|just look at that magnificent bastard|
Working a crowd isn't easy, especially doing so as the bad guy. But, man, somehow Rowdy Roddy Piper became not the villain people loved to hate - people just plain ol' loved him.
I don't follow wrestling now at all, and my window of interest when I was a kid was pretty narrow, so my viewership occurred primarily during that early 1980's window where the WWF was suddenly everywhere, and you had colorful characters like Jimmy "SuperFly" Snuka, George "The Animal" Steele, Mr. Fuji, the Iron Shiek, Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan.
At age 8, I liked it a lot. The plots were straightforward. Mean Gene Okerlund had a cool, dry wit we all admired, and it was a lot like watching live-action comics, but only as complicated as the Hostess ads. There were good guys and bad guys, and sometimes they switched.
Among the wrestlers I liked, I counted Rowdy Roddy Piper. That guy had moxie. He was hilarious, he didn't take anyone seriously, and he was just fun to watch. I just assumed because I liked him he was a good guy who happened to talk trash or something. He had a kilt, bagpipes, and a mouth that didn't really stop. But, no, he was a bad guy.
In fact, his gig was more or less that he was the biggest SOB in wrestling, pretty keen with an insult or gag or low-blow. All with a cocksure attitude backed up with wins, and a fanbase that adored the act. The clips you watch now are, uh... un-PC, to put it mildly. But he didn't need to be un-PC, he just needed to be a needling jerk.
In fact, he's been voted the best "heel" in wrestling multiple times.
That, my friends, is the sort of life goal I aspire to.
By the time I was a wee bit older, this was on:
Notice the villains to the left of Mr. Hogan? Immigrants and Ayn Rand. Wrestling has it's issues. But that guy in the kilt was Rowdy Roddy Piper.
He even got a cartoon of his persona as the leader of the bad guys. That's a thing, y'all.
Flash forward a little more, and I was sitting in a theater watching him star as "Nada" in the classic sci-fi actioner, They Live. And we love They Live.
and why not?
Clearly John Carpenter saw some of that "everyman" appeal he was working with at the time, and the movie features that inexplicable fight scene in the middle.
Really, I don't entirely understand why Piper wasn't in more high-profile stuff afterward. He wasn't going to challenge Dustin Hoffman or anything, but he wasn't totally awful and could have made a bigger career out of B sci-fi movies and whatnot.
I got back into wrestling briefly in early high school, just before a lot of the guys I liked started fading out or dying (wrestling's early mortality rate is astronomical), and even went to two live WWF matches, but Piper was not at either bout.
Then, in high school, I was watching USA Network's late night B-movie program Up All Night (I swear, I was cool! I was!), and on came Hell Comes to Frogtown, and there he was! It was a sort of perfect Rowdy Roddy Piper movie... but no one had ever really seen it.
I'll be honest, I hadn't kept track of Mr. Piper in years. I have no idea what he's been up to, but it wasn't intersecting with anything I was doing. But it doesn't mean I'm not sad at his passing. 61 is young. And he was still kind of out there wrestling. And acting. And being Rowdy Roddy Piper, in general.
It seems that Roddy Piper has passed. We're very sorry to hear. The business seems to take so many so young.
As we bid adieu, here's his WWE entrance video.