“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubblegum.”
Last week, one of my favorites and one of the best to ever do it left us.
Rowdy Roddy Piper died at the young age of 61.
It has been a rough year for a kid who grew up on 1990s-era WCW. Sting makes his long-awaited debut in WWE only to lose anticlimactically to Triple H at Wrestlemania and disappear the next night. Dusty Rhodes passed away in June. Hulk Hogan’s been ousted from history with a tirade of racist comments coming out to the public. Hell, I even missed Kevin Nash’s appearance at the local baseball stadium. On top of all that, Roddy Piper suddenly passes away. Piper had beat cancer once, but ultimately succumbed to cardiac arrest.
Piper was one of the most gifted and dynamic performers this business has ever seen. He reached the mainstream by coming up alongside Hulk Hogan and main-eventing the first two Wrestlemanias alongside Mr. T. - without Piper and Mr. T there probably wouldn’t even be a Wrestlemania today. Piper was one of the top villains in wrestling history, yet he still was endearing to crowds with his charisma and character work. Piper helped pave the way for wrestlers like Brian Pillman, CM Punk and Dean Ambrose. Wrestlers who don’t need to impress anybody with their physiques or their looks, but could still get over with their promos and character work.
The cast of Monday Night Raw pay their respects to Piper by wearing his trademark Hot Rod! T-shirt. Even the guy in the bull costume. Pro-Wrestling just can’t help but be Pro-Wrestling sometimes.
Piper had an effect on me, watching WCW as a kid. In a colorful world dominated by huge, muscle bound cartoon characters like Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage, Piper stuck out as an individual. He wasn’t big like the heavyweights, he wasn’t a high flyer like the cruiserweights, he didn’t do cool power moves like Goldberg. Piper showed up to run his mouth and get into a fight. Roddy Piper was punk rock.
Admittedly I’m too young to have seen most of his heyday in late 1980-early 1990s WWF. Piper never won the championship but will forever live on as a legendary character. Wrestlers like Scott Hall and Jake “The Snake” Roberts were two other characters who never won the big one, but they will still go down in the record books as legends.
I did have the privilege of seeing Piper’s last WWE appearance in person. At a Monday Night Raw show I attended last December, Piper hosted “Piper’s Pit” along with Rusev, Lana and Ryback. The wrestling talk show is something Piper helped pioneer and is one of wrestling’s sillier tropes. Piper got one of the biggest live crowd reactions I’ve ever been a part of. While the segment wasn’t anything that would end up on a Best of Raw compilation, I’m glad I got to be in the building for Piper’s final WWE appearance.
Piper guest starred a couple of times on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and was a delight every time he showed up. He fit right into that depraved world like he had been a regular character. Piper’s starring role in John Carpenter’s They Live is something that will also stick with me for a lifetime. I saw the film at the malleable age where horror movies weren’t entirely frightening and I could begin to see them as an art form. This movie was my gateway drug into the world of horror movies and more specifically, becoming a fan of John Carpenter. I made friends with the few people at school who could point out the reference to They Live’s fight scene in an episode of South Park. The “bubblegum” line from the film will be referenced until the end of time.
They Live effectively taught me to “take off the glasses.”
Piper’s legacy lives on through “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, arguably one of the biggest sports stars of my generation. Piper blessed her with his permission to use the “Rowdy” nickname and after demolishing her opponent at last weekend’s UFC 190 pay per view, she dedicated her fight to her deceased father and to Roddy Piper.
Roddy Piper appeared on the MMA Hour podcast a couple of years ago and was asked how he wanted to be remembered. Piper replied by saying “a good father.” He rose to fame through wrestling but none of that mattered compared to his children.
While I was sad about the passing of Dusty Rhodes, Roddy Piper’s death hits closer to home. Death comes for us all so spend your time running your mouth and loving your family. May he forever have bubblegum and asses to kick.
by Nathan Dimit (@ndimit)