Roderick George Toombs was born on April 17, 1954 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. After an expulsion from middle school for possessing a switchblade and a falling out with his Mountie father, Toombs spent most of his childhood in numerous youth hostels while making money as a gym assistant, before becoming a jobber in the AWA. After a few lucky breaks, Roddy, who picked up a Scottish persona, became a regular professional wrestler.
In his 42-year career (including, most famously, 16 years in the WWE and WCW), Piper amassed 34 championships while facing rivals like Greg Valentine, Adrian Adonis, and Hulk Hogan. Rowdy Roddy was especially good as displaying rage, spontaneity, and quick wit (especially on the mic and in his legendary promos), with fellow wrestler Ric Flair calling him “the most gifted entertainer in the history of professional wrestling. Piper was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005, with the induction also naming him the top villain of the company’s entire history.
In real life, however, Piper was anything but a bad guy. He befriended many fellow wrestlers and co-workers, would spend endless hours interacting with fans and members of the media, while also putting together an impressive acting resume. Piper sadly died of a heart attack in 2015, leaving behind a wife of 33 years, four children, four grandchildren, and enough experiences to fill the lifetimes of 100 men. Coming from the golden age of professional wrestling, Piper befriended, competed with/against, and partied alongside the best of the best and some of the sport’s most notorious figures, which naturally led to more than his share of weird, hilarious, unbelievable, and insane stories. The following tales are just a sample of the strange saga of Rowdy Roddy Piper.
15 What’s My Name?
Usually wrestlers pick up their in-ring names from promoters, fellow competitors, or they simply make it up themselves. In Roddy’s case, the story begins when he was a 15-year-old amateur wrestler and Golden Gloves boxer at a time when he also played the bagpipes in a band with six other guys (three of whom also played the pipes). A last minute cancelation left veteran Larry Hennig without an opponent, and Rowdy was paid $25 to drop his amateur status and wrestle him. “I had never even seen a match before,” Rod recalled. “I went to play my bagpipe. I was wearing the kilt from the band. The announcer didn’t know who I was. He just knew my first name was Roddy. So he said, ‘Here comes Roddy...the piper.” Obviously it stuck, and the rest is history.
14 Beastly Influences
This one isn’t a crazy story directly involving Piper, but instead illustrates how insanely popular and influential he was back in the day. While wrestlers are known for often inspiring other wrestlers, you don’t hear a lot about them inspiring musicians. Yet producer Rick Rubin said Rowdy Roddy had exactly this effect on one of his early clients: a little rap trio called The Beastie Boys. “There's no question that, early on, the Beastie Boys were very influenced by pro wrestling. One-hundred percent,” Rubin told Rolling Stone. “The idea of being bad-guy rappers, saying really outlandish things in interviews, that all came from a love of pro wrestling. We didn't say it because it was true – we said it because it was entertaining … I remember showing them videotapes of old matches, because I was the fan, and we'd laugh about the stuff on there. And at that time, there was a wrestling hotline, and we'd call and listen to prerecorded messages from Roddy Piper and get inspired by the crazy things he'd say.”
13 Cousin Hart
When Bret Hart first met Roddy Piper, Hart mentioned that he had family on his father’s side who also had the surname Toombs - the same as Roddy’s legal name. Hart’s dad was also from around Piper’s hometown of Saskatoon, so the two toyed with the idea that they were somehow blood related. They later discovered the spellings were a bit different (Piper’s family spelled it “Toombs,” Hart’s spelled it “Tombs”), but given the geographic location and shared heritages, it’s possible they could still have some common ancestors - which would be a pretty wild coincidence for the two wrestlers. Even if they weren’t actually related, this didn’t affect the bond between them. “We never called each other Roddy or Bret,” Hart recalled. “We always called each other ‘Cuz,’ right up until he died.”
12 Piper and Connor
Although Roddy Piper befriended his fair share of famous figures after finding success, his lifelong best friend was also well known, and the two had been close since their childhoods. NHL veteran Cam Connor met Piper when the pair were only 15 years old and got into a tussle, which Roddy of course claims to have won. (Rowdy’s exact working to NHL.com, years later, was that he “whupped” Cam.) Five years later, Connor was drafted in the first round (5th overall) of the 1974 NHL Draft, and he eventually hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1979 (after previously scoring a playoff-series-winning goal) with the Montreal Canadiens. The two, both famous within their own sports’ worlds, remained friends until Piper’s death in 2015.
