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Friday, July 31, 2015

Rowdy Roddy Piper 1954-2015

Roddy with his loving wife Kitty. Credit:

This is the third time in a short while we’ve written something like this, and we can tell you it doesn’t get any easier. Earlier today, the wrestling world lost another great. Rowdy Roddy Piper was someone that was the man that no matter how much you tried to hate the dastardly deeds, you always found yourself rooting for the man that said with a fiery rage what was on his mind, and fight with every breath he had no matter how big the opposition.

While Roddy truly was of Scottish heritage, he was born in Saskatoon Saskatchewan. As a teenager, he had a falling out with his Mountie father, which truly makes it strange to think he won the Intercontinental Championship from a wrestler dressed as one. Staying in youth hostels, he had his first match at the age of 15. He was defeated in 10 seconds by Larry “The Axe” Hennig. After this match, the former Golden Gloves boxer became a wrestling journeyman, wrestling briefly in the AWA, and the NWA territories in Houston and Dallas Texas. When he settled into NWA Hollywood in the 1970s, he became the big heel against the territory’s top face, Chavo Guerrero Sr. It would be his antics like promising to play the Mexican national anthem on his bagpipes only to then play "La Cucaracha" that would start Roddy down the road to being one of the biggest antagonists that wrestling had ever known. By the late, he ventured to the Pacific Northwest, where he would start to show himself a quite a face. Along the way, he won that territory’s Heavyweight and Tag Team Championships. As Bobby “The Brain” Heenan said, “After conquering the northwest, Piper like the Devil, went down to Georgia”. In 1981, after a brief run in Jim Crockett Promotions that saw him become United States Champion against Ric Flair, Roddy would become a mainstay in Georgia Championship Wrestling, Feuding with wrestlers ranging from Bob Armstrong to Abdullah The Butcher. It would be this run that would see him become the #2 face back in JCP. Facing Greg “The Hammer” Valentine at the inaugural Starrcade in a dog collar match. Due to legitimate injuries in that match, Roddy’s first few months in the WWF saw him managing wrestlers. While Roddy would initially manage guys like "Dr. D" David Schultz, and "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff, once Roddy was healthy, it was obvious who the #1 heel would be. With Piper’s Pit, Roddy would do things like smashing Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka with a coconut, an unprovoked assault on jobber Frankie Williams, and using a racial insult on Bruno Sammartino in New York, that would position Roddy as the one thing a good hero needs: An enemy. Sherlock Holmes had Professor Moriarty, Mountain Dew has Mello Yello, and Hulk Hogan had Rowdy Roddy Piper. He teamed with Orndorff to face Hogan and Mr. T in a tag team match to headline the first WrestleMania, face Hogan again in a singles match for the WWF Championship at the first WWF/WWE PPV the Wrestling Classic, and box against Mr. T at WrestleMania 2. As great as Roddy was as a heel, Fans would rally behind the man that was facing off against muscle men and giants, leading to a face turn that saw him defeat Adrian Adonis at WrestleMania III in a moment that saw one of the few times a fan jumping the railing was ever a good thing. Piper’s Pit had also been used to help set up Hogan vs. Andre the Giant that saw one of the greatest improvised moments. When Andre accidentally cut Hogan when ripping Hogan’s crucifix necklace off, Roddy saying “You’re bleedin’ man”, presented the physical cut as representing a crack in Hogan’s armor following the betrayal by his longtime friend. After WrestleMania III, Roddy was semi-retired. He would act in several small fimls, including the 1988 science fiction hit They Live, which saw the immortal line “I have come here to chew bubblegum, and kick ass. And I’m all outta bubblegum”. He would also commentate with Gorilla Monsoon on Prime Time Wrestling while occasionally picking fights with Heenan and “Ravishing” Rick Rude. In 1992, Roddy would finally hold a Championship in the WWF. When he defeated The Mountie for the Intercontinental Championship. In his final big match for years, Roddy lost the belt to friend and “cousin” Bret “The Hitman” Hart at WrestleMania VIII in Roddy’s fineist in-ring moment. 1996-2005 were not a high point in Roddy’s career. Apart from defeating the now-heel “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan at the 1996 Starrcade, this time is known more for a controversial HBO appearance that ended his 2003 WWE run, and a TNA promo where he blamed Vince Russo’s stupidity for the death of Owen Hart. In 2005, Roddy and WWE would make peace. Roddy would be inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame, and briefly hold the WWE World Tag Team Championship with Ric Flair. Despite undergoing cancer treatment in 2006, Roddy would remain a mainstay for legends appearances. Even teaming with Snuka and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat to face Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 25. One of Roddy’s last appearances in WWE was at this past March’s WrestleMania 31, where he congratulated new Intercontinental Champion Daniel Bryan.

Outside of the ring, Roddy was known for being a family man. Surviving by wife Kitty, Daughters Anastacia (Who herself has a child), Ariel Teal, Falon, and son Colton, who got to celebrate with his dad following Roddy’s win over Goldust at WrestleMania XII. Roddy was known for wearing his wedding ring during matches. Something that was rare for wrestlers to do in his day.

Two quick final notes about Roddy. He is only the second wrestler behind Sgt. Slaughter to have a G.I. Joe action figure of himself, and that Ronda Rousey initially did not want to use the nickname her friends gave her of “Rowdy”, because she thought it would be disrespectful. She used it once he told her he approved.

Few wrestlers can say they were beloved heroes or despicable villains. Roddy could proudly say he did both. He was a man without equal when it came to making an underdog character not seem forced, and he showed that faces did not have to be angels We’ll leave you with this quote from Roddy, “I’m trying to find a place with peace. And if not, then lets fill it with mayhem”.

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