I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

R.I.P. Rowdy Roddy Piper

tn_roddypiperI was shocked and saddened today to stumble across the news that wrestling legend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper had died. I didn’t see this one coming. I thought he was gonna be one of the ones that gets to grow old.

I know some of you are serious wrestling fans to this day. That’s not me. But I’m one of the millions who was obsessed with WWF wrestling in the 1980s. It was a time when pro wrestling stopped being seen as a lowbrow fringe activity and was allowed to intersect with all parts of culture. Andy Warhol went to a Wrestlemania. Cindy Lauper and Alice Cooper became wrestling managers. A more experienced manager, Captain Lou Albano, played Lauper’s father in a video. Wrestlers released terrible albums, which I bought on vinyl. On Saturday mornings there was a cartoon called Hulk Hogan’s Rock-n-Wrestling, and every fourth Saturday Night NBC showed wrestling in place of SNL. When one of these Saturday Night’s Main Events took place in Seattle I was there. I was thrilled to see Andre the Giant in person (although he didn’t wrestle) and Brian Bosworth in the crowd. I was [undisclosed] years old and witnessing these larger than life individuals – cartoons of good, evil and awesome sculpted out of muscle and fat and encased in colorful spandex – was like catching a glimpse of the Greek gods.

piper1Like anybody, I went through a number of favorite wrestlers during that period, and Piper was only one of them. But he always stood out. Physically he was a little closer to an everyman than the sculpted mr. wonderfuls he fought, but mentally he was superior. He had a Bugs Bunny quality to him. Both as the iconic lead villain and the “well, he’s so popular, let’s make him a good guy” his thing was to fuck with people. As far as I know he was the inventor of the weird wrestling tradition of giving wrestlers “shows” within the wrestling broadcast. For “Piper’s Pit” he would have a stage set up in the arena and do a little talk show interviewing wrestlers. Sometimes you’d look forward to that more than the bouts (although of course the show could very well end with something being broken over somebody’s head).

But I think you can guess the reason he stayed meaningful for me decades later: he’s the one that transcended the world of wrestling to star in one of my all time favorite movies, THEY LIVE. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a risky move for him. He had to quit the WWF. Vince McMahon (who I didn’t even know was the boss at the time, I thought he was just the square announcer who Jesse Ventura got to show up every week) only wanted his wrestlers in movies he produced, like NO HOLDS BARRED starring Hulk Hogan. He told Piper not to take the low budget THEY LIVE, that he could guarantee him a role in a much bigger movie. Piper supposedly said “yeah, but it wouldn’t be directed by John Carpenter.”

THEY LIVE is possibly the very best example of two of my deeply held filmatic ideals. One, it’s a pulpy, awesome genre movie that works as pure entertainment, but also as a biting statement about the world of 1988 (and, sadly, 2015). Two, and more relevant to our subject here today, it’s a movie that showcases the unique qualities of a wrestler in a role that could’ve gone to an actor and wouldn’t have been as good.

I get in this argument all the time about movies, whether it stars Van Damme or Seagal, or Gina Carano, or a wrestler or MMA fighter. Yes, acting is an art and a craft that can be thrilling and moving in ways maybe unattainable to these men and women. On the other hand, they have a physical presence and abilities that are entertaining to see on screen and that cannot be simulated by those actors. This is why I will watch any of the WWE Productions that star wrestlers, even though I’ve never heard of most of them. And why I was immediately captivated by The Rock’s movies even though his wrestling superstardom was way after my time.

Even The Rock doesn’t have a movie under his belt that’s as great as THEY LIVE, and as indebted to the unique skills of its wrestler star. I’m sure Carpenter could’ve made the movie with Kurt Russell, and it would’ve been great, but it wouldn’t have been as great. Piper famously ad-libbed much of the dialogue, including the beloved bubble gum line. As a big-mouthed wrestler from the days when interviews were as important as matches that sort of shit talk was his life’s work.

