Rowdy Roddy Piper has died at the age of 61. He had previously battled cancer in 2006. Piper was one of the stars of professional wrestling’s first golden age in the late 1980s. He was one of the heels or bad guys, usually getting beaten by Hulk Hogan or whomever the hero of the day was. Never regarded as a great physical wrestler, what made Piper a bonafide star was his mic work, cutting promos and famously getting his own interview segment Piper’s Pit. He pretty much retired from wrestling in the 1990s but still made sparing appearances for the WWE, being admitted to the company’s Hall of Fame in 2005. Hot Rod last appeared on WWE screens in 2014.
The late superstar is survived by his wife Kitty, their four children: daughters Anastacia, Ariel and Falon, as well as his aspiring wrestler son, Colton.
Here’s what we know so far:
1. Piper Suffered a Heart Attack
TMZ reports that he died of natural causes at his home in Hollywood, California. Speaking to the gossip site, a rep for Piper said:
Rod was a good friend as well as a client and one of the most generous, sincere and authentic people I have ever known. This is a true loss to us all.
Also paying tribute to Piper was his old sparring mate Hulk Hogan who told TMZ “He was my best friend. He is a legend.” The site goes on to say that Piper died in his sleep from a heart attack at around noon on July 31.
2. Piper Was Voted the WWE’s Greatest Ever Bad Guy
Despite being voted the WWE’s greatest villain of all time, he only ever won one championship, the Intercontinental title in 1992. Piper would lose that title against Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 8. Though notably he made several crossover appearances for the WWE, on the strength of his appearance at Wrestlemania I, Piper went on Saturday Night Live with Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. Not to mention is appearance in the John Carpenter movie They Live.
3. In November 2014, Piper Said He Was Cancer Free
He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2006 but in November 2014 Piper said he was completely cancer free. In an interview with Business 2 Community, Piper said:
The cancer is gone as far as I know. I’ve passed the five-year mark. It’s one of those things that haunts you a little bit, especially when you go as hard as I did. I’m doing OK, but about a year ago, I was driving home and I couldn’t breathe and almost passed out.
I was trying to ignore it, but I had a blood clot in my lung and spent some time in the hospital. I need to start being careful. I’m not sure we’re invincible anymore.
4. In 2003, He Featured in a Documentary About the Pitfalls of Professional Wrestling
During one of his later runs in WWE back in 2003, Piper featured in Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel discussing about the negative side of pro wrestling. Though he later distanced himself from some of the remarks he made in the show, he was unceremoniously fired by Vince McMahon for bringing attention to the dark side of wrestling.
5. His Dad Was a Cop
He was born Roderick George Toombs in Saskatoon, Canada, in April 1954, the son of a cop. During his wrestling career, where he would come to the ring clad in a kilt, Piper was often feted as being from Scotland.