Yesterday the wrestling world was saddened and shocked by the tragic news of the death of Roderick Toombs, known to many in the industry as "Rowdy" Roddy Piper at the age of 61. His death comes only seven weeks after the death of the legendary "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, and reports suggest Piper suffered a heart attack in his sleep. I had literally just finished posting my links on social media for the Smackdown Breakdown when the news started to filter in. I found myself hoping and praying this was just a sick prank and searching for information but as more information and reaction came out I soon realized we had lost yet another legend of the industry. I felt a very empty feeling inside and found myself thinking more and more about my personal highlights of the Hot Rod's career, and wanted to take this time to share some of those with you.
The first ever wrestling t-shirt that I owned as a child was of Roddy Piper. It may seem a small and insignificant starting point but Piper was clearly one of my favorite performers, even as a child. My first memory of a Piper match was his match against Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 8, where Piper would defend his Intercontinental Championship against his good friend the Hitman. I was a fan of both men as a kid so my loyalties were torn that night, and it seemed that both men wanted to have a fair match. What I remember most about this match (apart from the finish) was the moment when Piper stood above Hart holding the ring bell, appearing like he was going to strike the Hitman. That single moment told the whole story for me of Piper wanting to win at any cost but realizing this wasn't the way to get one over on his friend. Of course Piper would go on to lost the match and his title, but that was one of those moments that always has stood out to me as a powerful image and piece of story telling.
Another match that while I may not have appreciated it as a kid but has become one of my favorite Piper moments of all time is his match with Jerry Lawler at the King of the Ring in 1994. While it may not have been a candidate in any way for match of the year, it felt like a real personal battle between two men that had started all from Lawler making comments about Piper on commentary during Wrestlemania 10, and even resulting in him having a skinny kid dressed as Piper come out to kiss Lawler's feet in his Kings Court interview segment. Piper would emerge victorious in the battle between the two men at King of the Ring, but what really stood out to me in this one is how the kid impersonating Piper would actually end up joining Piper in his corner for the match and helping Piper pick up a win against the villainous Lawler. The end of the show as Piper stood victorious in the ring, celebrating with the kid who once mocked him on his shoulder was such a special moment to me and while it may seem small and insignificant to many I really thought that was a cool moment to witness.
Piper has had so many memorable moments at Wrestlemania, from main eventing Wrestlemania 1 with Paul Orndorff, Hulk Hogan, and Mr. T, through to Wrestlemania 10 where he faced off against Goldust in a Hollywood Backlot Brawl. While many wrestling fans are quick to credit Hulk Hogan for the success of Wrestlemania 1, you cannot deny just how much of a vital role Piper played in that match. Without a great villain to go up against the match may not have been so successful and Piper was WWE's top villain at the time. Wrestlemania 10 showed a different side to Piper in that he and Goldust had an all out war, with baseball bats, bins, and even a car chase that used footage from the O.J. Simpson car chase two years prior to try to bring a different feel to the meeting. Piper would walk out of Wrestlemania 10 the victor after having disrobed Goldust in the middle of the ring, but for me that was one of the first real ultra violent, perhaps more adult style matches I had ever seen.
It would of course be wrong if I were to go through this piece without mentioning Piper's hugely successful talk show segment known as Pipers Pit. There has never been anyone who can produce such a hard hitting, entertaining, and emotional segment as Roddy Piper could. WWE have tried over the years to replicate the success of Pipers Pit through segments like Miz TV, the Highlight Reel, and the Peep Show, but none have ever been able to capture the magic of Pipers Pit. One of the reasons I believe for that is Roddy Piper had a very special talent when it came to conducting an interview. He knew how to push the buttons of his guests while getting the best out of them. Piper's unpredictability helped make the segment a success, and the segment produced one of wrestling's most replayed and iconic moments when Piper cracked a coconut over the head of "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, after Piper had insulted Snuka's Polynesian heritage. If you have never seen an episode of Pipers Pit then I urge you to go out of your way to check it out and see why Roddy Piper was without a doubt the greatest talker in the history of this great industry.
Roddy Piper will forever be remembered for being one of wrestling's most controversial and mesmerizing characters. Give the man a microphone and he could hit a home run every time. Get him in the ring and he could have a great match with just about anybody. He was without question one of the most hated wrestlers in the 1980's and it's no wonder Piper was even named the number one villain in WWE history. His charisma could simply never be matched by anyone, his confidence on the microphone made his a stand out talker, and his ability to have a good match with just about anyone made Piper into one of the most respected stars in the wrestling industry. There will never be another Roddy Piper in the industry, no one will ever match the natural charisma and talent he possessed, and there is no way Piper's influence and impact on the wrestling industry will ever be forgotten. There are so many great Piper moments and memories I have that could fill up a whole weeks worth of articles, but I wanted to to use this as an opportunity to share with you my favorite Roddy Piper memories.
To end this piece I simply wanted to say thank you Roddy. Thank you for everything you gave us as fans. Thank you for being such a pleasure to watch. And thank you for simply being Roddy Piper. You will be greatly missed around the business and I hope now you've joined the many other legends up in that ring in the sky that you finally stop running out of bubblegum. Rest in peace my brother, and thank you for the memories Hot Rod.
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