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It’s with a heavy heart that I write about the passing of wrestling legend, Rowdy Roddy Piper. He was 61 years old and died in his sleep while at home in Hollywood. He is survived by his wife, three daughters and one son.
A household name in the wrestling business throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Rowdy Roddy Piper was someone that whenever he appeared on TV he grabbed your attention. His mic skills were second to none and he was so effective as a heel that I’ll always remember the reception he got at WrestleMania 1. He received some major heat on that day! Funny I should bring up WrestleMania because, in some respects, he was one of the most important names in the industry due to his involvement at the first ever WrestleMania. He was a part of the tag team main event teaming with Paul Orndorff to face Hulk Hogan and Mr T. Although he was on the losing side, he was the top heel at the time that helped the crowd rally behind Hogan and T.
As he got older and couldn’t wrestle anymore, he still had buckets of energy which would have been a shame to waste so WWE would always bring him back every once in a while for some sort of backstage comedy segment or a Piper’s Pit spot where he looked as if he was having as much fun as anybody. He always seemed to have that youthful enthusiasm about him whenever he was on screen.
Bret Hart has said in many interviews that Piper took him under his wing from his early days in the WWF and remained very close ever since. Bret has also gone on record to say that when he was recovering from his stroke in 2002, Roddy Piper was the only wrestler to visit him in hospital. That speaks volumes about the guy. It’s also worth noting that Bret Hart is the first wrestler to score a pinfall victory over Piper. It was huge because Piper refused to lose via pinfall or submission, only by disqualification or count-out. People may see that as a selfish act but in the long run it does have its benefits and even Bret felt that Roddy “passed the torch” to him that day as he went on to eventually become the world champion later that year. If you get the chance, I recommend reading Bret’s tribute on his facebook page.
It’s also a common fact that Ronda Rousey personally asked Piper permission if she could use the “Rowdy” nickname. It’s another sign of Piper’s influence branching outside the world of professional wrestling. He even had that cameo in the Saints Row video game spoofing the cult favourite fight scene from ‘They Live’.
If I had to pick my all-time favourite Piper moment it would have to be the time I actually met the guy last July in Newcastle. He was doing a stand up show at the time plus a meet and greet beforehand. There was this one part of the show where he brought someone up on stage (the reason escapes my memory) and someone from the crowd shouted out, “Do the fight scene from They Live (if you haven’t seen that part of the film check it out now)”. It took Piper at least ten minutes to regain his composure because he was laughing so much! During the meet and greet he asked me what I did for a living. At the time I’d just been made redundant and Piper gave me this real pep talk about remaining positive and to never give up. That’s something I shall cherish forever and my all-time favourite Roddy Piper moments.
With that being said, Roddy Piper is the most kind hearted person I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
Rest in peace, Roddy. Thank you for the memories.