Remembering 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper, The Wrestler So Tough, He Wore A Kilt

Aug 2, 2015
Originally published on August 2, 2015 6:37 pm
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Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Now let's take moment to remember one of the icons of pro wrestling.

(SOUNDBITE OF WRESTLING MATCH ANNOUNCEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Approaching ringside from west coast Dublin, weighing 232 pounds, Rowdy Roddy Piper.

RATH: Rowdy Roddy Piper, born Roderick George Toombs. He first appeared in the ring in Canada at the age of 15. He wore a kilt - you've got to be tough to pull that off - and bagpipes played as he walked in, hence Roddy Piper.

(SOUNDBITE OF WRESTLING MATCH ANNOUNCEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: Piper with a steel chair, about to ram it.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: Oh, Hulk stopped it.

RATH: When he joined the WWE in the '80s, he was a villain, going up against Hulk Hogan, who at the time, at least, was the hero. But Piper's gift as a performer went beyond the ring. He had an interview show, "Piper's Pit." Here's Rowdy Roddy with fellow wrestler Jimmy Snuka.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PIPER'S PIT")

ROWDY RODDY PIPER: You know what? The only thing I didn't get - I didn't get for you to climb up and out like a monkey, like you want to do. You want to be a big...

RATH: Piper's interview technique was simple - agitate the subject and get him to fight.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PIPER'S PIT")

PIPER: Am I making fun of you? Oh, no, sir. No, sir. No, sir.

(SOUNDBITE OF COCONUT HITTING SNUKA'S HEAD)

RATH: The crowd's going wild there because Piper smashed a coconut into Snuka's head. Piper was rowdy, and he was a villain, but he was also successful and immensely popular by the time he retired to pursue acting.

(SOUNDBITE OF WRESTLING MATCH ANNOUNCEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: He's announced retirement. This is the last hurrah for Hot Rod.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #3: Rowdy Roddy Piper, leaving the ranks of professional wrestling following this historic event - win, lose or draw. Big smile on his face as he has a standing ovation here - 90,000 plus on their feet for the Hot Rod.

RATH: He gained new fans like me with a starring role in John Carpenter's 1988 sci-fi conspiracy thriller "They Live." If you haven't seen it, fix that tonight. You'll see the most epic fight scene in movie history, along with a beautiful moment when Piper walks into a bank with a semi-automatic.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THEY LIVE")

PIPER: (As Nada) I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubblegum.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOT)

RATH: He improvised that line. Piper eventually went back to wrestling and to "Piper's Pit," even after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2006.

(SOUNDBITE OF BAGPIPE MUSIC)

RATH: Rowdy Roddy Piper died on Friday. He was 61 years old. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.