|Piper was loved by many, including Courtney and the man whom he has wrangled in a sleeperhold above|
Photo Credit: WWE.com
It is with a heavy heart I sit and try to compose my thoughts on the passing of Roddy Piper. It felt like Piper was one of those icons who would live forever, popping up on WrestleManias and RAWs from time to time to add some much needed humor and buzz. His larger than life personality and charisma will never be matched again in the realm of professional wrestling, and he was one of the few wrestlers who became more than just an in-ring performer; he was a recognizable face and name. Before The Rock was a Hollywood star, Roddy Piper was doing talk shows and starring in films. He partook in some of the greatest feuds in the history of wrestling, as well as some of the most underrated matches. There’s nothing Piper couldn’t do, and to lose a figure as talented and impressive as he was is a terrible blow.
I first started watching wrestling when I was around seven or eight. At that time, my sister and I would stay with our uncle after school all day while our parents worked. He was a huge wrestling fan, and he slowly introduced us to it. He would tape RAW and Nitro for us and then the next day, when we finished our homework, we got to watch it as a treat. It blew my mind as a child, and as we became more and more addicted to it, he would show us older tapes, things from before our era. That’s when I discovered Roddy Piper.
Wrestling has always been a huge outlet for me, none more so than when I was a child. I was a chubby, nonathletic kid who read a lot and wasn’t particularly aggressive. When I discovered wrestling, it was like I had found the perfect dream world I could escape into for a few hours. A world where I could imagine I was any of the superstars, taking out my aggression on classmates and teachers through their actions. When I was first introduced to Piper, it was like another door had opened for me. His way with words was mind-blowing, and he had everyone eating out of the palm of his hand just by talking. He wasn’t the biggest guy, he wasn’t insanely handsome or athletic but when his music hit, everything became about him. He commanded attention from people in the way I always wanted to do and never could, and it inspired me.
My uncle started showing me tapes of other wrestlers who were great at mic work, and from then on they were always my favorite. I realized that I didn’t have to be a super athletic, intense kid. I was already intelligent for my age, and I read all the time. I had a big vocabulary as a kid and a quick wit, and I was able marry my love of wrestling with things I was actually good at, because of what I saw on TV. Piper didn’t have to lay a hand on anyone to embarrass them. He always chose and calculated when it best suited him to strike, but he could be in a ring with ten stars and if he had the mic, he didn’t need anything else.
In an odd way, Piper taught me how to be confident and speak up more. I didn't have to fit into this mold of athletic and pretty; I could knock people out through language and be a witty kid instead. Not only that, people would actually like me for it. I learned I could embarrass bullies without ever having to put my hands on them. That method contributed a lot to how I made my way through middle school and junior high, and I found that the more I spoke, the more confident and relaxed I became. There was a joy I gained from making people laugh. A great deal of the snarky wit I developed had to do with wrestling, and I can never thank it enough.
The night Piper passed away, I was lucky enough to go to a wrestling show here in Chicago and was able to meet Bret Hart. He was quiet and reserved during the meet and greet, but about three matches into the show he entered the ring to speak about Hot Rod. He mentioned how close the two of them were, and how he considers their match and WrestleMania 8 to be one of the best of his career, largely for Piper’s performance. You could hear the emotion in his voice as he spoke about his friend, and he had to pull the microphone away once or twice because he was tearing up. It was emotional and heartwarming all at once, and anyone in the audience could tell these two men were indeed “cousins” as Hart said Roddy affectionately referred to him as.
I fully understand that Piper wasn't everyone's cup of tea and far from the favorite of most. He embodied the essence of a true villain. He was calculating, he took advantage of others at their weakest moments and he never held back. He was the perfect foil to the All-American hero of Hulk Hogan, and that’s partially why I loved him. Hogan was too perfect; his hero-like stature made him impossible to relate to, but Piper? I knew where Piper stood. I knew even as a kid how real Piper was. Hulk Hogan was superhero. Roddy Piper was a normal guy in an extraordinary position. Somehow to me, Piper was always more human, more relatable, more understandable in his anger than Hogan ever was in his heroics.
Roddy Piper was more than just a legend; he was an iconic figure that inspired so many people who watched him either in the ring or during his career in Hollywood. His passion for the business and love of wrestling was infectious. There is seldom a time when I watch a Roddy Piper clip without having a smile on my face. He was truly one of a kind in so many aspects, and his legacy and impact will not only show itself within the wrestling world, but also in so many individuals he influenced throughout the years.