You’ve heard by now, there is no way that you haven’t.
Pro Wrestling and pop-culture icon “Rowdy” Roddy Piper passed away in his sleep on July 31, 2015, just three and a half months after his 61’st birthday. An outpouring show of grief from generations of fans have been flowing like water since the announcement but for me personally, my wounds are slightly deeper. Ask any pro wrestler and I guarantee you that all of them felt this sting as well. We all do, and to make the non wrestling fan (or even the non-“smart” fan) understand, I am going to try my best to break it down in a way that makes sense.
All of us growing up have heroes. These heroes inspire us to do things that we love. Legions of basketball players cite Michael Jordan as the reason that they played the game. Derek Jeter, the same. In eras before the modern one, names like Babe Ruth, Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Muhammad Ali, Julius Erving and others have inspired people from all over to follow in their footsteps or seek out their dreams like they did themselves. In wrestling, Roddy Piper was that guy for me. Piper was cocky, arrogant, hated by the masses in the 80’s and I loved it. I was 5 years old when I saw the “Piper’s Pit” where he hits Jimmy Snuka over the head with the coconut and I can’t explain why, but at 5 years old I found it hysterical and from that point on, I was a Piper guy. Everything he did, I tried to imitate….except for the kilt, while he made it look cool, it is a look that is genuine to him (I’ll stick to superhero shirts and plaid shorts with flip-flops). There may have been other favorites as I grew up, each of which I took a piece from and incorporated it into my own personal wrestling style, names like Bret Hart, Randy Savage, Shawn Michaels, even The Undertaker, but at the root of my style, it was the Hotrod.
The bumps, the faces, the eye-poke, calling “Time Out” in the middle of the match, grabbing my things and walking away and taking the countout loss or intentionally getting DQ’d, the list of shenanigans go on and on. That was Piper. By extension, that was me. When I ventured into the world of pro wrestling in February 2000, I was a 19 year old kid that was thinner than a toothpick and would get thrown around with relative ease. Eventually, I began incorporating some of Piper’s bumps from the 80’s into my being thrown around (example – flipping myself over where my head was on the mat and my feet were draped over the top rope), and slowly would do the old “Time Out” call. It made the veterans laugh, so I was sure to do it during the chances I received to be the “enhancement talent” on the old New Millennium Wrestling TV show.
As I progressed and learned and absorbed all I could when travelling to different cities, it was then where I began to understand the kinship of the road. I began to appreciate the locker room and the boys became just that, the boys. I was in a crowd that was not cool to be in, growing up during the time that I did. Wrestling fans never admitted openly back in the day that they were fans. It was here where I could be myself in front of others. I’m going somewhere with this…..
As each of the wrestlers’ respective autobiographies came out on the bookshelves, it was there where it solidified it for me, these guys that I looked up to were just like me, especially Roddy Piper. Each wrestler can relate to the long hours on the road for little to nothing financially to show for it. Each of us can relate to that nagging injury that rears it’s ugly head at the most ridiculous times. So it is because of things like that why we wrestlers take it hard when another passes away regardless if we have met them personally or not. I believe I said on the last episode of “Get Ready, America!”, that we in some way are all kindred spirits. All share the same love. That’s why it hurts when a member of our fraternity passes away.
I had the privilege of speaking to Roddy Piper on one occasion and it was perhaps the most awesome 25 minutes of my life. I get into detail on my last podcast, so I won’t bore you with the text version and instead, I invite you to listen to my personal Piper story, because it really meant the world to me. I got to tell my hero “thank you” and how much I appreciated him being a role model for me, intentional or not, before he died. How many people can say that they have done that?
Having said that though, my hero is gone. No longer will the kid in me get excited when WWE decides to drag him out for a “Piper’s Pit” on an “Old School RAW”, because that will never happen again. No longer will I pop when the camera pans on him sitting in the crowd in the Hall of Fame ceremony every year, because he will not be there. Instead, any time I want to reminisce or have a study session….you know…..in case I ever decide to lace the boots or put on a commentary headset again, I will be glued to old videos on YouTube of WWE Network laughing, and enjoying the body of work that he has on display from over 40 years of work.
WWE had a nice tribute to Roddy this past Monday. I personally was not prepared for it, but I’m glad I watched it. It was a fitting tribute for someone that meant so much not only to me, but to generations of wrestling fans all over the world. If not for Roddy Piper, Wrestlemania 1 would not have sold as easily, and that’s a fact.
Roddy, safe home. Thank you for all of the memories, and thank you for inspiring a kid with a dream to chase after it, regardless of size. The world will never forget you….I’ll never forget you.
“Just when they think THEY got the answers, I change the questions.” – Roddy Piper