‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper 1954-2015

Wrestler-turned-actor dies, aged 61

'Rowdy' Roddy Piper 1954-2015

by Owen Williams |
Published on

Roderick Toombs, better known by his stage name 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper has died at his home in Hollywood. The 61-year-old reportedly suffered a heart attack in his sleep.

Born in Saskatchewan and raised in Manitoba, Piper was expelled from junior high school for carrying a switchblade: an event that didn't sit well with his father, who was a Mountie. Leaving home early, he drifted into odd jobs at gyms, becoming an amateur boxer and wrestler before taking up the latter professionally at the age of 15. He quickly rose to fame, first for the National Wrestling Alliance, followed by the WCW and eventually the WWE. There were many awards, including "Best Heel" and "Most Hated Wrestler". People love a villain.

Given his big personality, a move into movies was a logical step. He made his screen debut in an uncredited bit-part in Carl Reiner's The One And Only in 1978. A handful of roles later, he scored his first lead in the bonkers cult action sci-fi Hell Comes To Frogtown. Piper played Sam Hell, one of the last fertile men on Earth, wanted by the government for breeding, but first having to mount a rescue of some women kdnapped by giant frogs.

And then, of course, there was John Carpenter's They Live, in which Piper came to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and found he was all out of the former.

He never reached that giddy height again, but continued to make films for the rest of his life: cheap quickies like No Contest, Terminal Rush, Jack Of Hearts, The Reconciler... He also did a bit of voice acting (a Green Lantern cartoon, the video game Saint's Row IV), and made TV appearances in the likes of Zorro, Walker Texas Ranger, Highlander, RoboCop, The Outer Limits and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Apparently busy recently, he has four so-far unreleased films listed as being in post-production on his IMDb page, including horror film The Chair, and something called The Green Fairy in which he played Oscar Wilde. So that's certainly one to watch out for.

Piper is survived by his wife, Kitty, their four children, and four grandchildren. "He was one of the most entertaining, controversial and bombastic performers ever in WWE," said that organisation's Vince McMahon, "beloved by millions of fans around the world."

"Devastated to hear the news of my friend Roddy Piper’s passing today," said Carpenter. "He was a great wrestler, a masterful entertainer and a good friend."

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us