A bubbly guy who made pro wrestling fans smile

A bubbly guy who made pro wrestling fans smile

In 2015, the world of sports and entertainment lost a legend who passed away far too young. “The Goofy” Roddy Piper died of a heart attack at just 61 years old. Born Roderick George Toombs in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1954, Piper was a professional wrestling superstar whose “Piper’s Pit” interviews were as legendary as his antics in and out of the ring. He was able to turn his career into many areas of entertainment, including acting. He appeared in a number of screen roles and voiced cartoons, but Roddy is probably best known for his role as John Nada in They Live, John Carpenter’s sci-fi classic that has become a cult classic over the years. Never one to stick with one persona for very long, Roddy started out as a villainous wrestler, but often transitioned into a hero or sort of good guy. He also performed as a comedian as recently as 2014 and has an impressive following as a podcast show host.

Roddy was of predominantly Scottish descent and was proud of it, as evidenced by the attire he wore to the ring. Although he became proficient at playing the bagpipes at a young age, Piper says he can’t remember how it happened. Roddy remembers how he got his wrestling name. At the beginning of his professional career, he entered the ring wearing a kilt and playing a bagpipe. When the announcer forgot the last name he was using, he simply introduced the wrestler as “Roddy the Whistleblower” and the name stuck. Piper’s life has always been full of controversy, starting when he was unceremoniously kicked out of junior high. He later left home as a young teenager after a series of arguments with his father. His father was a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and was always worried about the family’s reputation. A natural athlete who works out regularly, Piper manages to find work at countless gyms, which gives him money to live in hostels.

Roddy had a very competitive spirit and began his sports career as a wrestler, boxer and amateur judo competitor. He eventually won the prestigious Golden Gloves Championship and was awarded a judo black belt by American professional wrestler, judo expert and champion Gene LeBell. By the time Piper was just 15 years old, he was ready to turn pro and joined the USA Wrestling Association, where he earned a reputation as a “bad guy” wrestler. He moved to the more affluent National Wrestling Alliance in 1975. This organization was huge at the time and produced a number of superstars including Buddy Rogers, Killer Kowalski, Bobo Brazil, Gene Kiniski, Dory Funk, Dory Funk Jr., Harley Race, Jack Briscoe, Dusty Rhodes, The Great Malenko, Buddy Colt, Eddie Graham, Sting and Bobby Shane to name a few.

In the late 1970s until 1983, Piper traversed various territories of professional wrestling and faced top stars such as Ric Flair, Jack Briscoe, Chavo Guerrero and many others. He was often compared to Freddy Blassey and the two actually met at Madison Square Garden when Piper was given a match in the WWF by Vince McMahon. Blassy stuffed toilet paper into Roddy’s Bagpipes so he couldn’t play them in front of the crowd. In 1984, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper moved to McMahon’s Worldwide Wrestling Federal and immediately became a professional wrestling superstar thanks to all the television coverage the WWF garnered. One would think he was at the peak of his career, but this was just the beginning. Piper became so popular and skilled in his interviewing skills that he was given his own television segment called “Piper’s Pit”, which became a WWF fan favorite.

Piper was involved in all sorts of organized mayhem, featuring feuds involving WWF stars Captain Lou Albano, Hulk Hogan, Bruno Sammartino, Greg Valentine and even Cyndi Lauper. Lauper was allegedly kicked in the head by Piper during an interview, and this led to a major feud with Hulk Hogan and Lou Albano (who appeared in Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” music video). This turned into a big grudge match at WrestleMania. Piper also somehow managed to get into an argument with Mr. T (from the TV show “A Team” and the movie “Rocky 3”). The two eventually settled their differences by facing off at WrestleMania II. Piper lost after being disqualified for an improper move. Like many pro wrestling superstars, Roddy Piper was beginning to feel the pain of too many injuries and took a year off from the WWF. He returned in 1986 with a vengeance when he found his “Piper’s Pit” had been replaced by a show hosted by Adrian Adonis called “The Flower Shop”. Piper appeared on the show, destroyed the set and it all led to some very popular grudge matches that WWF fans really enjoyed.

