In Memoriam: Rowdy Roddy Piper
Life takes you down weird roads some days, especially when you hit an age where your heroes start dying.
I don't mean to start this by being dark, but with the deaths of first "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes and now "Rowdy" Roddy Piper it really feels like death is starting to take entertainers from us who really helped shape the fabric of my childhood experiences, and that feeling resoundingly sucks.
I first remember Roddy Piper's presence on "Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n Wrestling" cartoon. I can't say much about it, but I do remember him as being one of the bad guys who really stuck out. My first real wrestling experience with him started with his Bad News Brown feud for Wrestlemania 6. Piper would later recount to Vince McMahon his idea for selling the bout: he planned to paint half his body black for the show. You couldn't get away with that gimmick today, but Vince embraced it as a way of making the bit more controversial than ever. Can you imagine the headlines that would pop up on all the outrage media sites like Slate, Salon, Jezebel, and so on? Piper would probably be the subject of a Ta-Nehisi Coates thinkpiece for that act of moral treason alone.
And yet that was what made Piper so special in the art form of professional wrestling. He was committed to his craft, and committed to his bits, and would do damn near anything and everything to sell a wrestling match like it was something special. Another point in mind that speaks to this was the infamous "Hollywood Backlot Brawl" with Goldust for Wrestlemania 12. This ridiculous affair had everything from baseball bats to firehoses and a golden Cadillac involved. There was a callback to the car chase from the OJ Simpson trial. And yet it worked, because Piper put so much effort into making the performance special.
Piper's work didn't just stay in the wrestling world. His contributions to campy cinema will be forever remembered as some of the best. "Hell Comes to Frogtown" was a great bit of cinema camp, but Piper's work in John Carpenter's "They Live" will last forever in various outlets. South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone even recreated one of the best fight scenes from the movie in an episode of their show just to pay their respects to that film. And people who see "They Live" inevitably end up parroting what is probably the most famous line of Piper's: "I have come to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum."
Piper knew what it took to work a mic in the ring and out, and I always looked forward to every single "Piper's Pit" segment whenever I heard one was coming on RAW, Smackdown or otherwise. Even when the bits floundered, you knew something special was coming whenever Piper would do an interview with a person, because of Hot Rod's inherent unpredictability. You never knew what he was going to say or what questions he would ask, and that was what made it special. I respectfully submit every WWE star that had an interview segment, from Chris Jericho's "Highlight Reel" to Christian's "Peep Show" to Edge's "The Cutting Edge" owes a thank you to Rowdy Roddy Piper for the ground he broke in each of those segments, and none of them were ever as good as "Piper's Pit" or even came close to them.
Rowdy Roddy Piper's influence has been felt throughout almost every aspect of life, and that's what makes this particular passing so hard to swallow. UFC Bantamweight Women's Champion Ronda Rousey asked permission of Piper before using the "Rowdy" moniker in her name and has dedicated her fight against Bethe Correia at UFC 190 to her hero. Last night at Knox Vegas Comedy's Open Mic at Sassy Ann's, a kilt was draped over a steel chair for the entirety of the show--a fitting tribute to a man who made unpredictability, passion, and commitment to your craft so important to so many.
Rest in peace, Roddy Piper. May you reap the rewards of your legendary career at the big pay window in the sky.
It's gonna be hard to hear bagpipe music without tearing up now.