You most likely remember him from his stunning starring role as the explosive codpiece-clad Sam Hell in the 1988 sci-fi masterpiece Hell Comes to Frogtown (we’ll get into that later), but did you also know that Roddy Piper was also a professional wrestler? Of course you did. The controversial, witty, brash, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was a fan favorite back when the WWE was the WWF in the 1980s and early ’90s. The mouthy wrestling superstar and somewhat successful actor had a reputation for creating a scene.
What Culture tells us that Piper once broke one of Cyndi Lauper’s gold records over an opponent’s head and put out talk show host Morton Downey Jr.’s cigarette with a fire extinguisher. Although he had quite a few wins and other accolades under his belt (or should we say kilt?), including being a headliner of the very first WrestleMania in 1985, Piper’s skill in the ring really came from his ability to turn himself into the most hated man in the arena. As What Culture put it, Roddy Piper “relished … his villainy” and loved to “be the Lex Luthor to Hulk Hogan’s Superman.” He once even shaved an opponent’s head to the cheers and jeers of the roaring crowd at WrestleMania III. But it was exactly this love for being the antagonist that ultimately made him one of the WWE universe’s most iconic wrestlers of all time.
Roddy Piper's rowdy behavior outside the arena
His official WWE bio tells it best: “‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper claimed he was born to cause controversy, and his wild, freewheeling life proved that statement to be more than hyperbole.” One such example of Piper’s freewheeling wildness was recorded by The Fresno Bee. After the wrestler’s death in July 2015, the paper recalled an event from 1986 that, in classic “Rowdy” fashion, ended up endearing him to the California town.
One wild night after a wrestling event, Piper and fellow grapplers “Cowboy” Bob Orton and Don “The Magnificent” Muraco ended up at a local bar just after last call. After an argument with a patron ended with Piper showing him what a professional-grade body slam feels like, the three escaped in a rented car, but they didn’t get too far. They got their ride stuck on some railroad tracks and abandoned it in order to cause more mayhem.
The cops were quickly called after the drunken trio returned to their hotel. Piper and Orton were arrested for public intoxication. When the police arrived, they found Orton naked as the day he was born on his fifth-floor balcony, screaming challenges for them to come up and fight him. “He answered the door in his cowboy boots and not much else,” said the officer who arrested him. The two spent the night in jail, but the charges were dropped the next day, and neither Piper nor Fresno would forget that night.
'Rowdy' Roddy Piper in the movies
Moviegoers are now used to wrestling stars like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dave Bautista, and John Cena making successful crossovers out of the ring and onto the big screen, but those guys probably wouldn’t have been able to do so had Roddy Piper not paved the way for them decades before. According to Pro Wrestling Stories, Piper appeared in more than 50 feature films and TV shows, but he always struggled with being typecast as a wrestler. We agree with Pro Wrestling Stories when they call Hell Comes to Frogtown at once “a shameless Mad Max rip-off with giant frogs, misogynistic themes, terrible dialogue, awful acting, and Roddy Piper constantly getting electrocuted” and “a must-see movie.” Oddly enough, Piper himself didn’t feel the same way. “Unfortunately, the movie really got a lot of attention,” Piper said. “I guess some people have actually bought it. I try to tell them, ‘Listen, you’re wasting your money.’ But the more I talk them out of it, the more they buy it!”
Piper’s most notable role was in 1988’s They Live, directed by John Carpenter of Halloween fame. The movie follows Piper as a drifter named Nada who finds a pair of sunglasses that reveal the truth to him: The media and lower classes of society are being controlled by aliens that live among us. Later in his life, Roddy played a maniacal wrestler (tough gig) on the comedy series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
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