And then of course the legendary alley fight scene with Keith David had to be designed for a wrestler. At the time some people thought Carpenter had lost his mind. A (belated) review in the May 1989 issue of Cinefantastique Magazine says that he “pitches his baby to the groundlings” with that scene, that “his wrestling fan’s dementia here impedes the filmmaker’s instinct for knowing just when enough is enough.” I’m glad that these days most people seem to see that the surprising length of the fight is exactly what’s beautiful about it. That’s how hard Frank fights to not put on the sunglasses, because these are the lengths we will go not to have to see what’s going on right under our noses.

And besides, what the hell is wrong with a long fight scene? You got A.D.D. or somethin?

piper3

Carpenter knew what he was doing when he cast Piper. As he told Entertainment Weekly when the Shout Factory Blu-Ray came out, “To me, Roddy just had a weathered face and looked like he’d been working all his life. He wasn’t a Hollywood star. He had some scars on his face and I thought he would be convincing walking into town with a backpack on his back looking for work.”

I don’t usually go in for this type of merchandise based nostalgia, but maybe this will give you an idea of the place Piper holds in my life. I’d been drinking from my favorite Roddy Piper pint glass all morning when I found out the news. I own a beautiful Thai poster of THEY LIVE which is near the top of my list of things to get framed if I ever get a chunk of money from a book or something. More crucially, I have a poster from when it was released on VHS, and six or seven years ago I went to a horror convention specifically to have it signed by Piper.

It was a pathetic affair, a poorly planned and promoted event at a hotel by the freeway, where I saw iconic horror stars like Betsy Palmer sitting at tables looking lonely. I had a good conversation with Lou Perryman from TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, who has also since passed away. I saw Danielle Harris, and considered trying to talk to her about MARKED FOR DEATH, decided I’d feel like a creepy older dude. (I thought she was younger than she actually was.) Anyway, my goal was to see Roddy.

But when I got there he was the only guest not at his table. A guy I knew who had a table selling art said he’d been there for a little bit, but had left. It was early, a sunny afternoon, but when he showed up again he smelled of liquor and was slurring a little.

A few of us lined up. The guy in front of me had the same poster I had. “Where’d you get this?” Roddy asked.

“Ebay,” the guy said. I was proud that mine had been obtained legitimately from a video store in the ’80s and had been cherished since. I gave my $25 to Piper’s son, who is now an MMA fighter, and Piper signed the poster and asked how I was doing. I told him about a recent major life event, which made him say “Oh, God bless you.” So I consider myself to have been blessed by Roddy Piper. I’m not Catholic, so it’s better than the Pope.

piper2Before Jonathan Lethem beat me to it I was planning a short book about THEY LIVE. I had done a little research, including reading Piper’s autobiography. Like any wrestler’s stories you gotta take it all with a grain of salt, but also like any wrestler it’s clear he took many hits in life, both inside the ring and out.

This one is getting to me more than most celebrity deaths, not just because he means alot to me, but because it’s not just nostalgia. I felt like he was still a part of my life. Though I don’t watch wrestling, I’m fascinated by wrestlers, and like to listen to the podcasts that interview guys I remember from the old days. My favorite of those is Piper’s Pit. When I first discovered it existed it took me a bit to get used to Roddy’s sometimes unintelligible rambling, and his habit of repeating stories, like what his bagpipe entrance music comes from. Once I got accustomed to it it started to seem endearing.

What was great about his show is that he’d talk to these guys he had long histories with, and there was a genuine sense of old friends who had been through it all together, and had become brothers. They could laugh about the crazy shit and the close calls, reminisce about old buddies and good times. They had a shared language, but they were letting us in on it.

piper4And what was especially great about it was how important it was to him to tell people he appreciated them. “Ah, I love ya!” was one of his most commonly used phrases. I didn’t listen weekly, but enough to hear how much he loved so many of the guys he came up with, how much he worshipped “Judo” Gene Labell, how honored he was by Ronda Rousey calling to ask if she could call herself “Rowdy” Ronda, and especially how proud he was of his son Colt, who he’d brought with him to that convention. In his Q&A he’d called Colt his best friend, and deferred to him for facts he couldn’t remember (such as his official title on whichever GI JOE movie was coming out then, trainer or advisor to something). And he teased him about being into MMA instead of wrestling, saying he didn’t understand the appeal. Years later on his podcast you could tell he was worried when he talked about Colt having to deal with other fighters being extra hard on Roddy Piper’s son to make a name for themselves, and beaming when he talked about him winning Fight of the Night.

