So, this happened. And it did so when most of the world wasn’t really watching. The late Hot Rod Rowdy Roddy Piper is an icon. It’s an unsung fact, not heralded enough in the sports entertainment world, but nonetheless true.
As a matter of fact, arguably, the WWE would not be the juggernaut of a company that it is if it had not been for Roderick Toombs becoming Rowdy Roddy Piper, a persona and kind of character that he took on as the perfect antagonist and foil to the likes of Hulk Hogan and his Hulk-A-Mania in the 1980s. Those were the times – the power of wrestling as the perfect story-driven sporting event was birthed and subsequently, it boomed. Classic wrestling characters tangled and tussled in the ring, seeking glorified championship belts while warring against one another; crew against crew and tag-teams versus tag-teams. It was a fun time, a spectacle to watch, a soap opera incased in athleticism and competition, and Roddy Piper—with his white Tee and colorful red and yellow on, kilt to boot that went with his persona of being a bagpipe playing scoundrel from Scotland, and course the leather jacket—led the way.
It was Rowdy Roddy Piper’s natural charisma and bully-ish character, cynical, conniving, and charming that helped to cement wrestling as something that should be on the world stage. In the 1980’s wrestling began to be adored and the sports entertainment world, wrestling especially, grew exponentially and since then there’s been some great character athletes, the product of the powerhouse of the 80’s wrestling scene. But what’s been missing – although at times undetected – was that “Rowdy” presence. Despite all the colorful characters we’ve been given as wrestling fans and sports entertainment fanatics, that thing that was in the nostalgia of 80’s wrestling has been absent — or it was.
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Enter Ronda Rousey.
She needs no introduction. Ronda Rousey’s career as a fighter is well known. But what isn’t common knowledge is just how the champion fighter came to carry the “Rowdy” name. Even beyond that, what it really means for her to have it as she is slowly becoming one of the main stars of wrestling in the WWE.
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Before Roddy Piper passed away in 2015, he gave an interview where he talked about his giving away of the “Rowdy” name and subsequently the image that went with it. Ironically, it all began with a trainer by the name of Gene “Judo” LeBell, well-known for having trained the likes of Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris — and Roddy Piper. LeBell also became Ronda Rousey’ trainer when she was just starting out and it was through this connection that she reached out to Roddy Piper — her and Gene LeBell and asked him if she could use the “Rowdy” moniker — she said, “I’ll make you proud and I’m giving it everything I got.”
Hot Rod Rowdy Roddy Piper’s response was, “You go, gal. You go!”
And she has. Now in the WWE, after an amazing career in the UFC, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey literally embodies not only the image of Roddy Piper, donning the a similar white Tee at times, the colorful red and yellow kilt, and even the very same leather jacket that was given to her by Roddy Piper’s son, but she also stirs the 1980’s wrestling nostalgia – it’s evident by the feel of each event and contest that she participates in, every interview that she does. There’s something magical that is happening with the WWE, and it’s being led by her and the rest of the women of wrestling.
Without a doubt, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey is becoming the marquee name for women’s wrestling. And her friendship and WWE’s pairing of her and Natalya Neidhart is a perfect match and only adds to the nostalgia of the 80’s – Neidhart being the daughter of Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. Look, it’s undeniable, there’s a movement that is really spring-boarding women’s wrestling, catapulting it to newer heights, and it feels a lot like the characters of wrestling from the ’80s. Watching Rousey come out to thunderous cheers and applause from the build up her arrival, it literally takes you back to those times — and if you are a wrestling enthusiast then you know the past lore and you’ve seen those older matches and images. That time is back and what is most interesting is that it’s not directly coming from the men’s wrestling like before.
Time has changed, no it has evolved, and pulling from the memories of GLOW and the fun battles of the 80’s wrestling scene, the women of the WWE, have begun to interact and fight and connive and team-up and turn on each other just like they used to do in the ’80s. At the center of all of this, is Ronda Rousey, who by taking on the name and image of an 80’s wrestling icon, has somehow channeled the mood and energy of that time, as well as the women’s wrestling culture, and the result is that the entirety of the WWE wrestling brand has been rocked by it. This is important and here’s why:
With the women’s division of the WWE being built around Rousey, two nuances are being addressed. One, the equality and fortitude of women as professional athletes and wrestlers, and the “reboot” age that has swept pop culture and most of entertainment. “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey is a one-two punch in this regard, as she is already a professional athlete and icon as a woman. We cannot ignore that in this point in history there is such thing as the #metoo movement, and while Rousey is not a response to that, she is a reminder that the strength of women has always been present and that they have always been fighters in more ways than one. Add in the “Rowdy” name and image, and she has truly helped to re-captured an era, as a woman, that men used to dominate — 80s wrestling.