Last week, I wrote an article about how Wrestlers are the next big thing in Hollywood (go check it out!) and the subject of this article was a major part.
I had no idea I'd be writing this barely a week later about a man who influenced two of my greatest loves, Wrestling & Movies. Roderick Toombs was one of those left-field guys who had no business being a star. When he made his wrestling debut he was literally a scrawny teenager with a set of bag-pipes, a kilt and a bad attitude and developed into 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper.
During the late 70's and early 80's, Piper became a premier bad guy or 'heel', having epic rivalries with guys like Ric Flair, Chavo Guerrero, Sgt. Slaughter and Greg Valentine. While small, even in the world of pro-wrestling giants, his mouth more than made up for it.
Piper finally made it to the WWF in 1984, after his first attempt was 'sabotaged', as he put it, by legendary manager Freddie Blassie. Immediately, Roddy made an impact with his 'Piper's Pit' segment, designed to give his controversial persona an outlet.
In an early episode, he famously interviewed long-time loser Frankie Williams, coining the phrase "Just when they think they know all the answers, I CHANGE the questions" and a star was born. Just weeks afterwards, another highly controversial but popular moment sealed Piper's stardom, when 'Superfly' Jimmy Snuka was cracked over the head with a coconut.
The entertainment world was changed forever when Piper smashed a gold record given to Cyndi Lauper over her boyfriend/manager's head. It led to the 'Rock N' Wrestling Connection' and a feud with WWF champion Hulk Hogan. The two battled on MTV in 'The War To Settle The Score' and again at the first Wrestlemania, with Mr T. also in the mix.
Piper was already an entertainment phenomena, he was a villain in the Hogan cartoon, a top bad guy in wrestling and raising interest in Hollywood.
In 1987, Piper bade farewell to wrestling to star in John Carpenter's They Live.
The beauty of the movie is the simplicity of Piper's performance. He really was an every-man and it showed in the way John Nada appeared on the screen. The role didn't lead to super-stardom as many thought it would, but it did one better in that it gave Roddy Piper immortality.
One line from They Live became the calling card for Roddy in the same way "I'll be back" did for Arnold or "Yippikayay" did for Bruce Willis.
Everyone has heard that phrase, even if it was stolen by Duke Nukem. The phrase has become a rallying cry for sportsmen, actors and everyday people who are going to go all out for a goal. Even those who don't KNOW it's Roddy's line are showing the same attitude when they use it, often when they find out they get it right away.
Roddy returned to wrestling sooner than intended and became a beloved good guy. Perhaps at his peak, he faced a different battle altogether when he was diagnosed with and defeated Hodgkins Lymphoma.
Piper's most recent 'Hollywood moment' was as part of a team of legends that faced Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania with Mickey Rourke watching on. His final appearance was at a recent RAW event, doing what he did best, giving someone a leg up via 'Piper's Pit'.
Roddy's legacy is massive and not just to wrestling fans, just last night Ronda Rousey tearfully dedicated her impressive victory to 'Hot Rod'.
It's telling that so many of the social media tributes from those who knew him call Roddy a close friend or mentor, literally there has not been a bad word said which is rare.
It is sad that the last weeks of his life were not the happiest. A sad and almost silly spat with 'Stone Cold Steve Austin' led to him losing his podcast and WWE deal. The fallout from the Hulk Hogan racism scandal also touched Roddy directly, as he was Hogan's best known opponent and had himself come close to the knuckle at Wrestlemania 6, painting himself half black when facing former Olympic star Allen "Bad News Brown" Coage.
It would be tragic if Piper's legacy was in any way tarnished by these unfortunate incidents. Indeed, this seems a perfect opportunity for people and perhaps the entertainment world as a whole to forgive Hulk Hogan. After all, with so many of these treasured individuals dying - isn't life too short?
Maybe you'll remember him most for Wrestling, or They Live or even It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
For me, Roddy Piper taught the world that it's OK to stand up for yourself, no matter the consequences, that your opinion is worth fighting to protect.
Perhaps the most important lesson is that if you work hard, are humble and a good person then it's OK to bend the rules and play the bad guy to the hilt when it comes to feeding your family.
That he was still with his wife Kitty and was such a family man is a big testament.
The world just lost a true hero, even if he was known as a 'bad guy' for much of his life. John Lennon once sang "Imagine there's no heaven", when it comes to Roddy Piper I'd rather imagine there is a heaven... but they're all out of bubblegum!