Of course, my favorite episode was the one with John Carpenter. As you can imagine it was a great conversation about filming THEY LIVE, with immense mutual admiration and pride in what they’d created. But the surprise is the touching end of the interview, which made me tear up like the end of BABE or something. Carpenter’s wife and producer Sandy King was there off mic, and Piper insisted on bringing her in so he could apologize to both of them. He said he’d been a jerk to them during the filming of the movie, which they seemed to disagree with. But it was important to him to tell them he was sorry for whatever it was.

So let’s take heart in that. He seemed like a guy who had made alot of mistakes in life, but was really trying to make up for them, and set things straight with everyone he knew. And it bothered him how many of his friends had died too young from what he called “the sickness,” the various mental and physical tolls of the life they’d lived in the ring and on the road. So he was always making sure to tell his people how much he appreciated them. For such a heel he sure seemed like a sweetheart.

So here’s to you, Rowdy. We appreciated you too. Thanks for the blessing.

–Vern

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
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37 Responses to “R.I.P. Rowdy Roddy Piper”

  1. Vern if you haven’t seen it yet, Piper did a great little action movie with Billy Blanks called Tough and Deadly. I believe it was the year after Back in Action but it’s a far better movie. Definitely in the Shane Black mold of buddy comedies, it sits on my shelf right next to They Live. I think this weekend calls for a double feature of the two. RIP Roddy, you gave me a ton of movie enjoyment.

  2. Great write-up Vern. Like the coverage on the death of Chris Squire, the anchor of one of my all-time favorite bands Yes, the mainstream coverage of Piper’s death that I’ve come across so far has been surprisingly well-done and tasteful. It could very well be due to this recent resurgence of pro wrestling in the culture because of podcasts like Piper’s, but I’d like to think at least part of it was because he had a passion and love for what he was doing. Even when most everyone around him would be calling it in, or he wasn’t up to par himself, he was never ever boring.

    I have to admit I have never seen THEY LIVE, nor his episode of IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA which has been getting a lot of attention in this news as well. But I have always thought that if Piper showed as much initiative to acting as he did wrestling, he could have transcended much like Dwayne Johnson did, and because of his everyday man physique possibly even more so. That’s really not to knock his ability or the choices he made as far as movies, but to underline how much I felt wrestling meant to him.

    He found a brotherhood in wrestling that possibly saved his life, even though he put his life on the line quite a few times, being possibly the most incendiary bad guy in the history of pro wrestling. He’s as responsible as anyone else for Vince McMahon’s success because he was the epitome of the heel, so much so that he became beloved for it. What’s amazed me is that while he lived that very wild life, he managed to raise a family of his own and became by all accounts a very dedicated family man himself. Whatever else one does in life, to measure that against a lot of other people in his position as a legend in wrestling, is quite something.

  3. I wasn’t really into wrestling as a kid (Which was the time when wrestling became popular.), but only because I didn’t have cable back then. But I knew all those characters like Hulk Hogan or The Undertaker, because the WWF became such a behemoth that you simply couldn’t ignore. Still, my first encounter with Roddy was in an episode of THE SUPER MARIO BROS SUPER SHOW.

    Super Mario Bros - Rowdy Roddy's Rotten Pipes

    Super Mario Bros + Roddy Piper = WIN

    Then of course I saw him also in THEY LIVE and a few years ago he had a great guest spot in IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA. I wonder why his acting career never took off. Still have to track down HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN one day.

    R.I.P.

  4. Great piece Vern. Don’t have much to add, but I did get to see him wrestle live one time back in 2006 when he and Ric Flair had a brief run as tag team champions for WWE. He appeared at a show from a UK tour here in Glasgow I was at, and it was a very entertaining segment as he obviously got a massive ovation as a fake Scotsman, but I’ll always remember his little piece on the microphone before the match where he passionately said “This may be the last time you see me, so let’s make it something to remember!”, which seemed odd at time, but later that week it was announced he had cancer, something he managed to beat, which is another thing to respect about him.
    RIP Hot Rod. You will be missed.

