Not long before heading to the WWF, Roddy Piper and Greg Valentine had an epic feud spanning over four years. They were young and had something to prove- not only to the fans but to the legends and important people in the back. Greg and Roddy were to have a match that was “so brutal that people would keep coming back to see it” — the Dog Collar Match. Little did they know they would have to perform one of the most violent matches in the history of the sport around forty times at each town in the territory. Permanent damage was inflicted and they beat the hell out of each other day in and day out. Along the way, history was made. This is an oral history of one of the most memorable feuds in wrestling, in their own words.
Roddy Piper and Greg Valentine discuss their historic feud.
“The guys who broke Greg and myself in were the guys that were at the end of the Gorgeous George era. They were absolutely brutal.
They were so cruel to me for the first four years of my career. But I understand it because they felt like they got cheated out of their main events because the business got exposed back then. They were 35, 37 years old, well into the business, with nowhere else to go. They had broken into the territories. And here comes a young kid with bagpipes…”
“1983 – the ‘Year Of The Ear.’ (laughs) Piper was a Golden Gloves boxer. The guy really knew how to fight so he could play up that part of it really well.
[Early in the feud] he took a blade and just cut his ear right in half. Blood was everywhere, and I’m hitting him with the belt. It just looked horrible…looked hideous.
It finally came to a head in Greensboro at the very first Starrcade, in November of ’83…”
“Starrcade at that time was the ending of the ‘Civil War’ between the North and the South. Bruno Sammartino and Larry Zbyszko had gone into Shea Stadium and drawn $500,000. Starrcade was Jimmy Crockett’s answer to that.
It dawned on us that all the important people in our business were looking at us. It was a pride issue. We had a responsibility to make them proud and make history if we could.
They wanted Greg and me to have a match that was so brutal that people would keep coming back to see it. That sounded good… in principle. And one time? Sure. But to do it every night? Never crossed this dumb wrestler’s head…”
“A Dog Collar match. And oh my God… that was brutal. [Starrcade ’83] was fabulous. It was really the first of its kind…kind of like a pay-per-view then…”
“I went and got a 12-foot logging chain and leather collars with spikes. It really hadn’t hit me what I had got myself into until that moment for some reason…
At that point, I took the dog collars back and got sheep’s wool, thinking that it would be a little easier on the neck…
Only a man would put sheep’s wool in a dog collar.
After using that dog collar a couple of times, we both developed terrible rashes around our necks…”
“We were really keen to do this match and we really knocked the crap out of each other.
But little did we know, that we were going to have to go all around the territory after that and do the same match!” (laughs)
Greg Valentine and Roddy Piper in one of their infamous dog collar matches.
“A Dog Collar match. And oh my God… that was brutal.”
“Greg and I did this match about 40 times. He had me by the hair and he had his fist wrapped inside the chain and he was wailing on my ear. He was mad at me, not because I was beating him with a chain but because by the 29th match, we both had a rash around our necks from the sheep’s wool that looked like herpes.
I was putting baby powder on my neck and Greg started wearing a turtleneck…
That chain was so heavy.
It got taut and very tight from the beginning. There was a moment when I’m looking Greg in the eye and he’s looking me in the eye, and we’re wondering what we’re going to do next.
We knew that once we got to each other, we would be finished. We knew we had to go backward.
That’s years of psychology being beat into us.
Most guys would have come charging at each other. But because of our education, we backed up and looked at each other. Then Greg got that look in his eye…
When he’s working he hits hard. He’s stiff as a son of a gun. But there was that moment where the pro in us kicked in.
After we went backward and that chain got tight, I didn’t lay off him much at all when I was hitting him, nor did he lay off of me, because it was all about working for the Carolinas. New York had done this. It was a pride issue, and we had been given the gauntlet. It was our job to perform. We knew we had to get it done. And that was the attitude right from the bell.
There’s a famous picture of Greg with the chain around me, and I’m down on the mat. My ear’s bleeding badly, and he’s screaming at me while he’s wailing away. But I can’t hear him because I’ve got a blood clot in my ear. He’s ticked off for some reason and I don’t want him to be any more ticked at me than he already is…”(laughs)
“I think towards the end of that stretch – we wrestled each other about four years, beat the hell out of each other – we were glad when it was over and we went to New York…”
“The rest of the matches were pretty close [in brutality]. I’d wake up in the morning, and the pillow would be stuck to my ear. It would drain every night. You weren’t allowed to go to doctors back then. I would be pouring hydrogen peroxide in it, and it hurt so bad. But you weren’t allowed to complain…”
“I start thinking about all the trips I made years ago for Jim Crockett. I think, ‘How did I do it?’ And they’re some things from those trips, added on to that, that I really can’t mention! A lot of really crazy things! (laughs)
Down the highways of Virginia and the Carolinas… you know, 300-mile trips to Richmond. Wrestle in a cage, and bleed all over the place. Get back there and tape your head up, and drive all the way back to Charlotte with Piper and some of the other guys.
I used to wrestle Piper, and then we rode together. We got along better in the ring if we rode together because then we could talk.
We had to hide when we stopped to get beer or whatever. (laughs)
But my goodness, we’d get in at five in the morning and then be back to Charleston, South Carolina by three in the afternoon. And the double-shots… sometimes we’d do doubles on Saturdays, and then come back and do doubles on Sundays. BUT…the money! The money was great. And we were young bucks and we could handle it then…”
Quotes above contributed by Matt Pender and shared here with thanks to our friends over at ‘Wrestling’s Glory Days’ Facebook page.