11 Murray Christmas
Throughout Roddy Piper’s lengthy wrestling and acting career, he had the chance to meet and befriend celebrities from all walks of life; Cyndi Lauper was a friend, as was directing legend John Carpenter. But Rowdy was so famous that sometimes he couldn’t even explain the connections between him and some other celebrities - they just knew him. Case in point: In late 2013, Piper received a Christmas card featuring the sender pictured in four shirtless photos (but wearing a small, red, silk scarf) on the front. The famous face who sent it? The one and only Bill Murray.
Despite being well-known himself, Piper didn’t personally know Murray, and was positively perplexed at the piece of mail. He tweeted a snap of the card with the caption: “How and why I got this from Bill Murry [sic] I have no idea!”
10 Jimmy & Roddy Go Nuts
Out of all the classic Piper’s Pit segments, none was more memorable than “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka’s infamous 1984 coconut appearance. If you haven’t seen it, the gist involves Piper insulting Snuka and his home state of Hawaii by bringing out a bag full of bananas, pineapples, and coconuts, and tossing them at him. This culminated in Roddy smashing a coconut over Jimmy’s noggin, which sent him crashing face-first into the set’s wall, knocking the entire thing down.
It was mean, sure, but the crowd loved it - and the wrestlers loved that. In fact, it was actually Snuka who told Rowdy backstage to hit him with the coconut, which was 100% real (it even split open Jimmy’s forehead). When Piper asked if he was sure, Snuka made it perfectly clear: “Brudda, you better hit me with that.”
9 A Grim Prediction
Later in his life, Roddy Piper became fed up with the fact that his fellow wrestlers and friends were dying at alarmingly early ages, and he started speaking up about the health issues facing these athletes. "Everybody's dead,” Piper said on an HBO Real Sports exposé in 2003. “They all died young and nobody cares about it. They take them and they screw them up so much - ‘they’ being the rash of promoters I've gone through in my 33 years." Piper then revealed that he emerged from “retirement” because his true retirement benefits wouldn’t kick in until he turned 65. He then ominously (and correctly) made a grim prediction. “I’m not going to make 65,” he said. “Let’s just face facts, guys.” Piper was 61 when he passed away 12 years later.
8 Wrestling’s Give and Take
Although it’s now well known that wrestling often destroys the bodies, minds, and overall lives of its wrestlers (and Roddy spoke out about this exact issue), Piper also credits the sport and its fantastic fans for saving his life. Over a decade ago, WWE held “Cyber Sunday,” an event where fans could vote on who they thought should be Ric Flair’s partner for the tag team titles. Rowdy Roddy was selected, and while in Europe for the matches, he realized something was wrong with his legs, as they kept failing him. The promotion flew him back to the states, sent him to a doctor, and discovered that he was suffering from lymphoma.
According to Roddy, the wrestling gig was a blessing in disguise. “If the fans didn't vote me in, I wouldn't have went to Europe, I wouldn't have had a reason to have my back checked, and from what has been explained to me, in two to three years, this would have been all throughout my body and I would've had to go out that day.”
7 Marked for Life
Wrestling fans will no doubt recall Piper’s famous match against Bad News Brown at WrestleMania VI, in which he decided to paint himself half black and claim, “When it comes to me, there ain’t no difference between black and white.” Many still called racism on the gimmick, but those who knew Piper understood that it was all in an effort to stir the pot and create some hype, and not in any way a malicious action.
In fact, in regard to Roddy, the most damaging part of the gimmick was the paint itself: the grease variety used was so heavy duty that it took Piper four months to get it completely off, even with daily trips to the sauna.
6 A Shocking Shower Incident
Former WWE talent Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell made it clear that Roddy didn’t need anyone else in order to make an insane story. Once, in the L.A. Sports Auditorium, Piper was in the venue’s shower and reached around the corner to grab a towel from the connecting locker room. In what was probably quite the surprise, Piper accidentally stuck his finger straight into an electrical socket. Brunzell said Roddy immediately hit the ground from the electric current and actually shook on the ground for a few moments as the electric charge pulsed through his body. Thankfully, Piper was okay, but the event likely came as quite a scary shock (pun totally intended).
5 Once Upon a Time in Mexico…
According to Roddy Piper, things could get pretty rowdy south of the border, so it’s no surprise he was a fan of wrestling in Mexico. One time, Piper was tasked with wrestling Chavo and Hector Guerrero inside of a bull ring in Juarez. “Coming out into a bullring, through, there were certain things I didn’t know,” Piper later told WrestleNewz. “One was that, when they close the door to the ring, it’s just a round circle. If you don’t take note of the geography of your surroundings, you won’t find the door out of that circle.” The show began and Roddy laid quite the smackdown on both the local boys, to the point that the audience starting throwing their seat cushions, which were actually just pillows, in anger. Unfortunately for Roddy, a rainstorm recently passed though, and the pillows had gotten soaked.