  5. Great, great piece Vern, possibly your best In Memorium yet. Piper helped usher in the age of the anti-hero, by being a villain who was so much more relatable and likable than the hero (never liked Hulk Hogan, even as a kid I found him bland and one-dimensional). He also was an underrated actor and genuine nice guy. Check out the Celebrity Wife Swap episode where Piper’s wife and Ric Flair’s girlfriend (I think) switch places – Flair lives a lavish baller lifestyle, while Piper’s home is modest. No fancy cars, no crazy jewelry – his family is grounded and humble, just regular people that you can tell he raised right. And they’re animal lovers too which made me like him even more.

    True Story: Me and some friends went to a Roddy Piper book signing in Charlotte several years back. He seemed kinda glazed and slurry to be honest, but we didn’t care – we were set on getting pictures of him putting his “signature moves” on us. My roommate went up and asked to be put in the sleeper hold. As Roddy put him in the hold, I was fumbling with my camera, and I heard everyone in the audience go “oooohhh!” for some reason. I didn’t think twice and took a picture of Roddy doing an unusually convincing sleeper on him. When it was my turn, I asked if Roddy could do the “clap behind the head” move to me, which is basically something straight out of a Three Stooges movie. He said sure, and proceeded to do the move, hitting me on both sides of the head with his forearms with full force. My left ear immediately felt like it exploded, and i crumbled to the ground like I was shot. To make matters worse, my roommate was also fumbling with my camera and entirely missed the moment. I was pissed but he whispered that he was desperately trying to signal to me to NOT have Piper hit me, because when Piper put him in the sleeper hold, he didn’t play around and applied full force, literally snapped his neck. It apparently made a sickening noise straight out of a Seagal movie (I somehow missed this noise, but that explained the entire crowd going OOOOHHH!!) Piper, still glazed and sweating, looked tickled pink at both of us young idiots, and hugged us and told us he loved us.

    My roommate’s neck was so misaligned, he could barely walk and almost vomited as we left the Barnes and Noble. He had problems sleeping for two weeks and neck problems for several months. I still have hearing problems to this day in the left ear, and it always fills up with water everytime I go swimming. But damn right it was worth it. If you’re going to have an injury, what better way to get it than via one of the greatest wrestlers of all time?

  6. THEY LIVE is special to me because I saw it on the Sci Fi channel once while on vacation circa 2000 or 2001, I thought it was a cool movie (my initial thought was that it was just a bit like an 80’s version of THE MATRIX) and no one I knew had ever talked about it before so it seemed pretty obscure.

    SO imagine my pleasant surprise when it gradually became a big cult classic over the years, a lot of these cult classic movies I come to long after their cult status is already cemented, but it makes me proud to be a part of the cult of THEY LIVE before it quite became a “thing”.

  7. The Original Paul

    August 1st, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Onthewall – THEY LIVE is one of the many films that are the reason I keep coming back here (other than arguing with you guys, of course.) I’m not a huge Carpenter fan – THE THING excluded, obviously – so I probably would never have heard of it if it wasn’t for this site. THEY LIVE, though, I am a fan of. I pretty much agree with Vern on every aspect of it. The Roddy Piper / Keith David fight is brilliantly slapdash but, like much of the movie, has a razor-sharp point to make. I’d also point out that the last shot of the movie is one of the all-time great “WTF?!” moments in movie-endings. I still can’t quite believe that Carpenter chose to end it there, although I absolutely appreciate that he did.

    Vern, thank you for a very poignant tribute to Piper. This is a sad loss indeed.

  8. Not a wrestling fan at all but I do think THEY LIVE was a one of a kind coup for both Carpenter and Piper, a rare cult masterpiece that grows more prescient each decade.

    So in honor of Piper, I’m gonna spend today chewing pink bubblegum and kicking arse. My own arse, but still…

  9. In shock over Roddy Piper. I’ was sitting at my desk working all afternoon and morning yesterday, and I log in to Facebook, and I’m hit with this news. I interviewed Roddy a few years ago for my book about action stars. The funny thing is that I pursued him for several years for an interview and I couldn’t get through until one day I was at a train station in San Diego (I believe it was at Comic Con), and there he was, just waiting for the train like me. I approached him, gave him a pitch for an interview, and he literally just gave me his phone number. One of the nicest guys I ever interviewed. I spoke with him several times over the phone after that, and he was just an honest, humble man. Everything about him was genuine. A rare breed of a guy. We were lucky to have him.

