Thursday, September 25, 2008

$uper $lam, by Randy Shemanski - 25th September 2008

Wrestling stars join with local athlete to raise money at North Pocono High School

Rowdy Roddy Piper enjoyed almost unparalleled success as a professional wrestler from the early 1980s through the late 1990s. With his trademark kilt and bagpipes, Piper was one of the most despised, yet most recognizable, wrestlers during the sport's heyday.

Now, at age 54, Piper has slowed down, only doing a few appearances now and then, mainly to help raise money in small communities or for families in need. "I'm just a big marshmallow," he says of his willingness to help those in need.

Piper will join Jerry "The King" Lawler, Hacksaw Jim Duggan and female pro wrestling stars Cherry and Velvet Sky for Moscow Mania, a fundraiser for the North Pocono Athletic Boosters, on Saturday, Sept. 27 at 7:30 p.m. at North Pocono High School.

Former North Pocono football standout A.J. Sabatelle will also step into the ring for one of the eight scheduled bouts. There will also be a Meet & Greet for fans from 5 to 7:30 p.m. to give fans an opportunity to get autographs and pictures with the wrestlers.

While Moscow Mania won't feature all of the glitz and glamour one might see during a *Monday Night RAW* telecast, it will provide a trip down memory lane for wrestling fans in their mid-20s or older, as well as a chance for fans to see local boy Sabatelle in action.

Some fans in the 570 might remember when Hacksaw Jim Duggan fought Andre The Giant at the Scranton CYC (now the Lackawanna Student Union) in the late 1980s as the feature bout on a pro wrestling card. The match was a draw as both wrestlers were counted out after the match spilled out of the ring. But the most memorable moment of the fight for this fan, who was barely old enough to notice girls at the time, was a point early in the match when The Giant screamed at the referee (f-bombs included) after Duggan apparently bit his ear. And you thought Mike Tyson was the only pugilist with an affinity for ear cartilage.

Anyway, back to Moscow Mania.

For Piper, the fundraiser, which is being presented by Northeast Wrestling, represents a chance to step back into the ring and perform, something he rarely does these days.

"I don't know when my last appearance is going to be," Piper told ec by phone from his home just outside Portland, Ore. "I keep saying this is the last one. I lie to my kilt and my boots. Just one more time. They scream at me as I pull them out of my bag. 'You liar.' "

Piper was one of the sport's most recognizable stars when he played foil to arguably the most popular pro wrestler of all time, Hulk Hogan. Despite performing in front of hundreds of thousands and becoming a popular figure worldwide, Piper said he does not miss wrestling.

"Whether I fight in Madison Square Garden again, it would not hurt me," he said. "I wouldn't think about it because I had the honor and privilege of being there so many times that a bit of that thrill is gone. ... I'm old school, I'm an improv guy, I don't know what I'm going to say most of the time. I definitely never knew what I was going to do when I was going to fight, and that doesn't seem to mesh (now). So, I don't enjoy that as much anymore."

But, when a smaller event like Moscow Mania comes up, Piper is often willing to lend a hand.

"(I don't mind helping with) something when just every once in a while you can come in and say hi and it's more a family event," he said. "If it wasn't for these people, I wouldn't have a family."

For Sabatelle, the event is a chance to perform in front of family and friends, while helping to raise money to support athletes who are busting their butts on the same playing fields he competed on before graduating from North Pocono in 2002.

"I'm excited that these stars are going to be here and I get to wrestle in the same place as them in front of my friends ... in the same place I had gym class," he said.

Sabatelle, who lives in Madisonville, decided to get into professional wrestling after his football career ended following college. He went to wrestling school in Whitehall, where he was trained by pro wrestling Hall of Famer Afa, "The Wild Somoan."

Now, he's hoping Saturday's event gives him a chance to open some eyes, as he's still looking for the break that could boost his career into big time pro wrestling.

"It's going to be crazy. It's just really cool that I get to be in the same place as these guys, the same show," Sabatelle said. "It's real exciting for somebody that's trying to get into the business. You hope something might catch somebody's eye that might say something to somebody else. I'd love to go farther with this. That's the whole reason for me (wrestling)."

After spending time passing fliers around the community and trying to get the word out about the fundraiser, Sabatelle's ready for his bout against Brian Anthony. With the local boy and the pro wrestling stars on the schedule, he's hoping it's a successful event.

"I think it's going to be a great show," he said.

Moscow Mania will take place Saturday, Sept. 27 at 7:30 p.m. at North Pocono High School at 701 Church St. in Moscow. Tickets are $15-30 and can be purchased at locations throughout the community or at the door. High school and college students can show their school ID at the door and receive a general admission ticket for only $10. For more info, visit

Where to buy tickets
North Pocono High School, Moscow
Bill's Shop Rite, Daleville
Browns A Plus, Dunmore
Battaglia's Sporting Goods, Scranton
Sabatelle's Food Market, Pittston
Tobacco Road Shop, Hamlin

(Credit: Electric City)

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Rowdy Roddy Piper