"Just when you think you have all the answers, I change the question."
That was one of Rowdy Roddy Piper’s favorite sayings.
Piper died last Thursday of cardiac arrest in Hollywood, California. He was 61. Just a few weeks after the passing of The American Dream, Dusty Rhodes, the world of professional wrestling has lost another of its most colorful characters.
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With Piper’s passing, wrestling lost not only one of the best workers of all time, but also one of the best talkers. In fact, Piper might be known more for his promos than his in-ring skills.
After all, he never captured a world title, despite having stellar runs in both the National Wresting Alliance and World Wrestling Federation.
Even without a world title, Piper’s star shone brightly. He will long be remembered for his feuds with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Jimmy Snuka, Ric Flair and Greg Valentine.
His battles with Flair and Valentine in the old Mid-Atlantic territory are legendary. He feud with Valentine culminated with a Dog Collar Match at the first Starrcade, which cost the Rowdy One 50 percent of his hearing in his left ear after The Hammer broke his ear drum during the match.
As good of a face as Hogan was when he entered the then-WWF in 1984, he needed a heel that could be his mirror opposite. And Piper was that heel. The two made a ton of money off each other, including headlining the first Wrestlemania in a tag match featuring Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff (Piper’s partner) and television’s Mr. T.
Once his feud with Hogan died down, it was onto Snuka, including the infamous “Piper’s Pit” where Piper smashed Snuka over the head with a coconut. Classic stuff. He even had a feud with pop star Cyndi Lauper which gained national attention, including segments on MTV.
He would soon turn face and for the remainder of his career he was a good guy with a couple of regressions to his villainous past. It seemed that Piper had fallen into the same old trap that catches so many wrestlers who hang around for a long time: No matter what he did, fans still cheered for him because he was, well, a legend.
Not too bad for a Canadian, born Roderick George Toombs, who masqueraded as a Scotsman and started wrestling at the tender age of 15.
When he made his pro debut against Larry “The Axe” Henning (who today’s fans might know better as the father of the late Mr. Perfect Curt Henning) he was introduced as “Roddy the Piper” but fans heard it as “Roddy Piper” and the name stuck.
He had some great matches in the old Pacific Northwest territory where in one promo for a match against The Sheepherders he broke a full beer bottle over his head.
I could fill up an entire book with the escapades of Roddy Piper. He was that colorful of a character. If you find yourself with some free time, check out some of the old videos of him on YouTube or the WWE Network.
He also made several movies and television appearances, including the cult classic movie, They Live.
Rest in peace, Roddy Piper. There will never be another like you. And that’s not only the wrestling world’s loss, but also the world in general.