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Ask The Observer: Paul Heyman scripted promos, Roddy Piper racial promos

By David Parker, Wrestling Observer

Here is the latest edition of the Wrestling Observer Radio mailbag where we post some of the questions asked during weekly Observer audio shows. Want to know if something's been asked? These will be a good place to start. If you want to hear more questions and insight from Observer audio several times a week, subscribe now!

Questions are asked by Bryan Alvarez or Mike Sempervive and are in bold, and primarily answered by Dave Meltzer unless otherwise noted.

To what extent does Paul Heyman have his promos scripted for him?

DM: They're all scripted, but he has the right to...he works with the scriptwriters on his promo number one, so he has input on them, and number two, he doesn't follow the script word-for-word at times. He'll come up with things, and it's fine because they know he's got the instinct. Him, Jericho, John Cena, Triple H obviously, those kind of guys. They veer from the script. You obviously can tell with Cena because of all of the ad-lib stuff he does.

When Roddy Piper first came to WWF (in) 1984, much of his act as a heel was probably considered racially insensitive by modern audiences (DM: Absolutely, and gay-bashing (and) racial bashing). Looking back on that on that era, the heel side in general was characterized by using race to get heat like Don Muraco, Mr. Fuji, Iron Sheik, David Schultz, among others. Why was this done, and did WWF ever get a backlash from the public?

DM: I can't say they ever got a significant backlash for anything like that. It was a different time. They were very much under the radar. Jesse (Ventura) got minor (backlash) for calling Koko Ware "buckwheat" when he ran for governor, but he still won the election. A lot of that wouldn't fly today.

MS: (Inaudible) and it came from the territorial days about getting heat, and it's why there are a lot of people that look at wrestling as the lowest common denominator thing because there would be heels going to the lowest common denominator to get the heat, and you can go back and hear things come out of Stan Frazier's mouth in Memphis and even watched just Memphis throughout the 80s at a time where other people were turning away from it. It was just a different place down there, and it was still acceptable to hit people with certain things verbally, and they did it, but if you think about like Eddie Murphy was the biggest comedian of that time...you know, I guess it's the other F word that you can't say anymore when it comes to gay people. I think he had two tracks on both Raw and Delirious. He had "(F******) Revisted" when it was just a different time, and I'm not saying that it was accepted at all mainstream or anything like that, but it was a lot looser back then in all aspects of everything, and it's good that times...

DM: It depended on who you were. If you were a politician, you (would) be dead.

MS: Oh, absolutely. That's still the way...

DM: Look at Jimmy the Greek.

MS: Yes. "Blacks are bred to be the better athlete."

DM: And he didn't even use negative words. He just said that blacks were bred to be the better athlete, and he was dust, and we never saw him again.

MS: No, and did you see the 30 for 30 (ESPN) did on him?

DM: No, I did not.

MS: It's fantastic. It actually is really, really good, but boy, it tells that story, and he was abandoned (quickly), and there was nothing left of him, and he died penniless in Vegas, and it was a sad situation, and you're absolutely right, that was the case. Wrestling, too, was as big as it was; again, I know this is no excuse, but times were just different.

DM: You know, what's funny was you didn't need it because...

MS: And Heenan was still doing it in the 90s, too. Not to jump in there too, but it was like when Chavo was fighting Eddie, and it's just like (inaudible) and their mama's so upset that beans are burning and someone's stealing the tires off the house.

DM: Yeah, well you could say (that about) the whole lie, cheat, steal thing and Cryme Tyme too, and that was was a lot later than that even, but...

MS: Well, Hunter at WrestleMania (19).

DM: Booker and Hunter, yeah. The thing that was weird was that I grew up here, and...it's weird because in Los Angeles, John Tolos was very strong on race-baiting, but it wasn't like verbiage that would get anyone in trouble. His race-baiting would be he would come out, eat tacos, and spit them all over the ring saying, "This food is horrible!" like that. I don't remember swimming across the border stuff or anything like that. I mean, they probably did it. Up here, we never did anything. I just remember that when Ed Wiscoski made a remark about George Wells, who was a black wrestler who was actually from Oakland. He was a Canadian football star and a very good athlete, but anyway, and he made a remark about "He reminds me of a porter at the airport," and that was the closest thing to a racial thing, and I just thought it was in the worst taste possible, because we went ten years before that without anything close to that happening here. I can't remember anyone...

MS: If that's the case, he had to (have blown) your mind then when he came out as Col. DeBeers in the NWA. That was to me, even though there was a lot of race on commentary with Ventura and stuff like that, and they were using the localized promos, that for some reason was so stark compared to...

DM: Yeah, but that was a groundbreaking thing that was also a big failure, because I remember AWA attendance just dropping like crazy when he would do that stuff. And he got tremendous heat in the buildings, but it was like that...you know what's funny is the term "X-Pac heat," and then people (say), "Oh, there's no such thing as X-Pac heat," and it's like there is X-Pac heat, but I'm not sure X-Pac ever got it (laughs). I would watch him, and I never sensed...

MS: People wanted him to F off, not really go away.

DM: I never saw a situation where I watched Sean Waltman as a heel where it was "turn the channel off." Now, was it necessarily always money-drawing heat? Maybe not, but was it negative? I never felt it was. People would say it, (but) I never felt it was. But Ed Wiskoski as Col. DeBeers, New Jack in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, without a doubt. There's not even an argument that exists, and those are the prime examples that those were characters who got tremendous heat, but they kept people from going to the matches. I mean, absolutely.

MS: If you want to go talk about a different age too, even though a lot of the times it would be on at midnight, (ESPN would replay) Legends of World Class and AWA during the day at four o'clock. Col. DeBeers-forget about like I think it was Fargo who had the swastika tattoo, and again, just something that was an oversight-but Col. DeBeers on ESPN doing that schtick, busting Snuka open, can you imagine that on ESPN now?

DM: Oh, never. Yeah, it was just a different time.

Do you think Diesel's WWF Title reign would've been more profitable if his win wasn't at a house show?

DM: No. Absolutely makes no difference whatsoever. It was going to be exactly the same either way.

Dave has mentioned (that) WWE freaked out over Cena's merchandise sales going down post-Kevin Owens loss, which is why they rushed to get his win back so quickly. I don't understand; if Cena's merchandise went down, didn't Owens' merchandise go way up to compensate?

DM: Owens sells a lot of t-shirts. The merchandise business for the quarter wasn't bad, but the attendance figures are bad, so you can take it either way. Bad may be too strong, but they're down ten percent, which is a legitimate drop.