I will never forget my talk with Roddy Piper. Following up on a live chat he had participated in at the SLAM! Wrestling offices, I called to, among other things, explain my absence to him. My young son was sick and I needed to take care of him that evening. As fathers, Piper and I proceeded to talk about our children for almost a half hour, trading stories and memories. We were just two dads chatting about our kids.
At the time, it was very clear to me how much his family meant to him and despite his renowned love for his career and the pro wrestling industry as a whole, his family was his entire world.
It was also clear to me that despite being one of the sincerely toughest and wildest bastards to ever walk the earth, Roddy Piper was all heart.
To those who knew him, especially his children, Roddy Piper (Roderick George “Roddy” Toombs) was a very complicated man. Telling his life story in Rowdy: The Roddy Piper Story must have been like putting together one of the world’s craziest jig-saw puzzles for his children Ariel Teal Toombs and Colt Baird Toombs. From his mischievous and shady exploits in Winnipeg and Toronto to his rise as the greatest heel the pro wrestling industry has ever known, Piper’s life story is not an easy one to tell and to add further pressure was the fact that Colt and Ariel were completing the book their father had started.
Rowdy follows Piper from his rough and tumble childhood to him paying his dues in the various territories before becoming a star in WWE and WCW. Fans should note that Piper’s WWE exploits begin approximately 200 pages in and the book itself is 368 pages long. Most of the time is spent on Piper learning his craft and growing as novice, with a lot of those lessons being incredibly harsh ones which would have probably discouraged those of lesser constitution and passion, and were probably meant to do so. During one such instance, Larry ‘The Axe’ Hennig (father of Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig) laid a legit beating on Piper in the ring after his entrance upstaged the veteran’s own. One busted up eye, nose and $25 later, Piper understood that disrespect whether intentional or not, would not be tolerated in the wrestling business. These lessons taught to an untamed upstart, shaped Piper into the superstar and man he would become.
A constant theme is Piper’s mistrust of promoters or those in the office. Never is this more true than Piper’s rivalry with Mr. T. Ariel and Colt detail his disagreements with Vince McMahon. Of importance to Roddy was making sure the industry and its traditions were always respected, which is why he rightfully refused to allow Mr. T to pin him under any circumstances and pushed hard for the matches to be scripted in a particular way so that the talent were never degraded. Piper’s frustration in working with Mr. T boiled over when he went off script and intentionally tossed a stool at him during their Boxing Match at WrestleMania 2.
Rowdy is packed with behind the scenes stories that give wrestling fans a peek behind the curtain. Perhaps the very best anecdote is when Roddy and close friend Bret Hart pulled one over on Vince McMahon and the other WWE superstars. To make their Intercontinental Title match at WrestleMania 8 really pop, they knew there had to be some blood. Knowing that at the time the WWE front office was against such behaviour, even going as far as fining any superstar who intentionally bled or bladed, Piper and Hart concocted a brilliant scheme. They made it appear as if Piper was being too aggressive in the ring, legitimately kicking Hart in the head, busting him open. Piper and Hart angrily confronted each other in the locker room after their match causing a concerned Jay Strongbow and others to jump in and separate them. When everyone was gone, Hart and Piper exchanged smiles and a few chuckles.Just as Piper’s career did the stories go well beyond the wrestling ring. We learn how that remarkable and unforgettable on-screen brawl between Piper and Keith David in the sci-fi classic They Live played out, how John Carpenter hired the homeless to star in the film and how the crew had to navigate two rival street gangs when filming on disputed turf. We also read about his time on a special episode of the Love Boat, Zorro, Hell Comes to Frogtown and a number of Piper’s forays into acting.
Although Piper was a good and loyal friend to so many, such as Bret Hart, Rick Martel and others in his life, not all of the reflections are positive though. As we come to understand, Piper had patches of a dark past that he seemed to try and bury his entire life. During one surprising incident, Piper followed a patron home from a bar and robbed him. The ruthless act plagued his conscious so much; he returned the victim’s wallet and never forgave himself for crossing the line that night. As detailed in the book, Piper, like all of us, made his fair share of mistakes in his life. To their credit, Ariel and Colt don’t shy away from that fact giving us a detailed and honest portrayal of their father, both the good and the bad. Finishing the book Piper had started before his untimely passing, Ariel and Colt have not only done their family proud but have also honoured their dad’s legacy and memory as a wrestler, a movie star and most importantly, a father.
EDITOR’S NOTE: SLAM! Wrestling Producer Greg Oliver sat down for an interview with both Ariel Teal Toombs and Colt Baird Toombs in person. Watch for that soon on the site.