  10. Piper was on an episode of Celebrity Ghost Stories, which I didn’t see, but there is a follow up series where they take a celebrity that came on the show, telling their ghost story and send them back to that same place it occurred with a medium. I am not trying to put it out there that any ghost or medium story is true, or B.S. or anything, I’m just saying that is pretty much my only exposure to Piper. He seemed like a really nice guy who had some tough shit happen to him and a lot of loss. I hope he’s found some peace now.

    As a weird side note, as I was reading this I had music playing on shuffle and the song The Parting Glass came on. For those that don’t know, that’s a traditional Scottish song that was sung at the end of gatherings. I don’t care if it sounds sappy, but it felt really fitting and made me a little teary.

  11. Griff – I caught the movie only a few years before thanks to Joe Bob Briggs and Monstervision. Blew my mind that this pro wrestler I knew of for many years up to that point had his own kick-alien-butt movie! And it was terrific!

    onthewall2983 – if THEY LIVE had been a big hit, he could’ve retired from wrestling and gone into acting full-time. That’s what Dwayne Johnson and Dave Bautista did. But the movie went nowhere* and well, that was it for his movie career. But we must give Carpenter reps for recognizing how some wrestlers are great entertaining talents that films don’t utilize enough really. (Though to be honest, THEY LIVE was also a low budget movie. A wrestler wanting to break into the movies is easier to pay than an actual movie star.)

    *=Despite the fact the movie was #1 in theaters 2 weekends in a row. True story.

  12. I think it was more than just that the movie went nowhere (despite it’s box office). Wrestling was in his blood, he was still young enough to compete and the WWF was doing quite well without him. So he must have felt that need to come back and reclaim what he could. That 2nd run was not as groundbreaking as the first but it did have it’s moments.

    Roddy Piper vs. The Mountie: Royal Rumble 1992 - Intercontinental Championship Match

    "Rowdy" Roddy Piper gives The Mountie a shock following their Intercontinental Championship Match at Royal Rumble on Jan. 19, 1992.

    Roddy Piper and Bret Hart Interview (03-15-1992)

    "Mean" Gene Okerlund interviews Intercontinental Champion "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Bret "the Hitman" Hart on their upcoming match at WrestleMania VIII. (Wrest...

  13. “a rare cult masterpiece that grows more prescient each decade.”

    It’s true, the movie must have seemed pretty out there for 1988, but as time goes on all you can really say is “it figures it’d be something like this.”

    I just love how THEY LIVE is a macho 80’s action movie, but skeptical of the politics and culture of the 80’s itself, that’s a pretty rare thing if you think about it, most 80’s were pretty down with what was going on in the 80’s like THE SECRET OF MY SUCCESS or whatever, the only other critical 80’s movie I can think of* is WALL STREET and in that case no one got the message at the time.

    *I guess maybe OC AND STIGGS might also count but I haven’t seen that one yet.

  14. Most 80’s MOVIES I mean.

  15. I was an 80s wrestling fan too, it took me a bit, I remember getting upset when Main Event was on instead of SNL, but once I got it, I loved it. That really was an action golden age. Arnold and Stallone movies in the theaters, Chuck Norris classics from the 70s would play on local stations, Hulk Hogan’s Rock n’ Wrestling on Saturday morning, Saturday Night’s Main Event once a month, and Superstars of Wrestling and Wrestling Challenge would play in syndication in Milwaukee (admittedly a wrestling hub) on the weekends. We were definitely a WWF territory, we didn’t even have NWA shows up here.

    Rowdy Roddy was always a favorite, my sister saw They Live in the theater and told me all about it (I was too young for R-rated movies when it came out). But I saw that and Frogtown on video and I even loved the pilot for Tag Team, his buddy show with Jesse The Body that didn’t get picked up but abc showed it anyway.

