The world of professional wrestling received some more sad news this past Friday as Rowdy Roddy Piper passed away in his home at age 61. I didn’t get into wrestling until 1988, during Piper’s hiatus from the WWF and after his big feuds with Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, and Adrian Adonis. However, my friends always talked about Piper and would fill me in on all of his past shenanigans.
Piper made his return to the WWF at WrestleMania 5 in a special edition of Piper’s Pit with guests Brother Love and controversial talk show host, Morton Downey Jr. It was the first time seeing this wrestler that had been built up by my friends to legendary proportions.
“Mom, what’s a transvestite” the seven-year old me curiously asked when Downey referred to Piper as such during their awkwardly back and forth conversation. Of course, I didn’t get an answer, and nor were there any revelations to the rest of the adult loaded barbs that were exchanged between the two.
While all of this was going over my head at the time, it didn’t take much for me to realize that Downey was the heel in this situation since he kept blowing smoke in Piper’s face. Once Piper doused him with the fire extinguisher, I was officially team “Hot Rod.”
Looking back at it now, it was a horrible segment that was a far cry from the Piper’s Pit that we’ve come to know and love.
One of my favorite Roddy Piper matches took place at WCW Starrcade 1996 when he worked with Hollywood Hulk Hogan. A lot of people criticize this match due to its emphasis on theatrics over wrestling. I don’t see it that way.
Professional wrestling is a performance in its simplest form. Fans weren’t paying to see these two legends exchange arm drags and hurricanranas. People wanted to see Hogan get taken to the woodshed, and they wanted Piper to do the whoopin.
Hogan cowered in fear and cheated at every turn while Piper was beyond intense and hell-bent on proving he was the icon. Piper’s performance was just what the doctor ordered that night and the intensity he conveyed is something that is missing today.
I recently wrote an article looking back on Roddy Piper’s career. He was a different kind of crazy and that resonated with fans to a level that makes him a legend in every sense of the word. Click here to check out Remembering Rowdy Roddy Piper