WWE owner and chairman Vince McMahon has never had a problem with bringing in athletes from other sports to help boost pay-per-view buy rates, especially when it comes to WrestleMania, easily the biggest spectacle in professional wrestling.
Over the years, numerous big-name athletes have been featured at WrestleMania, sometimes as a special guest referee or enforcer, such as Muhammad Ali at the very first WrestleMania and Mike Tyson at WrestleMania 14.
On occasion, these guys even compete in actual matches. At WrestleMania 24, Floyd Mayweather was brought in to battle the seven-foot Big Show and walked away with a victory. At WrestleMania 11, legendary New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor was actually in the main event and performed much better than expected in his win over Bam Bam Bigelow.
Ahead of WrestleMania 12 in 1996, McMahon tried to make another splash by bringing in yet another NFL legend who the previous year had been the most talked-about man in the country, albeit for reasons that had nothing to do with his football career. Of course, we’re talking about O.J. Simpson, who in October 1995 had been acquitted of the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and 25-year-old Ron Goldman.
And just who did McMahon want O.J. Simpson to face at WrestleMania 12? None other than Rowdy Roddy Piper.
Rowdy Roddy Piper actually mentioned O.J. Simpson ahead of WrestleMania 12
In January 1996, following a brief hiatus, Rowdy Roddy Piper returned to WWE in the role of interim president. He hadn’t wrestled in nearly two years but came back to “fix” the company and actually mentioned O.J. Simpson during a promo in which he was discussing what was right and wrong in the United States.
Now, it’s not quite known whether or not Piper was specifically trying to set up a program with O.J. with that promo but what we do know is that, at some point, WWE was chatting with Simpson’s team about bringing in the Hall of Famer for a match at WrestleMania 12.
Rowdy Roddy Piper was all for a match with O.J. Simpson at WrestleMania 12
As longtime WWE producer Bruce Prichard explained on his highly-acclaimed Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard podcast, WWE was very interested in bringing O.J. Simpson in for WrestleMania 12 and the interest was apparently mutual for a time as Simpson’s team seemed to be high on anything involving a paycheck. Prichard says that Rowdy Roddy Piper was also into the idea.
“The original plan was for O.J. Simpson to have a match at WrestleMania against the Hot Rod. I remember calling Roddy and pitching Roddy the idea, which he was for. We had had preliminary talks with O.J. Simpson’s people, who at that point, were looking for anything that had a paycheck attached to it. We floated the idea out there, we did talk to O.J.’s people, I talked to Piper about it, Piper was on board.”Bruce Prichard on Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. O.J. Simpson at WrestleMania 12
Prichard went on to say that Piper would have gone over in the match with O.J. Simpson, which would have just been a one-off, but it never came to be as the backlash was severe once word leaked that this idea was being floated around. It was initially thought that some people might get some enjoyment out of seeing Simpson get beat down but the idea was obviously scrapped.
However, O.J. Simpson technically still did make an appearance during WrestleMania 12.
Footage of the famous White Bronco chase was used during Hot Rod’s ‘Mania match with Goldust
With the O.J. Simpson match gone, Rowdy Roddy Piper entered into a program with Goldust, which led to their “Hollywood Backlot Brawl” at WrestleMania 12 at what was then known as the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California.
While some of the Piper vs. Goldust match took place in front of the live audience, certain portions were taped ahead of time, including a moment in which Goldust jumped into a gold Cadillac, hit Piper with it, and sped off.
Piper was able to recover and jumped into a white Ford Bronco, the same vehicle driven by Al Cowlings in the famous O.J. Simpson low-speed chase in 1994, to give chase. But instead of showing the actual cars involved during the broadcast, WWE instead aired footage of the chase involving Simpson. Rowdy Roddy Piper went on to win the match.