“Man, it was like getting hit by two-and-a-half-pound dumbbells,” Piper recalled. “It kind of boiled over into a full-scale riot. I’m pretty used to that, but I couldn’t find the door!” And it only got worse from there. “Chavo, in trying to be funny, said, ‘Let’s get him!’ Well, those people took him seriously. I must have been 15 minutes — well, I won’t exaggerate, because I don’t know how many minutes — but at least a few trying to find the door!” This situation was especially dangerous for Piper. “I was fighting for my life,” he said, “because [before the match] I had played La Cucaracha as the Mexican national anthem on my bagpipes.” ¡Ay, no es bueno!
4 The Snake Shot
Back in the ‘80s, a still up-and-coming wrestler named Jake “The Snake” Roberts was approached by Greg Valentine, who wanted to introduce him to Piper, saying, “Roddy loves snakes.” The newbie Roberts beamed at the thought of Roddy being into his work and jumped at the opportunity to meet him. “I got the snake out and tapped Roddy on the shoulder,” Roberts later told Sports Illustrated. “He turned around and went completely white. He had this briefcase with him, and he reached for it. I asked what he was doing, and he opens up his briefcase and pulls out a 30-millimeter pistol. I said to myself, ‘Holy sh-t.’” Valentine burst out laughing, although at the time is certainly wasn’t funny to the two wrestlers, one of whom happened to be carrying a gun.
3 Piper’s Gator-Aid
In 1984, Piper was looking for a pair of alligator boots, and wrestlers Kevin Sullivan and Wally Dusek, as well as referee Bill Alfonso spotted the perfect opportunity to get a pair directly from the source while traveling through Florida. No, not from a shopping outlet, but instead an actual gator! They stopped the car and Piper, armed with a pistol, shot the gator at least twice. “As soon as I hit him, he slid into the water and was motionless,” Piper later recalled. “For 10 minutes, we threw rocks at it, hitting it in the head. It did not move.” He and Sullivan then stripped down to their tights and began wading into the dark, opaque water to retrieve the prize; the former to grab it, and the latter to splash the water to scare other gators away.
Stupid as that plan seemed, no other gators approached them, but the “dead” one suddenly resurrected itself and dove back into the water just as Roddy got close. Piper hightailed it out of there, much to the entertainment of his cohorts – who then saw movement in the nearby grass themselves and ran away just as quickly. It was an armadillo.
2 What Happens in Fresno…
Although the exact details vary, Rowdy Roddy Piper’s most infamous out-of-the-ring moment undoubtedly occurred in Fresno in 1986. Piper has just finished a show at the local Selland Arena with “Cowboy Bob” Orton and Don “The Magnificent” Muraco, and the three hit the town for some drinks. Being a celebrity, everything was comped, and the wrestlers were probably over-served. Piper got in an argument with a patron and dropped him, and the trio fled the bar in a rental car. However, the auto soon got stuck on some railroad tracks, and was abandoned by the crew in the city’s Chinatown.
Upon returning to their hotel, six officers were waiting to arrest Piper. Orton, however, ended up getting in on the action too. After screaming from his fifth-floor balcony that he wanted to fight the responding officers, they showed up at his door only to find him totally naked - save for a pair of cowboy boots. Orton told Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer that he eats guys like him for breakfast, and they shot Cowboy Bob with a taser. Orton responded by simply pulling out the darts and replying, “Now you pissed me off.” The two managed to de-escalate the situation after talking, but Piper was still arrested for public intoxication...because he was so drunk that he forgot to check into his hotel room.
1 Grin and Bear It
Although both the Snuka Piper’s Pit segment and Fresno incident are likely more famous, there’s no crazier Rowdy Roddy tale than the time he wrestled a bear. Not a man in a suit, but a real, live bear known as Victor the Wrestling Bear. The story goes like this: At the start of Piper’s career, bear wrestling was still a thing (thanks a lot, PETA), and a young Roddy was given a chance to compete in one of these matches (one of his first ever wrestling bouts) for a small payday. Looking more for an opportunity than a paycheck, Roddy agreed. The rest of the story involves another wrestler putting honey on Piper’s pants, Piper getting violated by the honey-hungry bear, and eventually getting pinned under the bear’s massive, 650-pound body.
After the animal was eventually hit with a tranquilizer dart, the embarrassment seemed to be over - but, of course, it was not. Roddy lost his tights when slipping out from under the furry and ferocious creature, and when exiting the ring seconds later (while still pantless), he got his foot caught, tripped face first, and promptly passed out upon hitting the floor. Bear: 1, Rowdy Roddy: 0.