What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions

RIP, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

roddy piper with belt

There’s a lot of guys who would be in the Dubsism Hall of Fame; a Hall dedicated to guys who I thought were the personification of the values we respect here at Dubsism. Sure, it’s more about people we liked for one reason or another, but if it’s our Hall, we get to do what we want with it.

An easy way to tell who would be candidates for just such a Hall would be to look at the guys for whom I’ve written impassioned eulogies.  Regular readers of this blog will note Joe Paterno’s absence from that list; that’s because his tribute came in a complete and honest assessment of the Penn State scandal which ended his career.

But, I digress.

The world lost another Hall of Fame guy with the passing of Roderick George Toombs…the birth name of wrestling legend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.

Toombs came to this world on April 17, 1954 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.   His father was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police while they lived in The Pas, Manitoba.  However after having been being expelled from junior high and having a falling out with his father, Piper left home and spent large portions of his youth living in hostels or on the streets of Winnipeg, Manitoba.  He survived by taking up odd jobs at local gyms running errands for several professional wrestlers.  Somewhere along the line, his Scottish heritage led him to become a renowned for his proficiency playing the bagpipes, which along with his ever-present kilt became his trademarks. But it was also his proximity to professional wrestlers which would prove fateful.

Early on, Toombs was a boxer and amateur wrestler before becoming a professional wrestler. He won a Golden Gloves boxing championship, and held a black belt in Judo.  Toombs’ debut as a professional wrestler came at age 15 in Winnipeg against Larry Hennig. When Toombs made his way to the ring playing the bagpipes, the ring-announcer introduced him as “Roddy the Piper.” The nickname stuck,; that day in 1969 is when Roderick George Toombs became Roddy Piper.

Piper sent the early part of the 1970’s bouncing around various and sundry wrestling operations, but it was in 1975 as part of Mike and Gene LeBell’s NWA Hollywood Wrestling.  Piper was originally supposed to be in California for a short time, but a promoter named Leo Garibaldi and a publicist named Jeff Walton were impressed with Piper and saw the money-making possibilities he had as a villain.

In no time at all, Piper’s star began to rise.  He was wrestling in both Los Angeles with the LaBells and in with Roy Shire’s NWA San Francisco Wrestling.  It was during this time Piper developed his “Rowdy”  character and quickly became one of the most hated villains in Los Angeles wrestling since “Classy” Freddy Blassie.

This is when Piper caught the eye of a ten-year old J-Dub.

rowdy roddy best of

Piper’s act was like nothing I’d ever seen before.  Sure, he was the “bad guy,” but he had such a flair for it.  He was part Don Rickles, and part straight-out bad-ass.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a large part of the audience for wrestling in Southern California was Mexican.  It also shouldn’t come as a surprise that Piper played to that; he would incessantly bait the Mexican fans with continuous, yet piss-your-pants hilarious insults.  Once he “promised” to make amends with the Mexican community by playing the Mexican national anthem on his bagpipes.  Naturally, he only used this to up the ante by playing a satirical version of “La Cucaracha” instead.

Shortly thereafter, Piper left California and ultimately became known to a national cable television audience on Georgia Championship Wrestling in Atlanta.  By the time Georgia Championship Wrestling became World Championship Wrestling, Piper had become known as a commentator as well as for his feuds with stars such as Bob Armstrong, Dick Slater, Tommy Rich, and “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.

However, it was in the summer of 1982 when Piper became fan favorite after he came to the defense of  his broadcast partner Gordon Solie.  Solie was assaulted by wrestlers Don Muraco and Ole Anderson who were upset with Solie’s questioning their tactics.  So Piper flattened both of them. Piper’s popularity grew even more when he settled his feud with popular WCW Champion Tommy Rich and teamed with him during Rich’s rivalry with Buzz Sawyer.

Piper’s next step was to move into the world of Jim Crockett Promotions.  Now a known entity and a fan favorite, Piper immediate stoke feuds with stars such as Sgt. Slaughter, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, and once again, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.  The rivalry with Valentine culminated in a dog collar match during which Valentine broke Piper’s left eardrum during  with the collar’s chain, causing Piper permanent hearing loss.

But the “big time” still awaited Piper.  1984 saw Piper’s entry into the newly prominent World Wrestling Federation.  Piper began his WWF tenure as a manager due to the injuries he sustained during his dog collar match with Greg Valentine.

However, it was clear to all that Piper was a star in the making, and his role in the WWF grew exponentially.  Not only did he return to the ring on a full-time basis. However, Piper would become a household name when the WWF created a talk-show style segment during its broadcasts called “Piper’s Pit.”

