You’ve been roped into the Klondike Challenge, along with celebrities like Joel McHale. How did that come about?
I’ve been eating Klondike bars my whole life. “Do I get free Klondike bars? Yes.” It was that simple. Then I found out how hard it was going to be… I didn’t know they were getting ideas from the fans. One guy, Erik, he wanted to wrestle Rowdy Roddy Piper. You’re on there, bud. I’ll do that for a Klondike bar in a second. That was really the guy [in the video]: I made sure I took the door out, the bookcase, and a couple other things - Erik has much more respect for professional wrestling now.
Do you get a lifetime supply of Klondike bars now?
I don’t know if Joel McHale was kidding, but he said we get a lifetime supply of Klondike bars. I’m holding him to it.
You’re one of the most popular wrestlers of all time – do you think it’s weird that you’ve never held the WWE Championship belt?
No, I’ve never held the WWE championship. They’ll call me “The greatest wrestler who never won the WWE championship.” When I did the movie They Live, Vince McMahon didn’t want me to do that movie, and I went and did it. That’s what started the dissension. The final point of the matter is, it’s probably by accident the greatest compliment a guy in my business could get. It’s just unbelievable, and I don’t think they quite realized it until recently, because to acquire what I have done and not need any help is like, wow. The greatest heel in history who never won the title! So it backfired on him. We’ve had tiffs back and forth – [not giving Roddy the championship] was a black shot at Rod. But it’s made me more popular than I ever could be, so I thank them for it.
So while Undertaker has his undefeated-at-Wrestlemania streak, you have your much more definitive never-ever-getting-the-championship streak?
Jim Ross, he said, “He don’t need no stinking badge.” It really is the greatest compliment I could get, it just came from a negative place. Just shows you how you can turn a negative into a positive.
Piper’s Pit was legendary for being unscripted. How much did you really plan in advance?
Nothing! I would get there at 11AM, and then they would let the people in. It would be just a huge conundrum, all of a sudden you have a bit to do. Well, who’s in it? Rocky Johnson? Okay, lets go. That’s exactly how it was every night. That’s probably why it became so strong, because guys didn’t want to come on it. The ones that did come on it after a while, they started to put together their own thing. I never knew where they were gonna come from.
Legend has it Jimmy Snuka was legitimately concussed after you hit him with that coconut. What was your relationship with him like backstage after that?
Oh man. Jimmy only says three words: “You know, brother.” “How ya doing, Jimmy?” “You know, brother.” I’ve got two minutes and fifty-four seconds with this guy! I asked someone to go get me a bunch of Fijian stuff and they came back with a bag full of bananas, pineapples, and coconuts. I’m not sure I had ever held a coconut before - when I hit him with the darn thing, his eyes rolled. They told me later in the dressing room, he just stared. “Hey Jimmy, Jimmy!” He wouldn’t talk to anybody, he just stared. Nobody had the sense to take him to the hospital. From that time on, in a couple of hotel rooms, at like 2 o’clock in the morning, he would be coming. Jimmy was so great: When Hulk Hogan was coming along, they couldn’t get Hulk Hogan more popular than Jimmy Snuka, so they started to kill Snuka off and they gave him to me. He was going through some difficult times, being manipulated. When he would be charging down the hallway at me at that time in the morning, it was no feather in my cap to beat up Jimmy Snuka. I would just kind of sidestep and hold him as he went down, and try not to hurt him. It really got ugly. At the time it was a bunch of gunslingers, fighting for position - it was an ugly piece of business. It wasn’t all fun and games, and as rough as it looked.
You mentioned They Live earlier, which has one of the greatest fight scenes of all time. How long did that take to film?
It took three days to film. Keith [David] is a very wonderful, strong man, but his camera punches - they only have to cross the line, you don’t actually have to hit the other person. But when he would pull his hand back, his thumb would catch me in the eye or the throat. Finally, I said, “Look, from the neck down, just hit me, it’ll be easier.”
That movie also featured what Maxim declared the greatest movie quip of all time…
Wow. It’s like one of the top three lines in the history of movies for some reason. It was improvised: I don’t remember how it came into my head. John Carpenter said to me, “Rod, you got sunglasses on, bullets around you, you have a shotgun, you need to say something.” “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I’m all out of bubble gum.” “Lunch!” I was walking back to my trailer, thinking to myself, “I have come here, and I’m all out of bubblegum. What the hell does that mean?” I said that to myself, and here we are. I don’t really know where it came from. I guess I needed to stay away from bullets and sunglasses, so we went with bubble gum.
Photos by John Shearer / Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013