This story comes to us in an age where there was no internet, no social media sites, no TMZ or any other super fast means to get news. There were no television taping spoilers to ruin the illusion of a seemingly live event. The year was 1985, the then World Wrestling Federation was just starting to get its feet wet as a national promotion. Everything wasn’t out there for fans to become smart to they way pro wrestling was run.
Back then, wrestling was shrouded in mystery by something called kayfabe. A long standing practice of taking the staged art of wrestling and convince fans everything you see is 100% real. What would occur next would become a great folklore for years to come…
Like many of the pro wrestlers of that age, a man named ‘Quick Draw’ Rick McGraw was a journeyman wrestler. He traveled from territory to territory winning some regional titles along the way. By the time he arrived in the WWF in 1985, McGraw was used as a jobber or enhancement talent to make bigger named stars look good during their matches. McGraw’s big break with the WWF came when he appeared on ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper’s infamous talk show called Piper’s Pit.
When Piper attempted to interview this young, relatively unknown wrestler, it was McGraw who got the best of the silver tongued Roddy Piper. McGraw questioned why Piper needed a bodyguard in ‘Cowboy’ Bob Orton. He made fun of Piper when he stumbled on his words a bit. He made fun of Piper’s kilt by calling it a dress. While Piper was increasingly getting agitated in the interview, McGraw stood up and slapped Piper across the face before taking off running.
The incident set up a wrestling match between Rick McGraw and Roddy Piper the following week. Rick McGraw came out to the ring wearing a “Hot Rod” t-shirt to further agitate the Rowdy Scotsman. McGraw would take off the shirt and throw it at Piper’s face with Piper responding by spitting on McGraw. Roddy then started playing mind game by climbing on the ring apron, only to jump off it every time McGraw charged him.
When the match finally got underway, it was clear that Piper was the more dominant wrestler. He simply pummeled Rick McGraw from pillar to post with punches, kicks and a couple of spike DDT’s. The referee was forced to the match and call for the bell once he saw that McGraw couldn’t continue. Roddy Piper was victorious, but still kept taunting the youngster and kicking him when he was down. A couple of referees had to get into the ring to keep Piper a safe distance away while they attended to the fallen Quick Draw.
The taped match aired on television on November 2nd, 1985, little did fans know at the time that Rick McGraw had died the night before on November 1st, 1985. So when word finally got out that Quick Draw had died, many fans (Who were still living in the kayfabe era) believed that somehow McGraw died from his in-ring injuries at the hands of Roddy Piper. Angry letters and phone calls started going to the WWF’s headquarters. Fans were outraged that such a villainous man like Piper was still walking the streets a free man. After all, he killed Quick Draw Rick Mcgraw, hadn’t he?
As stated, McGraw died on November 1st, while the match aired a day later. In reality, however, the match was taped on October 22nd of that year. This wasn’t even McGraw’s last match as after the Piper match, he wrestled against a couple of other wrestlers in matches not taped or aired. It is believed that McGraw’s real final match was against ‘Iron’ Mike Sharpe that took place on October 28th.
In 1985, news traveled slowly, very slowly. The truth was that Rick McGraw was found dead in his apartment. He actually died of a heart attack due to an enlarged heart caused by years of drugs, alcohol and steroid abuse. Bret Hart even wrote about McGraw in his book, stating that McGraw would take the drug Placidyl like they were candy. McGraw was only 30 years old at the time of his death. He left behind a wife who was also pregnant.
Fans didn’t get word of the cause of his death and still believed that he died due to the injuries he sustained while in his match against Piper. Vince McMahon and the WWF decided to hold a memorial card to benefit McGraw’s wife and child. The event would take place in McGraw’s hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. It would consist of the WWF’s top stars and be headlined by Roddy Piper himself.
While on paper it seemed like a generous thing for McMahon to do for a fallen wrestler, Piper claimed that McMahon had other reasons why he held this event. According to Hot Rod in his book, Piper suspected the real reason why McMahon was so quick to hold a fundraising show in North Caroline was to invade Jim Crockett Jr’s territory without any repercussions. Which Vince McMahon was able to do in the form of a charity wrestling show.
Regardless if those accusations were 100% true, the real truth was Quick Draw Rick McGraw was not murdered by Roddy Piper. It took several years for most fans to realize that fact but went to show you the great lengths wrestlers and promoters went to protect their business.