A Tribute to the Late Roddy Piper

A legendary villain in the world of professional wrestling, a charismatic symbol in pop culture, and a science ficton icon.

Roderick George Tooms, who is better known to the world as The Hot Rod Rowdy-Roddy Piper, tragically passed away due to cardiac arrest in his sleep Friday at the age of 61.

Roddy Piper was a legendary villain in the world of professional wrestling, a charismatic symbol in pop culture, and a science fiction icon.

Piper was born in Saskatchewan, Canada, but raised in Winnipeg. After a falling out with his father, Piper left home while he was still in Jr. High school, and lived on the road staying in youth hostels.

In a difficult situation filled with loneliness and despair, Piper caught a break by finding a job in a small gym. While running errands for professional wrestlers, Piper showed an interest in boxing and Judo. Piper soon become a Golden Gloves champion and a black belt in the art of Judo.

At the age of fifteen, Piper was given a chance to work as a Jobber (a person who routinely loses a match to get his opponent over with the crowd) against Lance Henning, the father of WWE Hall of Famer Mr. Perfect Curt Henning.

Although Canadian, Tooms was billed as Roddy the Piper due to his Scottish descent. As bagpipes played in the back round, Piper entered the ring and lost the match in less than 20 seconds. The name Roddy Piper stuck with him like glue as he made his first $25.00 in the wrestling business.

What started as a small gig turned into a career in professional wrestling for Piper. Promoters and publicists recognized his ability to generate income as a villainous wresting heel. With a big mouth persona, Piper insulted the people living in the communities that the federation performed in. He would use under-handed tactics (like the eye-poke) in his matches, and attempt to cheat at every opportunity when the referee’s back was turned. Piper worked in smaller federations for the next 10 years, and quickly became the most hated villain in the industry while feuding with all the fan favorites.

This attracted the attention of Vincent McMahon, the president of the World Wrestling Federation (Now World Wrestling Entertainment). Vince initially brought Piper in as a manager, and later gave him an interview segment entitled Piper’s Pit.

Piper’s Pit was an innovative segment where Piper featured a special guest wrestler in a sit down interview. Instead of letting his guest speak, Piper would showcase his villain persona by insulting them until he started a fight which lead into a feud with the wrestler.

Check out this infamous video of Piper insulting the heritage of Jimmy Snuka, and then breaking a coconut upside his head.

In the 1980s, Hulk Hogan was a rising star in professional wrestling and was loved by many fans. Starting a feud with Piper became a story of revenge that captivated fans. As pop culture was being introduced into professional wrestling, both Hogan and Piper became household names. Many believe without the Rowdy Roddy Piper feud, Hulk Hogan’s popularity would never have reached the heights that it did.

Check out this video of Piper breaking an achievement award over Caption Lou Albano’s head, kicking Cyndi Lauper, and power slamming David Wolfe.

Mr. T was also brought into professional wrestling, and teamed up with Hogan as he faced Piper and Paul Orndorff in the first WrestleMania. The real life animosity between Piper and Mr. T lead to billing another classic feud between them that was settled in a boxing match at WrestleMania 2.


With Piper wanting to leave the world of professional wrestling to become a full time actor, the WWF sent him out of a high note. By turning Piper face (character that is loved and supported by the crowd) the WWF built a feud with Adrian Adonis, a wrestler with a feminine gimmick that embarrassed Piper on numerous occasions. In what was billed as a retirement match at WrestleMania 3, Piper was victorious and shaved Adonis’ head while receiving a standing ovation from over 90,000 people.

Piper, in what was his most famous role, was cast in a film written and directed by John Carpenter entitled They Live. This science fiction film is the story of a drifter, John Nada who is played by Roddy Piper, who finds a pair of sunglasses which revel that the elite class in society are actually humanoid aliens. While using the media to hide constant subliminal commands, the aliens fall prey to Nada as he goes on a shooting spree in an attempt to take them down.


The film was inspired by a short story that appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and The Alien Encounters comic book anthology. While mixed reviews from critics exist, They Live has been praised for its ingenuity as being a product from multiple sources, and as an homage to H.P. Lovecraft. They Live debuted at number one in the box office and is considered a cult classic by fans.

Check out this video of the famous scene in They Live where Nada informs the aliens that he is all out of bubble gum.

Piper also had a leading role in Hell Comes to Frogtown. Written by Randall and Jackson Frakes, is the story of Sam Hell, who is a nomadic traveler in a post-apocalyptic world. When captured by warriors (who are the only standing government) Hell is forced to infiltrate a city controlled by mutant amphibians who are holding fertile women captive.


Piper continued to act, but returned to the world of professional wrestling at WrestleMania 5 in a live episode of Piper’s Pit. Piper doused Morton Downey Jr. with a fire extinguisher because he wouldn’t stop blowing cigarette smoke in his face.


For years, Piper continued to contribute to the world of professional wrestling by commentating and working with Bobby Heenan. While being insulted by Heenan, Piper would take it to the physical level by beating up the clients he represented.

Roddy Piper won his first, and only championship at the 1992 Royal Rumble. After losing the title at WrestleMania 8, Piper appeared on World Championship Wrestling a few years later, and reignited his feud with Hulk Hogan.

Whether it was to host a Piper’s Pit, help get a wrestler over with the crowd, or just to slap someone, Piper remained a contributor to the business and was inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.


Roddy Piper has had both leading and supporting roles in more than 30 films over the years of different genres. His on screen personality set him apart from other actors. When asked about casting Piper in They Live John Carpenter stated “Unlike most Hollywood actors, Roddy has life written all over him.”

Roddy Piper has appeared on the small screen in an episode of The Outer Limits, and showed his comedic side in two episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia playing a character that was loosely based on himself.


Roddy Piper has also been on a celebrity episode of Wife Swap where his wife traded places with Rick Flair’s wife. With Piper’s home life being secluded and private, it was the first time the public saw what a good person he really was, and how much his family loved him.


Considered to be one of the most obnoxious and hated stars professional wrestling has ever seen, Piper was loved by fans because he was entertaining. Roddy was full of life, energy, and was one of the most inspirational people on Earth.

Roddy Piper gave his friend Ronda Rousey permission to use his nickname. Ronda dedicated her UFC 190 title defense to his memory, and knocked out Bethe Correia in just 34 seconds in the first round.  Check out her post fight interview.

It was a privilege to write this article to honor the life of Roddy Piper. I have many fond memories of his work in professional wrestling, film, and television. He taught me how important it is to stay positive, and persevere through difficult situations in life in order to become successful.

Rest in Peace Hot Rod, you will be missed!




2 Comments on this post.

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  • Josh Millican
    1 August 2015 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    Wow! Thanks for such an insightful tribute. I feel like I know the man much better now, and this increases my appreciation for all of his accomplishments. My love to his family during this difficult time.

    He’s chewing bubblegum and kicking ass in Heaven now!

  • Anne B.
    1 August 2015 at 8:22 pm - Reply

    I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me.