One of wrestling’s all-time great villains has died.
Roderick Toombs, known around the world as ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, died Friday at his home in Hollywood, California. He was 61.
The unofficial cause of death is said to be cardiac arrest.
Though he was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, Piper accentuated his Scottish heritage and would be billed from Glasgow, Scotland. He would often come to the ring wearing a kilt and his trademark ‘Hot Rod’ t-shirt, and playing a bagpipe.
“Roddy Piper was one of the most entertaining, controversial and bombastic performers ever in WWE, beloved by millions of fans around the world. I extend my deepest condolences to his family.”
Piper began his wrestling career at age 15. In the many decades that followed, Piper would feud with the top good guys wherever he went. When wrestling on the West Coast for the National Wrestling Alliance, Piper took on the legendary Guerrero family. When he came east to the Mid-Atlantic promotion, Piper feuded with the likes of Jack Brisco and Ric Flair. He wrestled Greg “The Hammer” Valentine in a dog collar match at the very first Starrcade event.
Piper’s star soared when he joined the then World Wrestling Federation, drawing jeers for blasting Jimmy Snuka with a coconut during an interview segment. He also main evented the first WrestleMania, teaming with Paul Orndorff to face Hulk Hogan and Mr. T.
When he wasn’t taunting crowds or opponents in the wrestling ring, Piper took on roles in such cult classics as They Live and Hell Comes to Frogtown. It was in the former film he uttered a phrase now etched into popular culture: “I am here to kick a– and chew bubble gum. And I am all out of bubble gum.”
After years of being reviled, the crowds began to like Piper’s antics and acerbic wit, prompting the WWF to make him a good guy. Even when he tried to be a bad guy, crowds just refused to boo the man.
In 2005, Piper was enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame. WWE also named him wrestling’s greatest villain, ahead of greats like The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, Ric Flair and The Four Horsemen, ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham, and Bobby Heenan.
After Piper’s retirement, mixed martial arts star Ronda Rousey took on the nickname ‘Rowdy’ after receiving Piper’s blessing to do so.
‘Hot Rod’ spent his time going around the country, making appearances at conventions and meeting fans. Below is an interview from February 2015 with our sister station Fox59 in Indianapolis. He was his usual gregarious self.
Roddy Piper is survived by his wife, their three daughters and one son.