MPW Blog: Remembering Rowdy Roddy Piper – by Jason Pyles

Piper Cartoon

I’m sure it’s no consolation to the people who knew him as Roderick George Toombs, or “Dad,” but 61 is actually a fairly long life for a professional wrestler. I knew him best as Rowdy Roddy Piper. He died from a heart attack two days ago on July 31, 2015.

As a young wrestling fan, I remember Rowdy Roddy Piper most as a villain who played Hulk Hogan’s arch nemesis at the time. That dates me back to the days of Saturday morning cartoons and “Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling,” which ran from 1985 to 1986 — not too long after the era as other animated brain children like The Dukes of Hazzard cartoon, “The Dukes” (1983), and the “Rubik, the Amazing Cube” cartoon!

By the way, on “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling” Piper was voiced by prolific voice actor Charles Adler and Hulk Hogan was voiced by Brad Garrett, which makes perfect sense. But yes, it was this cartoon that sealed piper in my mind as “the leader” of the heels in WWF (no WWE) wrestling, because he was positioned as the ring-leader.

Toys

I remember LJN’s Wrestling Superstars Roddy Piper action figure (one of the few I did not own), and LJN’s Thumb Wrestlers version of Piper, notably designed without his trademark kilt. I also remember, what seemed to be, a return for Piper in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, in the days of Brother Love, when Piper was going coconuts after Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka.

Wrestling career aside, I guess I didn’t realize that Piper had such a successful acting career. As a Horror movie fan, of course I’m familiar with his memorable performance in John Carpenter’s “They Live” (1988). His IMDb page lists 123 acting credits, many of which are wrestling-related, but many aren’t. For example, Piper appeared on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and there are eight other projects that were announced, in pre-production or in post-production.

I read something interesting on his Wikipedia page: “In an HBO Real Sports interview conducted by Piper in 2003, he had predicted that he was “not going to make 65” due to his poor lifestyle, and that his 2003 return to WWE was because he could not access his pension fund until reaching the age of 65.”

Perhaps “Evil Mike” Maryman of Evil Episodes said it best when he wrote on Twitter: “RIP Roddy Piper. Grew up watching his shenanigans in and out of the ring! Hope he’s chewing bubblegum and kicking ass wherever he is!”


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6 thoughts on “MPW Blog: Remembering Rowdy Roddy Piper – by Jason Pyles

  1. Personally I’m not a wrestling fan but a lot of my friends are so I heard about this. And of course I recognise Roddy Piper from his appearances in everything from “They Live” to that Cyndi Lauper video for the Goonies song. So his passing does sadden me. Also, even though I’m a bit younger than you I vividly recall those LJN figures and that Hulk Hogan cartoon. The world seemed a simpler place back then.

  2. I can’t believe you wrote about my hero ever since the 11 year old me first saw him arrive in Georgia Championship Wrestling in 1981…As a life long wrestling fan there was Hot Rod and then there was everyone else…He was truley one of a kind and there will never be another like him…Ronda Rousey asked him to use the “Rowdy” name and he gave her his blessing and she dedicated her fight to him before her fight last night and after she won she said…“We lost a close friend, Roddy Piper, who gave me permission to use his nickname. I hope him and my dad enjoyed watching this together,”

  3. He came to chew bubble gum and kick ass. He was all out of bubble gum and I’d say the second half of that famous line from They Live was accomplished as well.

    I remember hearing that Hot Rod was at a special early screening of The Wrestler and stood, with tears in his eyes, at the end of the film and testified just how accurate the film is to depicting life after wrestling.

    I have admired his spunk and charisma from a very early age. He was gone far too soon.

  4. I was a little late to the wrestling game. My introduction to the business came circa 1994 when Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and Triple H were kings of the ring. My first exposure to Roddy Piper as a wrestler was during his Piper’s Pit segment in WWF’s RAW and his feud with Chris Jericho. Those were good times. I was later reacquainted with him because of his appearance in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He was only in two episodes, but he was so memorable and so funny. I can’t say his death hit be as hard as others who were true fans, but I did appreciate his work. May he rest in peace.

  5. This was a beautiful tribute to one of the more interesting pop culture figures of my (our) childhood. The excerpt from his Wikipedia page is haunting and what Josh said above about his take on THE WRESTLER… very, very sad.

  6. Down in my basement, I still have three old LJN wrestling figures, pretty impressive considering I’m 28 and LJN’s were being phased out and Hasbros were about to be made at the time of when I became a wrestler, down in my basement. Two of them are Strike Force’s Tito Santana and Rick Martel. The other is the Roddy Piper that is shown in the image that Jay posted. In one of my earliest birthday experiences (Maybe 4th or 5th birthday?) my mom created a wrestling birthday cake. The ring posts were made out of pretzle sticks, the ropes out of some sort of string type stuff that my older sister had (Hair stuff?) and inside of the custom ring was a couple of small thumb wrestlers. Again, one of them was the Roddy Piper that is shown in the above picture that Jay posted, and I believe the other was the Junkyard Dog. I probably have pictures of that cake somewhere in my house.

    I don’t know if I have much point to this comment other than as I draw nearer to my 30th birthday in October 2016, I realize Roddy Piper was part of one of my earliest memories and that LJN figure is one of my oldest toys I still have from my childhood. He was a part of my life for nearly thirty years and now he’s gone. For many years, Piper was one of the clearest connections between my two biggest interests of pro wrestling and horror movies. He was someone who could be responsible for having John Carpenter appear in a documentary released by the WWE or wrestling mentioned in a horror documentary.

    Piper was a real character in life and whether it was the wrestling (In the ring or on the mic), in such movies as THEY LIVE or most recent appearing on IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILLY, Piper knew how to entertain. It’s sad to see him go as he’s part of my own childhood.

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