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Remembering Rowdy Roddy

Yep, I’ve fallen waaay down into another of those darned Innarnuts rabbit-holes, this trip sparked by a conversation with my brother about John Carpenter’s unforgettable allegorical film They Live and its superstar protagonist, the late great Rowdy Roddy Piper. From the Piper website’s “official” bio:

As best as we can tell, Roderick George Toombs was born. Rumor has it that it happened in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada-allegedly in a war time house on Victoria Avenue. For those not acquainted with Saskatoon, it’s one of the coldest places on earth, reaching 100 below with windchill. That may explain why Roddy hit the ground running-he just wanted to keep warm! At 6 years old, he began studying the bagpipes, moving to different places but always playing with a pipe band. By the time he was 14, Roddy was considered an impresario of the bagpipes, and was invited to play at prestigious events such as the Rose Bowl, and at Lorne Greene’s house. Being a big fan of “Bonanza”, Roddy was crushed to find out that Greene had no cattle but had a poodle. By the time he was 15, Rod won the 167 lb Amateur wrestling championship, and was a star boxer at the Landsdown Boxing Club in Toronto; near the Landsdown subway station where at the time you would have found Roddy looking to stay warm at night.

At 15, Roddy had his first professional wrestling match. He had never seen a pro match, but his amateur coach was a pro referee when it came in to town. Another wrestler missed a plane and Roddy’s coach told him that “I can get you 25 dollars,” Roddy immediately took it. Roddy’s pipe band was so happy for him that they played Roddy into the arena. As Roddy was being piped into the arena, the announcer only knew his first name as “Roddy” and having to continue the announcement he announced “Ladies and Gentlemen, here comes Roddy the Piper!” 

Roddy jumped in the ring and in front of him stood 320 pounds of Nordic Viking: Larry “The Axe” Hennig, who beat Roddy in 10 seconds by busting his nose and eye open, setting one of many records of Roddy’s: shortest match in the history of the arena. With this match, Roddy Piper was born and began a full-time wrestling career at the age of 15- A permanent record, as it is illegal now.

Roddy’s mentors– or fathers as he called them, were some great fighters, such as the toughest man in the world– Judo Gene Labell, Mad Dog Vachon, Muhammad Ali, and even the great Lou Thez, just to name a few. Roddy was smuggled in the back of a truck with a ring in it into the United States of America and never stopped fighting.

When Roddy Piper was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005, by 16 time World Champion Ric Flair, Flair said “Roddy is the greatest entertainer in Wrestling History, bar none”. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper is the last of the real deal gunslingers of Pro Wrestling. Recently, the WWE named Rowdy Roddy Piper the greatest Villain in the history of Professional Wrestling.

According to Vince McMahon, you never know what the Hot Rod has under his kilt, nor what he is going to do next! Maybe Vince had a point, as in the height and prime of his wrestling career, Roddy Piper quit the WWE and did a movie with John Carpenter called THEY LIVE! which 26 years later is hotter than when it first premiered as the #1 film at the box office.

Like Vince McMahon said, you never know what the Hot Rod’s going to do next. In addition to appearing on “it’s always sunny in Philadelphia”, Rod hosts a podcast, a youtube channel, appears in feature films, one man shows, commercials, and now appears in his very own graphic novel! It takes a loyal Pit Crew to keep the Hot Rod running! Try to keep up!

Piper, unfortunately, passed away a few years back, leaving us at way too young an age.

On July 24, 2015, Piper appeared as a guest on The Rich Eisen Show. He had trouble collecting his thoughts and staying focused, often rambling and not answering Eisen’s questions.

Six days later on July 30, 2015, Piper died in his sleep at the age of 61 at his summer residence in Hollywood, California. His death certificate cites a cardiopulmonary arrest caused by hypertension, listing a pulmonary embolism as a contributing factor; TMZ reported this as a heart attack caused by the embolism. Piper’s long-time friend Bruce Prichard revealed on his podcast that he received a voicemail from Piper the night of his death. In the message, Piper indicated that he had not been feeling well and that he would be going to sleep it off. Hulk Hogan later revealed that Piper had left him a voice mail that he discovered following his death in which Piper said that he was “walking with Jesus”.

News of his death broke minutes before the Hall of Heroes dinner to cap off the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends FanFest in Charlotte, North Carolina, where about 600 current and former wrestling personalities and fans had gathered. He received a ten-bell salute after the planned salute to fellow former professional wrestler Dusty Rhodes, who had died the previous month. Another ten-bell salute was given at the beginning of the August 3, 2015, episode of Raw.

WWE CEO Vince McMahon said, “Roddy Piper was one of the most entertaining, controversial and bombastic performers ever in WWE, beloved by millions of fans around the world. I extend my deepest condolences to his family.” Film director John Carpenter said, “Devastated to hear the news of my friend Roddy Piper’s passing today. He was a great wrestler, a masterful entertainer and a good friend.”

In an HBO Real Sports interview conducted by Piper in 2003, he had predicted that he was “not going to make 65” because of his poor health, and that he made his 2003 return to WWE because he could not access his pension fund until reaching the age of 65.

Piper was cremated and his ashes laid to rest at Crescent Grove Cemetery in Tigard, Oregon.

A little over a year ago, I did a CF post on They Live featuring movie trivia and Piper quotes both from and about the film. I have to admit, I never had much use for either Vince McMahon or his WWF/WWE/whatever the fuck it might be called now, but for many years was a HUGE fan of Eric Bischoff’s WCW, even attending one of their early Slamboree! events at the old CLT Coliseum after the BPs’ manager Mike Evans pulled strings with some of his old Coliseum contacts to get us in and even backstage after the show*. That being so, most of my exposure to Piper was via the WCW professional rasslin’ organization during his brief stint there.

