To say that I was a little overwhelmed this morning when I woke up would be an understatement. I hadn’t caught or heard the news last night that Roderick Toombs, aka “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, had passed away in his sleep. It totally caught me off guard and weighed heavily on me all day.
I don’t know if I can truly put into perspective the effect Piper had on me as a young teenager. I had two absolute favourites when I first got into wrestling: “Macho Man” Randy Savage and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Sure, I had other favourites like Jake “The Snake” Roberts and the Ultimate Warrior, but the two men who absolutely drew me in were Savage and Piper (I always tended to enjoy the heels…still do).
I saw They Live. I had a Hot Rod t-shirt. I had the Roddy Piper action figure. I rooted for him and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff to beat Hulk Hogan and Mr. T at WrestleMania. I rooted for Piper to knock out Mr. T during their boxing match at WrestleMania II. I was pissed when they replaced Piper’s Pit with such knock-offs as The Flower Shop or The Snake Pit or The Barber Shop. It just wasn’t the same.
And let’s face it…Hogan may have been the one to “sell” WrestleMania to the masses, but if it weren’t for Roddy Piper there wouldn’t have even been a WrestleMania. The entire landscape of WWE would have been COMPLETELY DIFFERENT if it weren’t for Piper. That’s not BS…that’s simply fact. I don’t think Hogan ever had a better heel to feud with (and I’m including Randy Savage in that equation) than Roddy Piper.
I had recently been re-watching some of the classic Saturday Night’s Main Events from the very beginning. The natural charisma of Piper and the aura that he carried with him during the mid-80’s is something I cannot describe to you. He wasn’t just a performer or a wrestler; he was an attraction. People paid money to see this incredibly unique and insane individual named Roddy Piper fight in the most unusual way.
And he never lost! No, he didn’t always win his battles against the likes of Hulk Hogan or Andre the Giant, but you never saw Piper get pinned. It just added to the mystique and, looking back, it was a brilliant play by Piper…a man who was wanted everywhere he went BEFORE his time in WWE, so he had the ability and the stroke to protect himself in a way that would never be done today. He found a way to put people over without having to lay down in the process.
Let’s not even begin to forget about the unbelievable ability to promo. Piper on the microphone was…insanely awesome. For as much as people praised Dusty Rhodes after he passed away for a career of fantastic promos (and justifiably so!), Roddy Piper spoke in a way that made you stop and pay attention. What was he going to say? Was it entirely off-the-cuff? What would he say to infuriate someone? People hung on his every word. You rarely get that in wrestling as these types of individuals only come around once in a lifetime.
I’ve lost a childhood hero. I’m saddened more than I thought I’d be. I loved Roderick Toombs and will always hold him in the highest regard.
Because I still don’t think my words will do Piper’s passing justice, I wanted to include online reactions below.
I can't find the words to describe the sorrow in my heart upon learning the news of my dear friend, Roddy Piper, passing away. He was my closest friend in the business, a man that schooled me and guided me throughout my career. In fact, if it wasn't for Roddy Piper reaching out to help me, I'm sure I would've been a mere footnote in wrestling. He was always there for me. He was family to me, a brother who loved me and was there for me through my darkest days. He was the only wrestler to come visit me when I suffered a stroke in 2002. He totally made me at Wrestlemania 8 in our classic match. Passing a torch that many from that era couldn't conceive of doing. We always called each other "cuz" because we were so close. I loved you Roddy, and I'll miss you and your laugh for the rest of my days. I'm stunned and the hole in my heart will widen as it sinks in that I lost a brother of such great worth. What a tragic loss to all that knew him.
RIP legend. I first met this wrestling icon when I was 12yrs old when he was wrestling my pops the WWE. For weeks and weeks after that meeting I would have my mom set up a video camera in the kitchen as I would "become" Hot Rod and mimmic and emulate his every word, style, swag, heat, cool cockiness and all delivered with his classic smile (and my awful 12yr old afro).He was a huge influence on me as a kid and an even bigger one when I became The Rock in the WWE. Thank you Roddy for all the talks, all the stories (especially the crazy ones about my grandfather and grandmother😂) all the advice and most importantly.. all the memories of you entertaining us fans. You're missed my friend. Heaven just got a lil' rowdier… Rest in love ~ DJ #JustWhenTheyThinkTheyHaveAllTheAnswers #HotRodChangesTheQuestions
I'm in shock. One of the most genuinely kind and caring human beings I've known. Happy to have known him, worked with him in and out of the ring, and to have had great conversations with him on the road and on his podcast, "Piper's Pit." Was just laughing with someone a day or two ago about how he would always tousle your hair and pat you on the cheek like an uncle you hadn't seen in awhile. Life is truly short and fragile.