve gotten to know Roddy a bit, it’s clear to me that his success is the result of combining talent and hard work with an ability to bring out the best in others. He’s a Hall of Famer in every way.

On the Go with The Grappler.

The second veteran grappler that I get to work is, well, The Grappler. While he didn’t headline Wrestlemanias, ala “Rowdy” Roddy, The masked Grappler was a dominant force in the Northwest for years. In the mid to late 80s, he was one of the biggest stars of the old Portland Wrestling show. I can remember as a 10-year-old kid despising The Grappler (infamous for knocking out wrestlers with his “loaded boot”). Of course, just like Roddy, the Grappler is in reality, a great guy. All of our TV production people love him. In another life, I think Grappler could have been one heck of a news producer. But instead, he’s “the rock” of Portland Wrestling Uncut: guiding the young wrestlers who make up the roster.
And really, that’s what the show is about. It’s a showcase for up-and-coming athletes who may one day be the next Roddy Piper. It’s a new adventure for all of us, and I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a bit of a learning curve on all sides. Our TV production people (and myself) have news backgrounds, and really had no idea on how to put a wrestling show together. And Roddy is used to working on wrestling shows in sold out arenas- not in suburban TV studios. But man, has it been a fun and exciting process. I think most of the people on our “TV” side of things have a new respect for professional wrestlers and the sacrifices they make for their fans. If the show can capture just some of that energy and emotion, “Uncut” will be unreal.

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