Roderick "Roddy" Toombs better known to you or us as "Rowdy" Roddy Piper sadly passed away this summer. Whilst technically Canadian, Piper was famously of Scottish descent and much loved by fans across the UK and indeed the world.
Whilst it is tempting to write an obituary soon after a legend like Piper has passed away, we decided to wait and look at the response to his passing and having chosen to do so, were touched by the remarkable outpouring of affection and respect which only served to deepen and emphasise the loss and his impact on the industry.
For those that did not follow his remarkable career, it is worth reflecting upon. Piper was born in Canada in 1954. It wasn't long before he was in trouble and was reportedly expelled from school for having a knife. Piper helped out at local gyms and befriended wrestlers. Variously he became an amateur boxer, a Judo black belt, an amateur wrestler and at only 15, made his professional wrestling debut against Larry Hennig (the father of Mr Perfect).
Although he can't remember when he started playing them, Piper famously came to the ring bearing a set of bagpipes. Introduced as Roddy the Piper on his debut, the fans heard Roddy Piper and that is what stuck. Known as 'Hotrod' by way of his character's temperament, Piper would set the wrestling world alight, starting in the various wrestling territories of old. He worked with the AWA before heading to Texas in the mid-seventies and working with the Von Erichs. Piper became a top heel [villain] and by 1976 was working in San Francisco, engaging in a furious rivalry with Chavo Guerrero Snr (including masked, loser leaves town and hair vs hair matches). Piper moved again to the Pacific Northwest and then Mid-Atlantic territories where he joined the precursor to what would become WCW and changed tack to become a 'good guy'. At WCW, Piper had a series of matches against Greg Valentine, culminating in a dog collar match which left Piper with less than 50% of his hearing.
It was perhaps his time at WWF though for which Piper was best known. Having worked a match for Vince McMahon Senior in the 1970's, Piper joined WWF in 1984 as a manager and shortly afterwards was awarded the 'Piper's Pit' interview segment for which he was globally renowned. From there, it is difficult to adequately cover his achievements. Piper main-evented the first ever Wrestlemania and has been credited with providing much of the drawing power for the event. He fought, refereed and guested at numerous wrestlemania's thereafter, won the Intercontinental title at the Royal Rumble and later became the interim WWF president.
After a spell at WCW, during which he worked with the Four Horsemen, won the United States Championship and became the WCW Commissioner, He would return to WWE for a short spell and another Wrestlemania moment. Following work with Independent wrestling promotions and the release of his autobiography Piper had another short spell with another major promotion in TNA. Piper returned to WWE in 2005 and was duly inducted into the Hall of Fame. He won the Tag Team Championship with Ric Flair in 2006 and continued to make notable appearances on WWE programming and in particular at Wrestlemania right up until 2014.
Outside of WWE, Piper worked with various independent promotions including PWG and JCW and held no less than 34 championships over his time in the industry. Piper was a podcaster, featured in music videos and had endless TV and film credits to his name. He was on the Outer Limits, the Robocop series, Storage Wars and celebrity wife swap. You name it, Piper had done it and that includes beating cancer.
His wrestling and acting career were distinguished. His personal life remarkable. Piper was honoured with ten bell salutes at both Mid-Atlantic's Wrestling Legends FanFest and on WWE's Raw. He was an innovator and according to the wWE universe the "greatest villain in wrestling history" but perhaps its best as we set out at the beginning, to look at what others say.
For Entertainment Weekly he was a "cult icon", for Rolling Stone "memorable", for Ric Flair "the most gifted entertained in the history of professional wrestling" and an inspiration to UFC's Ronda Rousey who inherited the Rowdy nickname from him. For Vince McMahon he was "one of the most entertaining" performers, "beloved by millions" and to Director John Carpenter "a masterful entertainer". Tribute after tribute was paid and rightly so.
Piper died aged 61 on July 31 2015 from a heart attack at home in California. He leaves behind his wife of 33 years Kitty, four children and four grandchildren. Our deepest condolences to his family and friends.