By 1989, Roddy was more popular than ever and even hosted a live “Piper’s Pit” during WrestleMania V. An appearance on the show by once-popular TV host Morton Downey Jr. turned into a big mess when Piper pointed a fire extinguisher at ever the smoking Downey and sprayed him. As Piper’s popularity continued to grow, he began hosting Prime Time Wrestling alongside professional wrestling legend Gorilla Monsoon. After replacing Bobby Heenan as co-host of the Prime Time show, Roddy and Heenan quickly feuded. Heenan brought in “Ravishing” Rick Rude and Brother Love to get revenge and some fun matches ensued between the four. Brother Love (pro wrestler Bruce Pritchard, manager of The Undertake). Love wore a suit for a while and had a wrestling character based on some of the more infamous televangelists of the day. Love took over the TV spot once held by “Piper’s Pit”, which angered Roddy so much that when he appeared on the show, he told Brother Love that he smelled and had bad breath. Piper threw mouthwash and toothpaste in his face.

Although he began to cut back on his actual professional wrestling matches, Roddy Piper managed to stay in the limelight, engaging in more feuds with competitors such as Ted DiBiase (The Million Dollar Man), Jerry “The King” Lawler, and Bret Hart. Piper was a regular at WrestleMania events from 1989 to 1996 and even served as a celebrity referee. Roddy moved to World Championship Wrestling in 1996 and joined the highly watched “Halloween Havoc” and “Starrcade” shows with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and Brett Hart. Roddy later served briefly as commissioner of WCW. During this reign, he had major feuds with Ric Flair, Sid Vicious and Scott Hall. After peaking with the declining WCW, Piper returned to the WWF, which in 2003 became Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment. This period featured a popular match with Hulk Hogan, who, even after being attacked with a steel pipe by Roddy, won the event.

During a highly controversial appearance on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Piper admitted that he had taken drugs to stay in the ring for the last twenty years of his career. He also implied that all or most of the other professional wrestling stars did the same so they could continue to compete given the injuries they all suffered and the pain they felt. This led to Roddy being fired from Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment. The group TAW (Total Action Wrestling), which included stars from the NWA, grabbed him in 2003 despite all the controversy. The move quickly proved to be a good deal for both Piper and TAW. So much so that Vince McMahon couldn’t ignore Roddy’s newfound popularity and soon brought him back to the now huge and still growing Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment in 2005. During this time Piper hosted another live show “Piper’s Pit” on WrestleMania 21. That same year, he was also inducted into the Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment Wrestling Hall Of Fame. Piper frequently appears on many viewings of “RAW!” and “SMACKDOWN” Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment television shows that brought his talent and insanity to the attention of a whole new generation of professional wrestling fans.

From 2003 to 2014, Piper continued to build his popularity with more “Piper’s Pit” shows and various matches and feuds with Ricky Steamboat, Zack Ryder, The Miz, Dolph Ziggler and many others. Roddy has had a few rough patches during that time, which include some injuries he sustained from a car accident in 2005 and a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2007. He recovered from the injuries in the accident and is said to have been in remission since lymphoma in 2008 after nearly a year of treatment. As his appearances on major pro wrestling television shows waned, Piper still appeared at a number of popular independent pro wrestling events such as WrestleReunion, joining other notable veterans such as Bob Orton Jr. and Terry Funk. Popular MMA and UFC star competitor Ronda “Rowdy” Rousey (12 wins, 0 losses at the time of writing) met Piper and told him she was a big fan. She asked if she could use his nickname “Rowdy” and he happily gave her his blessing. She recently dedicated her match against Bethe Correia at UFC 190 to Piper after hearing of his death. She won the match in 34 seconds.

Piper’s later years were spent appearing on various television shows, including “Celebrity Wife Swap,” while doing voiceovers for popular cartoons, performing at comedy clubs, and taking on several other acting gigs alongside her professional wrestling duties. He never faded from the public eye and even appeared on Celebrity Ghost Stories. During this episode, he admitted to seeing the ghost of his friend and fellow pro racer Adrian Adonis in 2013. Roddy recently lived in Portland, Oregon with his wife Kitty. He had four children: three daughters and a son. Piper became a grandfather after his daughter Anastasia recently gave birth. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper died of a heart attack on July 31, 2015. This is a common cause of death among former professional wrestling stars. After a lifetime of pushing their bodies to the limit, I guess their hearts just eventually give out. Regardless of the cause of his death, Piper will be missed by the millions of fans who thoroughly enjoyed his skills and grit in and out of the ring.

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