1 Year On, Remembering Roddy Piper
He was one of the most charismatic Superstars in the history of the business. He rose to the top, but without the glory of being an accomplished champion. He was a star of the WWE at the height of the wrestling boom in the 1980s. He re-emerged in WCW in the late 1990s, and was a face of the Monday Night Wars. Never one to shy away from controversy. He continued to make sporadic appearances until a short time before his death.
Born Roderick Toombs in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on April 17th 1954, he made his wrestling debut at the age of 15. He famously collided with Larry “The Axe” Hennig in his pro debut match, lasting 10 seconds. He continued to hone his craft throughout the 1970s in the National Wrestling Alliance, having classic feuds with Chavo Guerrero Sr. This famously lead to Piper having his head shaved bald, before losing a “Loser Leaves Town Match”. He later came up in Georgia Championship and Mid-Atlantic territories where he famously battled with Jack Brisco and Ric Flair. His most infamous feud throughout this time was with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. They later collided in a Dog Collar Match at the inaugural Starrcade event.
Piper made his WWE Debut in 1984, strangely enough as a manager. The reason – he was recovering from his injuries at Starrcade. He soon enough made his full-time in-ring debut, and received his own interview segment. The legend became known as Piper’s Pit, which acclaimed notoriety when he infamously shattered a coconut on Jimmy Snuka’s head. He was later in the main event of the inaugural WrestleMania, teaming with Paul Orndorff to battle Hulk Hogan and Mr T. It would be his lasting rivalry with Mr T which he would be remembered for, which culminated in a Boxing match at WrestleMania 2. He later entered retirement following WrestleMania 3, and famously starred in Hell Comes to Frogtown.
After returning to the WWE in 1989, he engaged in various feuds before creating controversy at WrestleMania 6. Battling Bad News Brown, he was famously painted half white, half black. The legend behind this is even better. Andre the Giant “tampered” with the paint, meaning Piper was unable to remove the paint. This meant he had to travel from Toronto, Canada to Portland, Oregon half white, half black with a Mickey Mouse under his arm for his daughter. After a brief run as WWE Intercontinental Champion in 1992, this marked the final end to a full-time run with the WWE. He continued to make sporadic appearances with the WWE until 1996. He infamously clashed with Goldust at WrestleMania 12 in a Hollywood Backlot Brawl, whilst having a brief run as WWE President covering for Gorilla Monsoon.
He later emerged in WCW in the fall of 1996, enjoying a resurgence of his lasting feud with Hulk Hogan (albeit known as Hollywood Hogan at this time). He continued to enjoy a career resurgence with WCW which drew to a close only a couple of years later. After the controversial ending to Starrcade 1999 when he seemingly screwed Goldberg from becoming the WCW Champion, he made his final WCW appearance at SuperBrawl 2000. His contract with WCW later came to an end in July 2000.
In 2003, he enjoyed another brief resurgence in his career. He made a shocking return to the WWE at WrestleMania XIX during the Street Fight between Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon. He famously attacked Hogan, before walking out of the match. Now managing protege Sean O’Haire, he engaged in battles with Rikishi and Mr America (in reality, Hulk Hogan). During this time, he famously ripped of the leg of amputee Zach Gowen. He later disappeared amid controversy, following an interview with HBO Sports discussing the dark side of wrestling.
Nonetheless, his final years in the wrestling industry featured some incredible highs but also some battles. He made a return to the WWE once again in 2005, becoming a member of the Hall of Fame in the Class of 2005. He later had a brief reign as World Tag Team Champion with Ric Flair in late 2006, which came to an abrupt end when he was legitimately diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He went onto make a full recovery, and even had one final match at WrestleMania. Teaming with Jimmy Snuka and Ricky Steamboat, they battled Chris Jericho in a memorable outing.
He continued to make Sporadic appearances in the WWE until a short time before his death. He sadly passed away in Los Angeles, California on July 31 2015. As well as leaving behind millions of devastated fans, he left behind his wife Kitty, four children and several grandchildren. The cause of death was a Blood Clot on the lungs. He was only 61 years old. The WWE later paid tribute to Piper with a ten-bell salute on Monday Night RAW.
Roddy Piper will forever be remembered for being one of the most charismatic superstars in the history of the business. He could generate a tremendous amount of heat, but could do wonders at getting another superstar over. He was arguably one of the best talkers in the history of the business. The memories from Roddy Piper are endless, and to think those infamous bag pipes won’t be heard again is devastating. One year on, Roddy is still missed as much as he was then. He was taken from us far to soon when he still had so much more to give. Long live “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, thank you for the memories. R.I.P
Image Credit: WWE.com