“Rowdy” Roddy Piper, the wrestling star and pop culture icon, died on Friday of cardiac arrest at the age of
61, according to the Rolling Stone.
Born Roderick George Toombs, he made his wrestling debut in Canada at the age of 15, where he made his way to the ring playing bagpipes, and, as a result, was given the nickname “Roddy Piper.”
The moniker stuck, and when coupled with his background as an amateur boxer, he quickly developed a reputation as a man not to be messed with – a trait that made him a natural heel. During the 1970s, he’d work as a villain in several territories, including the AWA and NWA, had memorable feuds with the likes of Chavo Guerrero Sr. and Ric Flair and had a tremendous impact on a wrestling fan named Rick Rubin, who’d later credit Piper’s smack-talking bad guy character as a major influence on the Beastie Boys.
Piper also had a memorable career as an cult actor, starring in John Carpenter’s 1988 film They Live and Hell Comes to Frogtown. In recent years, he also made several cameos on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
As news of his death began to spread on Friday, his contemporaries expressed their sadness. Hulk Hogan, the man recently fired by WWE for making racist remarks, called Piper “my best friend” and “a legend.” The Iron Sheik, Kevin Nash, Bill Goldberg and wrestling announcer Jim Ross also shared memories of working with Piper.
In a statement, WWE chairman Vince McMahon called Piper “one of the most entertaining, controversial and bombastic performers ever in WWE, beloved by millions of fans around the world.”