Wrestling

Published on August 1st, 2015 | by Michael

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Rowdy Roddy Pipers Dies Aged 61

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‘Just when they think they have the answers, I change the questions!’

A difficult week for professional wrestling got immeasurably worse on Friday night with the news that Rowdy Roddy Piper has died. Piper (real name Roderick Toombs) had been suffering from cancer and is believed to have died of a heart attack. He was 61 years old

Roddy Piper, also known as Hot Rod to fans, was one of the greatest heels in WWF/E history. His feud with Hulk Hogan propelled both men to superstardom and he even headlined the first Wrestlemania, in a tag team match with Paul Orndorff against Hogan and Mr T. Piper wasn’t always a champion – indeed he boasts just one title with WWE, an Intercontinental belt he won in a bout with the Mountie – but he can lay claim to being one of the best talkers in the business and with the advent of Piper’s Pit, a true innovator too. Whether cutting promos, winding up his Pit guests or in more recent years bantering with young stars, Piper was simply magic on the mic in a way few people have matched before or since. Piper was Canadian but his gimmick played up his Scottish heritage, backed by his genuine bagpipe playing skills. He also displayed boundless rage and a quick wit which made him so popular.

Roddy Piper Vince McMahon

Piper’s Pit wasn’t always without controversy, of course. Some of Piper’s jokes would be considered too far today, and Jimmy Snuka was genuinely knocked woozy when Piper attacked him with a coconut. Still, it all helped make Piper the man fans loved to hate. He had a run as a face, of course, but Piper himself knew he was a ‘born heel’ and he loved to play up to the role. As he said to Hulk Hogan on WWE rival WCW ‘do you think they would have loved you so much if they hadn’t hated me?’.

Like so many wrestlers, Piper tried his hand at acting too. His greatest role (and the best film to have a wrestler in the lead) is in John Carpenter’s seminal 1988 horror/Sci Fi They Live!, a film that is perhaps only now getting the reputation it deserves. Piper excels as John Nada, a drifter who stumbles across an alien conspiracy to subvert mankind. Piper spits one of the greatest lines in action film history – ‘I came here to kick ass and chew bubblegum…and I’m all out of bubblegum’. The line was Piper’s own idea, cribbed from an unused wrestling promo and it has since been pilfered for Duke Nukem. In They Live! Piper also has a long, drawn out fight with co-star Keith David. Carpenter was so impressed with the work the two man did that he left the entire fight in (around five minutes) rather than cut it down, as intended. Piper never reached the heights again in cinema but made B Movies worth seeking out, including the gloriously terrible Hell Comes To Frogtown. David and Piper would renew their rivalry in the computer game Saints Row IV.

Roddy Piper They Live

In more recent years, Piper could be seen on the occasional episode of WWE Raw, reviving the old Piper’s Pit formula to give new talent a boost. Typically this segments would involve Piper running rings around the youngsters verbally before being of the receiving end of a signature move, much to the delight of the crowd. He also toured a one man show, which featured anecdotes of his wresting days with the likes of Ric Flair and an audience Q & A. Piper’s influence and popularity still extends outside of the squared circle today – UFC Ronda Rousey goes by the name ‘Rowdy’, inspired by, and with the blessing of, Piper himself. He also appeared in the brilliant It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia as Da Maniac, spoofing both himself and Mickey Rourke’s turn in The Wrestler.

WWE chairman Vince McMahon said of Piper’s death Roddy Piper was one of the most entertaining, controversial and bombastic performers ever in WWE, beloved by millions of fans around the world.’ In a week in which Piper’s greatest enemy finds himself disgraced, it’s nice to remember when controversy in wrestling meant playing La Cucaracha on the bagpipes or attacking someone with fruit.

He came here to kick ass. He did just that.

Michael

Michael comes from the middle ground between light and shadow, between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. He will write on comics, TV and film, plus anything else that might occur to him.

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