This allowed Piper to hark back to his original character from his Los Angeles days.  Once again, it shouldn’t surprise anybody that these Piper;’s Pit interview often ended in an orgy of smashed furniture and bloody noses. There was an instance where Piper insulted “Super Fly” Jimmy Snuka’s Polynesian heritage by dropping pineapples, bananas, and coconuts on the table.  As is to be expected, Snuka took offense to this, which led to Piper breaking a coconut over Snuka’s head, which then led to the aforementioned orgy of smashed furniture.  This sort of thing was a regular occurrence.

roddy piper jimmy snuka

And it was AWESOME.

Wrestling is an event based on “good” guys and “bad” guys.  Then , there was Piper.  Piper was the ultimate maverick, he didn’t care who he went after.  His most famous feud was with the biggest star in the business, Hulk Hogan.  Proving the wrestling had now crossed-over into mainstream culture, this feud somehow also involved pop singer Cyndi Lauper during her time when she was always around “Captain” Lou Albano.   In another Piper’s Pit incident, Roddy had enough of Lauper and Albano, and proceeded to dismantle both of them, at which time the “Hulkster” decided it was up to him to seek revenge for Lauper.

This led to the 1985 MTV-production In 1985, MTV broadcast “The War to Settle the Score” which was a made-for-TV event featuring a grudge match between Piper and Hogan.  Hulk was accompanied to the ring by Albano, Lauper, and Mr. T.  What most people don’t realize is this was really the birth of WrestleMania, which actually began as a result of this grudge match.

The original WrestleMania pitted Piper and “Mr. Wonderful”Paul Orndorff against Hulk Hogan and Mr. T.   This lead to some really fun stuff.  First of all, Orndorff was pinned by Hogan when Piper’s bodyguard “Cowboy” Bob Orton interfered and mistakenly nailed Orndorff instead of Hogan with his trademark “injured” arm covered in a plaster cast.   But better than that was the feud that erupted between Piper and Mr. T.

Piper made several public comments about how he had to use a lot of tie-ups and other basic hold and techniques to hide the fact Mr. T had no real wrestling ability. Mr. T took offense to this, their real-life relationship became hostile, which lead to the inevitable meeting in the ring, which happened at WrestleMania 2 in 1986. Piper faced Mr. T in a boxing match which Piper lost by disqualification after he bodyslammed Mr. T.

roddy piper boxing mr t

From the height of his fame, Piper weaved in and out of wresting and appeared in movies, television, and even did voice-over work for animated production for Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network.  Given what you’ve read here today, it shouldn’t  surprise anybody Piper is considered the greatest talker and villian in wrestling history.  Piper’s Pit was a game-changer because it allowed access to wrestlers who weren’t the champion.  That was all you ever saw in the standard “interview” bits.  Bobby “the Brain” Heenan once said that you could  leave Piper in a room and return twenty minutes later with Piper having produced a first-class promotional spot.

Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter described Piper as “one of the key figures in the growth of WWF. In particular, he helped power the success of the first WrestleMania: the most important show in company history.”  There’s really no doubting that professional wrestling would have never become what it did without Roderick George Toombs.

No matter how you look at it, the world lost a tremendous talent.  I honestly hope there’s a Piper’s Pit in the after life…

About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

5 comments on “RIP, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

  1. Dick Marple
    August 1, 2015

    My comment on the Rowdster was always “He is either a raving psychotic or the greatest actor of the 20th century.”. Good guy, bad guy or whatever role he took on, he WAS the part. Sooner or later the thought police will come knocking on my door and the first sentence on the arrest warrant will document how many times I have seen “They Live”. .Obviously, the greatest snub in Oscar history. The film inspired the South Park episode (Cripple Fight) with the titled set piece being an exact re-creation of Roddy’s alley fight with Keith David. Highlight of my WWF years. Some event in NYC drew the elite (to MSG ?). A reporter found Cyndi Lauper and Gloria Steinem outside the arena. When asked for an opinion of Mr P, Gloria said:” He is a disgrace. He should not be allowed to wear a skirt.”
    Is this the only funny thing she ever said ?

    Thanks for the tribute, J.


  2. J-Dub
    August 2, 2015

    I deliberately did not mention “They Live” because I wanted to see how long it would take to see it mentioned in the comments…


  3. Ravenation
    August 2, 2015

    Reblogged this on First Order Historians and commented:
    Fantastic piece on the amazing life of wrestling legend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as written by @Dubsism


  4. sportsattitudes
    August 10, 2015

    John Carpenter’s “They Live” is a very underrated B-movie. Nothing B-movie about Roddy. Probably my favorite wrestler growing up…until I figured out wrestling was “for entertainment purposes only.”


  5. Pingback: Radio J-Dub, Volume 16 – The Sports “Jumped The Shark” Edition | Dubsism

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This entry was posted on August 1, 2015 by in Sports, Sports Media and tagged , , .

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