Remembering Rowdy Roddy Piper

Rest in peace, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (born Roderick George Toombs), another professional wrestler gone too soon. TMZ reported that he died in his sleep from cardiac arrest. He was only 61 years old.

Even though he played a villain for most of his career, he was a fan favorite. He had the gift of gab, and his famous "Piper's Pit" interview segments apparently were mostly improvised. Piper was one of the key players (along with Hulk Hogan, Cyndi Lauper, and Mr. T) in the "Rock and Wrestling" storyline for the WWF (now called the WWE) back in the 1980s that launched the popularity of the sport-entertainment nationwide (and then worldwide) when it had previously been a regional attraction.

A decade later, he asked Hogan on live TV when they were both on WCW, speaking of the fans, "Do you think they would have loved you so much, if they hadn't hated me?" It was that kind of wit, humor, and seeming genuineness that endeared him with audiences. They often cheered for him even when he was the heel. People enjoyed watching him even if he wasn't fighting in the ring, they just enjoyed hearing him talk. (The only other pro wrestling personality that came somewhat close to having that impact for me was probably Jesse "The Body" Ventura.)

He had multiple championships with the NWA and other wrestling organizations. For the WWF/WWE, while never Heavyweight Champion, he did manage to become the Intercontinental Champion and the World Tagteam Champion with Ric Flair. He was a true wrestling legend, voted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005. He was also voted the "Greatest Villain" of all time.

In Hollywood, his greatest success was the starring role in the science fiction cult classic They Live, which featured one of the longest fist fight scenes ever filmed as well as Piper's classic ad-libbed line, "I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass...and I'm all out of bubble gum."

He will be missed.

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