Friday, July 31, 2015

Remembering "The Hot Rod": Roddy Piper 1954-2015

I had planned my last post of the week to be about Lucha Underground's first Ultima Lucha. Instead, I'm talking about something far sadder.

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I'm not quite sure how to write about the death of Roderick Toombs, the man we all came to know in the early 1980s as Roddy Piper. He is such an essential aspect of my childhood, but not for the same reason an Ultimate Warrior or a Junkyard Dog was. After Darth Vader and the Emperor, he was the first icon of evil, I really remember.

Like any other kid that was seven in 1985, I probably came across him first on Hulk Hogan's Rock N Wrestling, the show where he served as the main antagonist. But I at least knew of his epic rivalry with Hogan outside that, with battles over years and years, in a feud that would eventually stretch to the late 1990s in WCW.

Two favorites in animated form.
But it wasn't easy to always hate Roddy. He was a villain sure, but even at my young age, I could see he offered a lot that Hogan never did. His charisma was natural outside the ring and didn't need a bunch of silly catchphrases or a shirt-ripping interlude. He could charm you in seconds and make you hate what he stood for even faster.

A villain with such popularity can't stay evil forever. Eventually he would become a hero of WWF, but he never really entered the title picture. Instead he came and went, wrestling a feud here and there while the rest of the time he starred in films like Bodyslam and They Live!, weird cult classics I still love to pick up now and then.

He even got to shut up Morton Downey Jr. Image credit:
In his later years, he has mostly been famous for Piper's Pit segments here and there. He's always crazy, always eclectic and never quite can be controlled. It is part of his charm while also being a reason why he never quite gets the push on his homecomings that a Hogan or a Rock do.

He also has a long history with both drug abuse and cancer. At this time, it isn't known what caused Roddy to die in his sleep at only the age of 61, but one can assume one or both could be contributing factors.

I could go on and on about Roddy for hours and hours. He's a guy that made an indelible mark on me as a child and I'm not even sure why to this day. But I can say I loved what Roddy brought to the world of wrestling and the world of cinema.

Perhaps my best suggestion to remember Roddy is to go look at his time on the show Legends House, which still streams on WWE Network. It gave a truly genuine look at the WWE Hall of Famer, one that I think should always be included in his lasting legacy.

God speed, Roddy. May you find all the bubblegum you need.

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