    I was a big fan even though I stopped being interested in pro wrestling in the mid 1990s (WWF came to Madison with Motley Crüe and I interviewed Vince Neil so I went to the show, my first live match in a couple years and I thought they took the innocence out of it, too vulgar and the characters implied so much sexual violence I was shocked – and I thought I wasn’t a prude! That extreme shit made Macho Man’s treatment of Elizabeth look like Prince Charming.

    Anyway, this one hurts. I really enjoyed him in a different way than most wrestlers because I liked his films and watched them multiple times. Godspeed Roddy, I said this before on Twitter, but I hope heaven has plenty of bubblegum…

  16. Great write-up Vern. I literally only saw They Live about three months ago on the insistence of a work colleague. He (a non-wrestling fan) said that even with Roddy as the main guy, it worked perfectly. And he wasn’t wrong. I can’t imagine anyone else in that role. It’s like Ford as Indiana Jones. It’s a shoe that fit’s perfectly. I feel for his family. 61 is no age.

  17. I’ve probably read six or seven obits/remembrances, and I’ve yet to see any mention of Jimmy Snuka’s visit to the Pit:

    Piper's Pit - Jimmy Snuka - 1984

    The classic Piper's pit when Roddy hits Jimmy Snuka with a coconut!

    In my eyes, this is what truly elevated Piper from mere wrestling “bad guy” to some next level shit that Bobby The Brain or whoever could only dream of obtaining.

    Even as a kid I could see that they were just mean and duplicitous, while Piper was doing some Antonin Artaud theater of cruelty shit.

  18. Yeah it’s kind of weird that they don’t use that clip of his character being a racist asshole and humiliating his opponent with such clever jokes as “let’s give coconuts and bananas to the monkey man from Fiji!” to honor his memory.

  19. Yeah it’s kind of weird that they don’t use that clip of his character being a racist asshole and humiliating his opponent with such clever jokes as “let’s give coconuts and bananas to the monkey man from Fiji!” to honor his memory.

    Wow! 31 years later and it still hits the button it was designed to hit. That’s pretty impressive.

    Just to clarify, you do know that wrestling is scripted and that Snuka was in on it, right? The whole bit is designed so that even the most racist redneck asshole in the audience comes away thinking that Piper is evil incarnate. Perhaps even showing them an exaggerated version of themselves will make them question their own attitudes, and in a perfect world, perhaps even do something about it.

  20. Dude, wrestling is scripted, you’re blowing my mind here. Are you gonna tell me that movies are, too?

    Seriously, yes, he’s just playing a character, he’s just doing that to get heat, but still, A) he’s really not being particularly clever, while someone like Heenan was a great heel who could insult people in a clever way, B) maybe it’s me, but I just hear the crowd yelling indistinct stuff, not booing every “joke”, so I don’t exactly get the feeling that “even the most racist redneck asshole in the audience comes away thinking that Piper is evil incarnate”, C), Snuka gets completely buried before he starts grunting and acting like an animal, so, what, is he a monkey man after all, just like Piper said?

    Since there’s already a big scandal about Hogan’s racist remarks, and a few days before he died Piper defended Hogan with a rather bizarre tirade, well, maybe it does make sense to not use that segment. Piper’s Pit had plenty of memorable moments, I don’t think people who want to honor his memory need to use the “see how great he was at playing a racist dick” segment.

  21. I have to thank you, because twenty minutes before I posted that here, I showed it to a guy who’s too young to have seen it when it happened. He doubted it’s power citing “C’mon, it’s soooooo broad. Nobody would have bought that…” Then your post pretty much made him concede to “Okay, well I didn’t buy it”

    As for the rest… I think “clever racism” would have undermined the point. I think blunt and ugly is appropriate. The crowd seems uncomfortable, which was the desired effect. And I had to look up the “big scandal about Hogan’s racist remarks” and I don’t really know what one has to do with the other.

