Make no mistake about it. This will not be the first, or the last, memorial written in remembrance of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Others will commemorate him more elegantly, and others will have had a more personal interaction with him, but one thing is for sure; Roddy Piper was a hero of mine, and his passing has created an incredible amount of sadness in my life. Another childhood hero has passed on to the other side, and I wasn’t ready for him to leave yet.
As I have written in the past, my childhood memories are shaped by the glowing light of my television set on Saturday afternoons watching WWF Superstars with my father. Some of my most vivid, and fond, memories are feuds like Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan and Sargent Slaughter, Ric Flair and “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and many others. The feud that divided my dad and I was Hogan and Warrior, but I think the one that bonded us was Bret Hart and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
As WrestleMania VIII rolled around, I was 10 years old (actually, the same age as my son as I’m writing this). We were looking forward to Hulk Hogan defeating Sid Justice in what was rumoured to be Hulk Hogan’s retirement match, and we were really looking forward to “Macho Man” Randy Savage defeating Ric Flair. However, what turned into the sleeper hit of the night was “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Bret “Hitman” Hart.
I came from a family that didn’t have a lot of money. Three children were very taxing on my parents financially, so it was rare that we were able to see a pay-per-view live as it happened. More often than not, we had to wait months for it to be released on Coliseum Home Video, where when it was made available, I would immediately spend my weekly $2.50 allowance on the tape. There was nothing on this planet worse than not being the first one to be able to rent that tape. If someone got to it before me, I would literally consider camping outside of our local corner store waiting for the person who rented it to return it.
So, we rented WrestleMania VIII. Of course, we already knew who won the matches, but we wanted to see how they played out. Savage defeated Ric Flair in a classic Ric Flair blood bath, Hulk Hogan defeated Sid Justice by disqualification leading to the return of the Ultimate Warrior, and Roddy Piper taught me that good guys can still do bad things.
Even as a child, I wasn’t much of a Bret Hart fan. Sure, he was a “good guy” and, by default, my dad and I cheered all the good guys, but I just really didn’t care much for Bret Hart. When he lost the Intercontinental Championship to the Mountie while battling a 103 degree fever, part of me was kind of satisfied he had lost, despite the fact that I hate the Mountie, and especially his shock stick. However, when Roddy Piper took advantage at the 1992 Royal Rumble, winning his first (and only) Intercontinental Championship, I was elated. There was an edge about Roddy Piper that I was becoming the age of being able to truly enjoy. He was a “good guy”, but he did bad things. Hair pulling, slapping, eyepoking? All in a day’s work if your name was “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and I loved every moment of it. I guess it really was his ongoing feud with Ric Flair that taught me that it was okay for good guys to do bad things before the bad guys do worse things. Of course, I was a bit too young to truly remember Roddy Piper’s legendary run between WrestleMania’s I-III, that I would only come to enjoy later in life. This was my first exposure to Roddy Piper being the edgy babyface we all grew to love.
So, my dad and I sat in front of the television, and watched the match unfold. I wish I could remember who my dad was cheering for while we were watching it, but I can tell you this, when Roddy Piper lifted the bell above his head, about to hit Bret Hart in the head and finish the job, retaining his Intercontinental Championship, there were no two people in the world screaming at their televisions louder for him to do it. Hell, we already knew the result of the match, but we were both so caught up in the moment, and the emotion of Roddy Piper, we couldn’t help ourselves. We both wanted Roddy Piper to succeed, even if it meant doing something dastardly in order to do it.
Of course, that wasn’t the only time we saw Roddy Piper ratchet up the violence level typically unseen for your traditional “good guy”. How about the Hollywood Backlot Brawl, between Piper and Goldust. Goldust was solidified in that match for the rest of his career because of the absolute beating Roddy Piper gave him, legitimizing him to the fans that otherwise thought he was a “bit fruity”.
I have so many incredible memories about Roddy Piper that I could go on telling all day long. Meeting him, and getting to shake his hand and tell him how important his style became to molding the type of professional wrestling I wanted to become was another big moment for me in my life. Having my promo style compared to Roddy Piper’s, or my storytelling ability compared to his are two of the biggest compliments I’ve ever been given in my life.
Roddy Piper, the man, was a legend. He will be missed, and never forgotten, and I can only hope that he knew how important he was to everyone he touched in his life when he left this Earth. The ripple effects that he had on professional wrestling will be felt for the rest of time.
Rest in peace, Roddy. Thank-you for entertaining me, inspiring me, and teaching me. You will never be forgotten. Thank-you.