TMZ (and others) have reported actor/wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper has passed away from heart failure at age 61. Besides classic film, pro wrestling has long been one of my obsessions. Yeah, I know, it’s phony as a three-dollar bill, but so what? So are some of the Grade B (and lower) movies I look at here on Cracked Rear Viewer and Through the Shattered Lens. I got into the so-called “exhibition sport” at age 12, going with my grandmother (who was a true believer) to see the matches at the old Lincoln Park Ballroom in Dartmouth, MA. Later, my friends and I would travel to Boston Garden to watch Bruno Sammartino and company tear it up, usually followed by a trip to the Combat Zone for some exotic dancers (hey, we were young!) and pizza at Little Stevie’s in Back Bay. Ah, youth!
Roddy Piper was unique in the “sport of kings”. His mouth made him famous, no one could come up with the smack talk like Piper. While he never held a world title, he didn’t need one. People would pay their hard-earned cash to see him get his ass kicked just once. They were usually disappointed, as the dastardly Hot Rod would end up cheating his way to a victory or disqualification. Piper was the original anti-hero to many, including me. The segment ‘Piper’s Pit’ was must see TV for a generation of disaffected youth.
Roddy made movies, too. Though most were low-budget dreck (HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN, BODY SLAM) or direct-to-video nonsense (TOUGH AND DEADLY, SCI-FIGHTERS), one stands out. THEY LIVE (1988) is a great science fiction adventure directed by John Carpenter (HALLOWEEN, THE THING, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK). It’s about aliens using subliminal messages to control the masses. This tongue in cheek action flick says a lot about society, and Piper shows a strong screen presence. (Best line: “I’m here to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and I’m all out of gum”) Wrestling fans thought this would be a breakthrough role for Roddy, but alas it wasn’t to be.
Rowdy Roddy Piper’s best work came in the ring, and on the microphone cutting down his opponents with the greatest of ease. We’ll miss you, Hot Rod. RIP