Saturday, August 1, 2015

My "Rowdy" Friend

   My first recollection of WWE programming as a kid was watching "Piper's Pit", the revolutionary talk segment hosted by the "Hot Rod" Rowdy Roddy Piper. "Just when they think they have all the answers, I change the questions!!!" I even remember the sports reporter on our local news station using that line at the time on-air. Roddy was a one-of-a-kind, once in a lifetime performer. Without question, one of the absolute greatest villains aka "heels" in professional wrestling history. I vividly remember prior to facing Hollywood's own Mr.T in a boxing match at WrestleMania 2, Piper along with "Ace" Cowboy Bob Orton Jr., shaved a mini-wrestlers head to resemble T's trademark mohawk hairstyle. At the time I thought it was the worst thing I'd ever seen a "bad guy" wrestler do. His gift of gab made him a star performer the fans "loved to hate". And it made "Piper's Pit" one of the most popular, and copied segments on pro wrestling television. Roddy smashing the coconut over "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka's head during a "Pit" segment, is one of the most iconic images in WWE history. His feud with Hulk Hogan defined a generation, making the World Wrestling Federation and WrestleMania a mainstream, pop culture phenomenon. 
   As much as the fans had hated him for so long, it was during his feud with Mr.T that the fans started to realize how incredible a performer he truly was. They simply couldn't boo him any longer, and Roddy went on to become one of the most beloved legends to ever lace a pair of boots. At one point I lived in an apartment building where my neighbor provided bagpipe lessons(no joke). I remember after working an overnight shift I was attempting to sleep during the day, when the bagpipes began to blare! At first I was furious, but then as my ears began to recognize the melody coming from across the hall, I realized it was the theme song of the "Rowdy Scott"!! I loved Roddy so much, my anger quickly changed to absolute joy. 
   As outlandish & volatile as his persona was on camera, I would later find out first hand that Roddy was a kind, genuine soul. I had the opportunity to meet & talk with Roddy on two different occassions. He gave me words of encouragement when I was going through a difficult stretch, words that have stayed with me to this very day. In a surreal moment, we hugged as he said "I love you man". I'll never forget that moment. To meet and talk with someone I had so much respect for, who had risked everything to entertain not only myself, but millions of others, it was simply a dream come true. When I found out about Roddy's passing, I had a hard time believing it was real. He had overcome so much in his life: coming from a broken home, living on the streets as a kid, beating cancer - it just didn't make any sense. With the current Hulk Hogan scandal, Dusty Rhodes passing, and now this - it truly feels like the fond memories I had as a child of professional wrestling are disappearing before my very eyes. 
   Regardless, I am incredibly grateful for the time I had with this remarkable man. His in-ring work speaks for itself. His legacy will live on through his family, his fans, and through performers he inspired like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson & the UFC's "Rowdy" Rhonda Rousey. I can just envision Roddy walking through the "pearly gates" right now, delivering his famous line from the John Carpenter movie "They Live", "I have come here to chew bubble gum & kick ass, and I'm all out of bubble gum!" 
   Thank you Roddy, for everything. I'm gonna start taking your advise and "make my own luck".