Nick Name: Rowdy
Birthday: April 17, 1954
Died At Age: 61
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Roderick George Toombs, Rowdy Roddy Piper
Born Country: Canada
Born in: Saskatoon, Canada
Famous as: Wrestler
Height: 6'0" (183 cm), 6'0" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Kitty Jo Dittrich (m. 1982; his death 2015)
father: Stanley Baird Toombs
mother: Eileen Toombs
children: Anastacia Shea, Ariel Teal, Colton Baird, Falon Danika
Died on: July 31, 2015
place of death: Los Angeles, California, United States
Ancestry: Canadian Americans, Irish Canadians, Scottish Canadians
Cause of Death: Cardiopulmonary Arrest
City: Saskatoon, Canada
Who was Roddy Piper?
Roderick George Toombs was a Canadian professional wrestler, television personality, actor, and voice-over artist. He was also known by his ring name, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. He is generally regarded as one of greatest heels (villains) of professional wrestling. Despite being a Canadian, Piper was billed as being from Scotland because of his ancestry and wore a kilt and entered the arena to bagpipe music playing in the background. Starting his wrestling career with the American Wrestling Association, Piper had long tenures with both World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). At the height of his career, he had been featured on numerous pay-per-view cards, including the respective premier annual events of both WWF and WCW: WrestleMania and Starrcade. While he held 34 titles in various promotions over the course of his long career, he never became a world champion. He was the perfect foil for the quintessential professional wrestling face (hero), Hulk Hogan. It was their mid-1980s’ feud that marked the beginning of what came to be known as the "Rock 'n' Wrestling". Piper was one of the very few professional wrestlers to make a successful transition to acting. His most iconic role was of John Nada in the 1988 cult classic ‘They Live’. In 2005, Piper was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on April 17, 1954, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Roddy Piper was the son of Eileen (née Anderson) and Stanley Baird Toombs. His father served as an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) while the family was staying in The Pas, Manitoba. Piper grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and had a very turbulent relationship with his father.
He studied at Windsor Park Collegiate secondary school but later was expelled because he brought a switchblade to school. This led to further deterioration of his relationship with his father. He eventually left home as a teenager and lived out of various youth hostels.
He worked odd jobs at local gyms to support himself. During this period, he was exposed to the culture surrounding professional wrestling for the first time. He ran errands for professional wrestlers and learned the early lessons of the business from them. He also became adept in playing the bagpipes, although he later reiterated that he had no recollection of how he had learned them.
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Professional Wrestling Career
Roddy Piper started off as a boxer and amateur wrestler before he stepped into a professional wrestling ring. In fact, he was quite successful in his early career. He was not only a Golden Gloves boxing champion but also earned a Black Belt in Judo from Gene LeBell
He began his professional wrestling career under the tutelage of promoter Al Tomko in Canada and made his in-ring debut in a ‘midget wrestling’ match in Churchill, Manitoba. His first match for a reputed promotion took place in the American Wrestling Association against Larry Hennig. At the beginning of his career, from 1973 to 1975, Piper mainly served as a “jobber” to other professional wrestlers.
In the mid to the late 1970s, Piper gradually accumulated experience and fame in small promotions. He adopted several ring names, including the Masked Canadian and took part in quality storylines with some of the best professional wrestlers of the time, such as the members of the Guerrero family. Even then, Piper demonstrated his natural talent as a heel. He could enrage the crowd like no other. He once even caused a riot in Los Angeles.
Prior to his signing to WWF, Piper appeared in three matches at Madison Square Garden in 1979, when Vince McMahon, Sr. was still at the helm of the promotion.
He made his official debut in 1984 as a manager due to the injuries he had received during a dog-collar match at Starrcade. His tenure as a manager ultimately ended and Piper started wrestling in the WWE. In those early years, he feuded with the likes of Jimmy Snuka and Bruno Sammartino.