  22. As I originally said, it’s a clip of Piper’s CHARACTER being racist, so I’m not accusing Piper of actually being racist. It’s just that I think this is a pretty fucking dumb segment that doesn’t really do justice to Piper’s talent as a heel, and not some “Antonin Artaud theater of cruelty shit”. His lines are stupid, he barely gets a reaction from the audience… It just sucks. Add to that the fact that, only a few days ago, Piper was defending Hogan’s racist speech about “fucking n***ers” with stories about having to perform in front of thousands of angry Puerto Ricans with knives, and “you guys are too sensitive”, and, well, maybe you can understand why few people would think it’s a great time to fondly remember a shitty segment. I do believe it’s better if we try to remember Piper as the guy who could have a good segment even with a jobber on Piper’s Pit (“Just when they think they have all the answers, I change the questions!”) rather than the guy who offered coconuts to Jimmy the Superfly. But what do I know, right, I’m the guy who had to be told earlier today that wrestling was staged.

  23. Sorry, somewhere around the part about angry Puerto Ricans I got completely lost.

  24. What’s always forgotten about that Piper/Snuka sketch is Snuka’s Oscar-worthy not flinching when Piper threw that banana on his face.

  25. For those unfamiliar with it I’d like to take this chance to recommend the sci-fi action comedy ALIEN OPPONENT. It’s mostly an ensemble piece but Roddy Piper has a great role in it.

  26. Always loved They Live, and Piper. I was really more sad upon hearing of his death than I have been at hearing about the death of any celebrity besides MCA (Adam Yauch.)

    Piper played Da Maniac more than once on Always Sunny (one of my favorite shows.)

    I’m very jealous right now of anyone who had the opportunity to meet Piper…

  27. Roddy Piper played a racist heel but the man behind the character was one of the few besides Jesse Ventura and Randy Savage who actually stood up to Vince McMahon and his legion of bozos.

    He used to speak up for the rights of everybody from minority wrestlers (who he often enjoyed working programs with so they would be showcased) to the women wrestlers (there’s a reason he inducted Wendy Richter into the HOF and along with Captain Lou helped Cindy Lauper of all people find that business endearing) and everybody else in between. I’d be bold enough to say that despite his popularity he never became world champ because he didn’t play the political game. This man was a known victim of that industry (he has stated that Pat Patterson molested him amongst other things) and felt righteous in sticking up for other people he felt victimized by that business.

    May he rest in peace. He really was one of the good ones in a warped ass workplace.

    Man first Dusty dies than Hulk completely shatters his legacy via hate speech and now this?

    1980’s WWF is finally dying off right before our very eyes :(

  28. Also I don’t want to come off as insensitive because believe me when it comes to this passing I’m really not but is it safe to say that it’s finally time for a HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN review?

  29. Broddie: 2 weeks after the first WrestleMania he headlined a show in Portland, OR run by his mentor Don Owen. This is when Vince was in the process of killing the regional territories, but Piper was one of the few to thumb his nose at that and work a shot for his old boss.

  30. “Even The Rock doesn’t have a movie under his belt that’s as great as THEY LIVE”

    I think SNITCH is a way underrated movie, and mixes action with bitter social commentary (mostly about the hypocrisy of the drug war) in a similar way to THEY LIVE. And The Rock’s performance in PAIN & GAIN was straight-up award-worthy.

  31. AnimalRamirez1976

    August 3rd, 2015 at 7:31 am

    I’m a bit bummed out this conversation got derailed at the end. The relationship between wrestling, kayfabe racism and real racism is probably too complicated to be discussed here in a nuanced way.

    Piper was definitely one-of-a-kind. The boxing match with Mr. T at WrestleMania II and the hair match with Adrian Adonis at III were two of the most hilarious wrestling moments that didn’t involve Lanny “The Genius” Poffo, the funniest wrestler of all time.

    As a cartoon character he seemed closer to Donald Duck or those propaganda cartoon Hitlers because of his squeaky voice when he got on a roll.

  32. “The relationship between wrestling, kayfabe racism and real racism is probably too complicated to be discussed here in a nuanced way.”

    I’ve heard it described as lazy stereotyping, but with regards to how Vince McMahon particularly has engaged the subject, it’s probably been a bit too close to things such as blackface (and in Piper’s case this was literally half true in 1990 in his WrestleMania match with Bad News Brown). It also says a lot how they just disappeared Hulk before the news of the tape was about to surface. The way for them to get in front of it was to cover their ass, and not to possibly take it head on in a meaningful way.

