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The Tragic Death of Pro Wrestler ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper

He was born Roderick George Toombs but everyone knew him as Roddy – ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, to be more precise. Piper was considered by many as pro wrestling’s biggest villain during the hugely popular World Wrestling Federation (now known as WWE) days in the 1980s. Known for entering the ring wearing a kilt and playing the bagpipes, Piper’s life was unexpectedly cut short at the age of 61 on July 31, 2015.

‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper’s wrestling days

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Roddy Piper was born in Canada and had to grow up quickly. According to his bio in the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, he was expelled from junior high school. Piper also had a falling out with his father and found himself living in a youth hostel. 

All this helped Piper become the youngest professional wrestler at the age of 15. His pro debut came in Winnipeg against Larry ‘The Axe’ Henning and he made his entrance playing the bagpipes. In his early days of wrestling, Piper had well-publicized feuds with ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair and ‘Superfly’ Jimmy Snuka. The Snuka feud came when WWF promoter Vince McMahon gave Piper a TV segment called “Piper’s Pit” on one of the WWF television broadcasts and Piper cracked a coconut over Snuka’s head.

Piper’s legacy grew because of his rivalry with Hulk Hogan. Piper was also involved with singer Cyndi Lauper and wrestler Captain Lou Albano which led to an MTV special called “The War to Settle the Score.” Piper, as usual, was the villain and his disqualification allowed Hogan to capture the WWF title. Piper was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005

‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper’s death

On July 31, 2015, ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper died in his sleep at the age of 61. Piper died of cardiac arrest. “Roddy Piper was one of the most entertaining, controversial and bombastic performers ever in WWE, beloved by millions of fans around the world,” WWE owner Vince McMahon said in a statement. “I extend my deepest condolences to his family.”

According to The Oregonian, Piper once said, “I’ve been around the world seven times. I’ve been stabbed three times, been down in an airplane and once dated the Bearded Lady. I’ve had Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy as a tag-team partner. I’ve been in 30 car crashes, none of ’em my fault, I swear. . . . OK, they were probably all my fault.”

“I will forever miss him,” Hulk Hogan told TMZ after Piper’s passing. “He was my best friend. He is a legend. “God’s gain is our loss. May his family in this time of need, find peace.”

Piper’s daughter very proud of her father

Ariel Teal Toombs was one of four children born to Roddy Piper and his wife Kitty. While people know her dad as Rowdy Roddy the wrestler, she was perfectly fine with him being her father. “He was a very unique person, obviously,” she told ESPN in 2016. “But Roderick George Toombs’ story, to me, is more interesting than ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper.”

After Piper’s death, Toombs and her brother Colt wrote Rowdy: The Roddy Piper Story, a biography on their father. The book was initially started by Piper himself, but shortly after his death, the publisher reached out to his children to see if they would like to finish it.

Toombs said her father learned to grow up fast because of the fact he left home at an early age and that helped him succeed. “He was never a scholar, but he was a very street-smart person, and he got that from his youth and just being forced into survival,” Toombs said. “For some people, that breaks them, and for other people, it pushes them to do more with themselves.”

She also said she feels it’s her responsibility to help carry on his legacy. “What I will say is that I do feel an obligation to carry the torch a little bit,” she said. “I’m an actor and a singer-songwriter first and foremost, but I take a lot of pride in the [wrestling] industry and everything my dad built — and I don’t want to see that die.”