His storyline with Hogan eventually led to his appearance on the very first WrestleMania on March 31, 1985. At the WrestleMania 2, he fought Mr. T in a boxing match. He took a short break from professional wrestling after this and returned a face on August 23, 1986.
From 1984 to 1987, Piper hosted a segment called ‘Piper’s Pit’, where he interviewed fellow professional wrestlers. Piper received the Slammy Award in 1986 for Best Personality in Land of a Thousand Dances.
Despite his popularity and charisma, Piper only won a handful of belts during his time with the WWF/WWE. He became the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion at the 1992 Royal Rumble after he defeated The Mountie but lost the title to Bret Hart three months later at the WrestleMania VIII.
In January 1996, in an episode of Raw, Piper was named the new interim president of WWE. His most significant act in the position was to bring back The Ultimate Warrior. He also feuded with Goldust which culminated in their WrestleMania XII match that Piper won. He stepped down from his position and left WWE on that night as well. From 1996 to 2000, Piper wrestled for World Championship Wrestling.
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In 2005, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. He won the World Tag Team Championship with Ric Flair at Cyber Sunday on November 5, 2006.
Roddy Piper made his film debut in 1978, in an uncredited role in the comedy film ‘The One and Only’. In 1986, he was cast in his first leading role, "Quick" Rick Roberts in ‘Body Slam’.
He portrayed a drifter named John Nada in the 1988 cult classic ‘They Live’. He also starred in another cult classic that year, Donald G. Jackson’s directorial venture ‘Hell Comes to Frogtown’.
He continued to be active as an actor until his death in 2015. One of his last memorable roles was as Da' Maniac in an episode of Rob McElhenney’s sitcom ‘It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia’.
In 1985, Roddy Piper contributed his first and only song, ‘For Everybody’, to ‘The Wrestling Album’, which was released through Colombia Records. He was also a well-respected voice-over artist and lent his voice to Bolphunga in ‘Green Lantern: Emerald Knights’ (2011) and Don John in the episode ‘The Red Throne’ (2014) of Cartoon Network’s ‘Adventure Time’.
Roddy Piper’s match against Adrian Adonis at WrestleMania III was billed as his retirement match. Performing in front of more than 93,000 fans, this was Piper’s opportunity to show the world he was equally capable and believable as a face as he had been as a heel. After building up the feud for a few months, the duo managed to create much excitement among the fans. Piper ultimately went on to win the match on March 29, 1987.
Roddy Piper married Kitty Jo Dittrich in 1982. They had four children together, daughters Ariel Teal, Falon Danika, and Anastacia Shea, and son Colton Baird.
In late 2006, Piper was selected by the fans to partner up with Ric Flair to face The Spirit Squad (Kenny and Mikey) on Cyber Sunday pay-per-view on November 5, 2006. They won the titles and went on a Europe tour with the rest of the WWE roster when Piper realised something was wrong with him. His legs were no longer working. They flew him back to the US where the doctors discovered that he had Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Diagnosed with low-grade 2A lymphoma, he underwent 20 cycles of radiation and chemotherapy over the course of four weeks, finishing the radiation therapy on January 15, 2007.
Piper passed away in his sleep on July 31, 2015, at his home in Hollywood, California. He was 61 years old. According to his death certificate, Piper died of cardiopulmonary arrest caused by hypertension, with a pulmonary embolism being a contributing factor. As per his wishes, his body was cremated and his ashes were subsequently dispersed over his Gaston, Oregon home.
Piper had burst into the limelight of professional wrestling at a crucial and transitional period. He, Hulk Hogan, André the Giant, and Ric Flair changed how the industry was perceived and contributed to Vince McMahon’s effort to make professional wrestling mainstream. He was one of the greatest talkers in the history of sports entertainment as well as unarguably the greatest heel.
Former UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey used the nickname “Rowdy” in honour of Piper. After retiring from UFC, she made her WWE debut wearing Piper’s jacket that had been given to her by his son Colton.