  33. BTW, if a movie is ever made of his life Tom Hardy would be perfect.

  34. This one hit me hard as well. But I have 2 (and a half) Piper-related stories to share, and figure this would be the best place to do so. Hope you don’t mind indulging me.

    1) I must’ve been 5 or 6, and I went to the Bronx Zoo with my grandparents. Somewhere inside the zoo, I lost my sweatshirt: a blue Rowdy Roddy Piper sweatshirt that was my favorite at the time. (If it was still available and in my size, it would probably still be my favorite). After briefly searching (and annoying the hell out of my grandfather) I left the zoo sobbing with no sweatshirt. But my grandmother, doing what grandmothers do, went out that night after I went to sleep, and got me a new one, exactly the same. (In a sad state, she passed away this same time last year, making this little nugget a bit more poignant for me.)

    (1.5- I once saw an unfinished cut of a movie starring Piper and Richard Tyson that was never finished, but I remember him being pretty great in it. Was nice to see almost 20 years after They Live that he was still acting. For what it’s worth, loved him on It’s Always Sunny, especially when he came back and was the top seller in the pyramid scheme).

    2) A few years back, I was at a bar in LA (which is now also gone – man, this post is full of nostalgia for things gone before I wanted them to). I was with my friends, smoking on the patio. The place usually had a good amount of famous folks pop in, and I never wanted to bother any of them (because that’s how you maintain yourself as a cool dude at an LA bar) until the night Piper showed up. I told my friends “I gotta say something to the man, it’s Piper!” and they agreed. I went up to the man, apologized for the interruption, and introduced myself, saying I was a fan. He put his arm around my shoulder and pulled me in, like we were old buddies with no care regarding personal space (He may have had a few that night, but who cares). And he just smiled and shook my hand and finished the “bubble gum” line much to my delight. I may have even told him about the grandma/zoo/sweatshirt story, I’m not sure. He took it all in and smiled and indulged a fan, and that was definitely one of my top celeb sightings of all time. Glad I got to meet him, and that he was super cool.

    Thanks for the indulgence of melancholy nostalgia, gang. Remember, middle of the road is the worst place to be.

  35. Nice. I’ve read a few stories like that, people run into him in a bar or something and he welcomes fans with open arms.

    Bret Hart, Jake Roberts, Marty Jannety remember ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper

    Bret Hart, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, and Marty Jannety share stories from their friendships with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper after the WWE superstars death.

    Here’s a good read from some other wrestling legends who knew him well.

  36. I just wanted to chime in and say that I honestly loved this guy.

    I first saw him not via his wrestling days (WWF was only on cable when I was a kid, and I couldn’t afford it), but in a clip of THEY LIVE shown on some long forgotten movie show one Saturday afternoon back in 1988.

    Instantly I wanted to see more of this film (I was a Carpenter fan, even then) and I even went to the lengths of tracking it down on bootleg VHS (I think the UK release was held up or something).

    I still remember seeing it for the first time and just falling in love with the thing. The politics and the attitude have stuck with me, and during my formative years THEY LIVE was one of the many works that helped shaped my political view.

    Piper just blew me away in the film. He had an integrity, an honestly, a charisma that is rare. He really became, to me, one of the greats right there.

    Whenever people would ask me about favorite actors I would always include him and they would laugh at my “ironic choice” – but I meant it.

    Sure he never went on to make anything close to THEY LIVE but he did OK. I was always happy to see whatever new thing he was in, and no matter the quality of the end product, he would always be worth watching.

    If only he could’ve stuck around. But it was not to be.

    I am envious (in a nice way) of you cats on here who got to meet him. I’d have loved to.

    Thanks, Roddy. Heaven just got more badass.

  37. Just curious Vern, what wrestling albums did you get, and do you still have them?

    Want to throw up some Piper vids here since I’m a little bored, can’t sleep and think you’ll enjoy some of this.

    "Timeline: History of WWE - Roddy Piper" Preview Clip: Frankie Williams

    Full program available at www.kayfabecommentaries.com

    All Out of Bubblegum

    "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass" Channel dedicated to the one and only "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. If anyone has any promos that are not on this ch...

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