The world of professional wrestling and Hollywood entertainment was dealt a blow today with news that WWE legend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper had passed away from cardiac arrest while sleeping in his home. He was 61 years old and is survived by a wife and four children. Piper, real name Roderick George Tombs, had wrestled in a number of smaller federations throughout the ’70s before hitting it big in the WWF of the 1980s. He was a staple of the “Rock ‘n Wrestling” era alongside greats such as Hulk Hogan, Sgt. Slaughter, and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka.
It was Piper’s attack on Snuka that helped catapulted him to legendary status as an antagonistic, foul-mouthed, dirty heel. Piper had begun hosting a talk segment on-air known as “Piper’s Pit”, and had bad-mouthed Snuka’s Polynesian heritage, ultimately smashing Snuka over the head with a coconut. Piper, always decked out in his controversial Scottish kilt, would go on to have a memorable feud with Hulk Hogan, teaming with Paul Orndorff against him and Mr. T in the very first WrestleMania.
Piper was then hit with the acting bug, taking a break from wrestling to star in a string of genre films, many of which remain as cult classics. In 1986 he starred in the wrestling comedy, Body Slam, in his first lead role. He then lead the cult flick Hell Comes to Frogtown, but he will probably best be remembered on the big screen for John Carpenter’s alien invasion film, They Live, which debuted at #1 at the box office. Piper, along with Hulk Hogan, helped pave the way for professional wrestlers in the movie industry.
Caught right in the middle of the infamous “Monday Night Wars”, Piper eventually left the WWE and went to WCW. His home, however, was always in the WWE, and he would return in 2003 and again in 2005, which was the same year he suffered debilitating injuries due to a car crash. It was also the year he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. He would stay with the company from that point on, serving in numerous capacities both in the ring and out. Recently he had been a cast member on the WWE reality series, Legends’ House, alongside many of the men he had fought with and traveled he road with throughout his illustrious career.