It all started when the iconic “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes passed away in June. Then last week, the WWE abruptly cut ties with Hulk Hogan, one of the most influential and important wrestlers ever, after a transcript revealed a racist diatribe by him.
And then, Friday happened.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper passed away at age 61 after suffering a heart attack.
The history of pro wrestling is unable to be told without mentioning Piper. The legendary figure earned his greatest acclaim during the 80s as a part of the World Wrestling Federation’s rise in the public’s consciousness.
Starting his wrestling career at age 15, Piper wrestled throughout North America before becoming a mainstay in the National Wrestling Alliance in the late 70s.
While in the NWA, Piper enjoyed success as a part of major feuds against “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and Greg Valentine over the United States title.
The latter feud led to Piper’s role in wrestling’s first supercard – Starrcade ’83 – and a memorable dog-collar match that the Rowdy One would win.
Perhaps seeing his gift of gab being a potential box office draw, young promoter Vincent K. McMahon of the World Wrestling Federation scooped up Piper from the NWA in late ’83 and the rest as they say is history.
His ties to the WWE’s pop culture explosion in the 80s were just as important as Hulk Hogan’s contributions. As a heel (bad guy), Piper was a major part of the Rock N’ Wrestling Connection angle featuring music star Cyndi Lauper and Captain Lou Albano.
Piper’s feud with Lauper setup a seminal moment in wrestling – the main event of WrestleMania I. The showdown on March 31, 1985 in Madison Square Garden featured Piper teaming with Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff to face WWE champion Hulk Hogan and pop culture megastar Mr. T.
Soon after joining the WWE in late ’83, the Scot’s caustic and bombastic nature led to him hosting one of wrestling’s most infamous and landmark interview segments – Piper’s Pit.
From Hogan to Andre the Giant to Randy Savage, anybody who was anybody in the WWE appeared on the program.
One of the famous Piper Pit segments involved Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. During Snuka’s 1984 appearance, Piper smashed Snuka in the head with a coconut. The segment was uncomfortable, crazy, and memorable…kind of like Piper.
Instead of a crazy workrate and dynamic moveset, Piper’s moneymaker was his mouth. During his apex in the mid-80s, no one in wrestling could incite a crowd quite like Hot Rod.
His verbal skills made him one of wrestling’s most iconic stars of the 1980s and even led to a starring role in the cult film classic “They Live” in 1987.
“I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubble gum.” said Nada, Piper’s character in the film.
Over the span of three decades, Piper kicked plenty of ass in the professional wrestling world.
Longtime friend Ric Flair succinctly addressed Piper’s passing in a statement:
“We’ve shared the ring, traveled the world, maintained a friendship throughout the ups and downs of the wrestling world, and battled to see who was the better heel. It’s almost impossible to express my grief. My condolences to his children and to his wife Kitty. I’ll miss you Roddy. The world will never be as Rowdy without you.”
Wrestling will never be the same without Hot Rod.