Piper joined World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in the fall of 1996. He made his surprise WCW debut as a fan favorite at the Halloween Havoc pay-per-view in October to insult the nWo leader and the World Heavyweight Champion Hollywood Hogan. On the November 18 episode of Nitro, Piper revealed that Eric Bischoff was a member of the nWo, which ended with the nWo members attacking him. on the December 9 episode of Nitro, Piper told Flair that he didn’t need the Four Horsemen’s help in beating Hogan and he was going to do it on his own. Piper defeated Hogan with his signature sleeper hold in the non-title main event of the company’s flagship pay-per-view Starrcade, which earned him a title shot against Hogan for the World Heavyweight Championship at SuperBrawl VII, where Piper was defeated. On the March 10, 1997, episode of Nitro, Piper and his family joined forces with Ric Flair and The Four Horsemen in their battle with the nWo. At Uncensored, Piper competed in a triangle elimination match where he captained a team of Horsemen Chris Benoit, Steve McMichael and Jeff Jarrett against the nWo and WCW’s team of Lex Luger, Steiner Brothers and The Giant. His team lost the match. On the March 31 episode of Nitro, Piper and Flair agreed to team up and stand side by side to fight. Piper moved on to feud with other members of nWo. At Slamboree, Piper, Flair and Kevin Greene defeated nWo members Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Syxx in a six-man tag team match. The following month, at The Great American Bash pay-per-view, Piper and Flair unsuccessfully challenged The Outsiders for the World Tag Team Championship. On the June 23 episode of Nitro, Flair and the Four Horsemen turned on Piper and attacked him. This led to a match between Piper and Flair at Bash at the Beach, which Piper won.

Piper took a hiatus from television before making his return to WCW on the September 8 episode of Nitro, where he was appointed the new on-air Commissioner of WCW, which reduced his in-ring work. He briefly resumed his feud with Hulk Hogan, beating him in a steel cage match at Halloween Havoc. on the March 23, 1998, episode of Nitro, Piper and Randy Savage battled to a no contest. On the March 30 episode of Nitro, Piper defeated Hogan by disqualification. At the 1998 Spring Stampede pay-per-view, Piper teamed with The Giant in a loss to Hogan and Nash in a Baseball Bat on a Pole match. At Slamboree, Piper served as the special guest referee in a match between Randy Savage and Bret Hart, which Hart won but the following night on Nitro, Piper changed his decision and declared Savage as the winner by disqualification. At The Great American Bash, Piper and Savage lost to Hogan and Hart in a tag team match by submission. After the match, Piper wrestled Savage in the next match, which Piper defeated Savage by submission. On the September 7 episode of Nitro, Piper and Diamond Dallas Page defeated Sting and Lex Luger by disqualification. Piper teamed with Diamond Dallas Page and The Warrior as Team WCW in a WarGames match at Fall Brawl for an opportunity at the WCW World Heavyweight Championship at the following month’s Halloween Havoc. Page won the match for his team. On the September 14 episode of Nitro, Piper confronted Bret Hart.

Ahh, those were the days. As big a fan of Roddy’s as I always was—and I assure you, I was—reading further into the Piper Wiki page I stumbled across something I hadn’t known before (in bold):

In his autobiography, Toombs (Rowdy Roddy’s nom de real life was Roderick George Toombs—M) claimed to be a cousin of Bret Hart, which would make him a relative of the Hart wrestling family. This fact was once used as a trivia question on Raw. Hart also revealed that Toombs was the only wrestler to visit him in the hospital after his stroke. Bruce Hart has stated that they were second cousins.

Boy, talk about your Rasslin’ Royal Families, eh? Rest ye well, Rowdy Roddy Piper; you are sorely missed, and will never be forgotten.

*Yes, Roddy appeared that night, teaming up with Ric Flair and Kevin Greene to crush three NWO stalwarts: Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Syxx


4 thoughts on “Remembering Rowdy Roddy

  1. You can count me in as being a fan of Rowdy Roddy too.
    I see there was no mention of the time period in the mid 70 to late 70’s that I can remember when Roddy Piper was a regular on Portland Wrestling every Saturday night.
    I used to watch that and Roller Derby afterwards every Saturday night with my Grandfather. down on the Southwest coast of Oregon.
    Roddy battled with some of the greats of that venue like Snooka, Dutch Savage, “Captain” Lou Albano, Lonny Maine and many others.
    Roddy is Buried in Tigard because he had a home and a business there after retiring from wrestling. I believe he had a transmission repair shop.
    Rowdy Roddy was always a bad guy in the ring but was actually a decent human being.
    It’s almost bizarre that he is more remembered by many from his role in They Live than from his many years of wrestling.
    He was also one of my childhood heroes and always a favorite.
    Rest In Peace, you are still missed.

  2. I had just arrived back in Atlanta off of a 3 month Southern Watch mission in Kuwait in 98. It had been almost 40 hours since I had a shower but I wanted a steak after my wife picked me up at the airport. Roddy Piper was in the restaurant and saw my desert uniform. He stopped by our booth and thanked me for my service on his way out. I was told my bill had been paid and a gracious tip was included when we had finished our meal. I am fairly sure it was him but I will never know.

  3. Roddy’s work in Mid-Atlantic (before his first WWF run) was epic. His matches against Flair and Greg Valentine are some of the best in the history of the biz.

    I believe that he left a message for Prichard on his last night. I do not believe Hogan’s claim. Hogan’s has told whoppers right, left, and center in recent years, trying to remain relevant.

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