I never met the man. I only saw him work in person once, and it was a crappy PPV match against Mr. America, or Hulk Hogan under a hood, in 2003.
Despite that, when I read that Roddy Piper had died in his sleep, I felt like the wind had gotten knocked out of me. After getting over the initial shock, I realized that Piper had been a part of my life for nearly as long as I’ve been alive.
Being in New York during the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling boom, it was impossible to not know who Roddy Piper was. I was four years old and not actually allowed to watch wrestling, but I still knew that Piper was the baddest guy there was. He was a staple of the Saturday morning cartoon 1, and appeared in the Cindy Lauper video for “Goonies R Good Enough.” It wasn’t until year later that I learned about The War to Settle the Score and The Brawl to End It All, but there was Piper, on MTV, interacting with Lauper to an audience of millions.
When I started watching wrestling proper in 1991, Piper was doing commentary, then returned to the ring to do a program with Bret Hart for WrestleMania VIII. The match is arguably the best on the show. Roddy would remain a staple of WWF programing in the early nineties, appearing as a special referee at WrestleMania X, the first show I attended live. Later, he was an on-air commissioner, giving some memorable interviews. I wasn’t the biggest WCW fan, but I always enjoyed his work there when I caught it.
After his occasional appearances in the final years of WCW, I finally started to watch his films. Hell Comes To Frogtown is a bizarre, but fun movie, and They Live is probably the most under appreciated film of the 1980’s. Body Slam, on the other hand, is only necessary if you love old wrestling and Dirk Benedict.
In the era of shoot interviews, wrestler autobiographies, and documentary features, it’s easy to learn a lot about Roddy Piper. I suggest absorbing everything you can find, as I did over the last decade or so. His history as a journeyman wrestler before making it big in the Carolinas then even bigger in New York is fascinating.
Should you have access to the WWE Network, watch Legends House. It shows a side of Piper rarely seen, and gives insight into a number of other Hall of Famers 2.
I wish I could have written something better. I’m amazed I found this many words, as disjointed and rambling as they are. I will miss Roddy Piper and the joy he brought me throughout my life.
Goodbye, Hot Rod.