For the second time in two months, the world of professional wrestling (and the world in general) has lost a true legend.
Roderick Toombs, better known by audiences around the world as “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, has passed away at the age of 61 on Friday, July 31st.
The cause of death was cardiac arrest. He had died at his home in Hollywood, California. In 2006, it was revealed that Piper had Hodgkins Lymphoma, but last year, he stated that he was cancer free.
Also known as “Hot Rod”, Piper had the gimmick and attitude of being a quick witted, short tempered, and charismatic star. While he was a “heel” (bad guy), most of his career, he was still beloved by millions because of the persona in the ring that he had.
His wrestling career began in 1969 in Winnipeg, when he was put into a match against Larry Hennig, a well known wrestler at the time: Piper lost in a mere 10 seconds. From 1975-1980, Piper was a wrestler in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), and was one of the top heels in the company. He feuded with members of the legendary Guerrero family, namely Chavo Guerrero, Sr. and Gory Guerrero.
After working with various promotions throughout the next few years, his best years began when he joined the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), in 1983. The very next year, Piper was given his very own interview segment, known as Piper’s Pit. It proved to be a huge success with audiences, as it gave Piper a place to not only set up future feuds as well as help him rest when injured, but create some of the most memorable moments in wrestling history.
Perhaps the most famous Piper’s Pit was when fellow wrestler Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was a guest. Snuka, who is from Fiji, walked onto a set that Piper had put coconuts, pineapples, and bananas, to “make Snuka feel at home”. When Snuka was insulted by the gesture, Piper famously smashed a coconut over his head, and destroyed the set.
The moment has since become immortalized in the history of World Wrestling Entertainment.
But this feud was nothing compared to the feud that followed, with the company’s top star and biggest draw… Hulk Hogan. After attacking singer Cyndi Lauper and wrestling manager “Captain” Lou Albano, Hogan was seeking revenge on Piper. MTV had aired a wrestling event in 1985 called The War to Settle the Score. The main event was Hogan vs Piper.
One of Hogan’s escorts to the ring was Mr. T, and the subsequent match set up the main event of the very first Wrestlemania. It pitted Hogan and Mr. T (accompanied by Snuka) against Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff (accompanied by “Cowboy” Bob Orton). Piper’s team lost the match after Orton interfered, and accidentally hitting Orndorff in the head with his cast.
Piper also lost a boxing match by disqualification to Mr. T at Wrestlemania 2.
In 1986, Piper, after taking time off, returned, but this time as a face (good guy). During this time, he held a Piper’s Pit segment that set up the iconic Andre the Giant and Hogan match at Wrestlemania III.
Piper won his only WWF(E) singles title at the 1992 Royal Rumble, when he won the prestigious Intercontinental Championship.
In 1996, Piper joined the WWF’s competition at the time, World Championship Wrestling (WCW). When he first arrived, he confronted Hogan, who had joined WCW as well, and stated: “Do you think [the fans] would’ve loved you so much, if they hadn’t hated me?”. He had a run with the WCW United States Title, but despite that, Piper did not have as much success or popularity in WCW than he did in WWF.
He made his WWE return in 2003 to help Vince McMahon in his match with Hogan at Wrestlemania XIX, and despite that, was still cheered by the sellout crowd. A few months later he would be released.
The accomplishments and impact Piper had (and has) were forever immortalized in 2005 when he was inducted by “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Over the next few years, Piper made frequent appearances in WWE, and in 2006, even won the World Tag Team Championship with Flair. Most of his appearances from 2005-15 were Piper’s Pit segments, including ones with Chris Jericho, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and others.
One of his final appearances came on April 6th, 2014 at Wrestlemania 30. Piper appeared with Hogan, Mr. T, and Orndorff as the two teams made amends after their feud and match 30 years prior. His last appearance was on Monday Night Raw to celebrate Hogan’s birthday.
Piper also had successful ventures into acting as well as hosting podcasts online.
Throughout his career, loved or hated, he was a boastful, bashful, and colorful person that has left a permanent impact on the wrestling industry. He won over 34 championships in his career, although he was never a world champion.
I’d like to truly express my sincerest condolences to his family and others who knew him at this difficult time.
While another legend left us too soon, what Roddy Piper accomplished inside the ring and out of it will remain with us… forever.