This last week the world lost one of its greatest entertainers – in my humble opinion. Mr. Roderick George Toombs passed in his sleep. Who you may ask was Mr. Toombs? He was unquestionably the most bombastic, sarcastic, sharp-tongued professional wrestler to ever enter the squared circle. Mr. Rowdy Roddy Piper.
It was having a strange affect on me. More than it should in my opinion. People in the entertainment field die all the time. People we looked up to and idolized as kids – or even as adults. As adults we are able to rationalize our “hero worship” of these people. They aren't really heroes in the grand scheme of things. Doctors, teachers, soldiers, police, firefighters – those are real heroes— but when I was 12, none of them hung on my wall in poster form.
My sadness over the death of Roddy Piper was coming from a deep nostalgic place. One of those places you can't quite put your thumb on, but the feeling is there nonetheless and as I perused good old Facebook, and commiserated with fellow Piper fans, I saw friend and comic Jason Sohm, nail what I was feeling inside on the head and a few little tractor tears fell for my wrestling hero Rowdy Roddy Piper.
Jason Sohm: Sometimes you don't know what you have until it's gone.
“Those of you who know me well, know I've been a bit of a mess over the last couple of days. The reason will sound completely ridiculous to some of you, and that's okay. This is just something I'd like to get off my chest, and what better medium to do it than here?
“ When I was a kid, I wanted to be a professional wrestler. I'd tune into WWF Prime Time, Saturday Night Main Event, anything I could get my young eyeballs on. It always has and always will be my favorite form of entertainment.
“ Now I was too young to bear witness to the birth of Rock and Wrestling, but I for damn sure recall the period of time considered the golden age of wrestling. Hulk Hogan was a hero to the collective youth, Randy Savage was mesmerizing millions of people, and Andre the Giant was this gift from the gods it seemed, as he had to do nothing more than be present.
“But there was one guy who always stood out to me. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. I remember tuning in, and getting excited anytime I heard the drum roll leading into the bagpipes blaring on the PA. I remember jumping up and down, when I would be treated to watch him completely dismantle another performer, when they would be a guest on Piper's Pit. (Roddy's In Show weekly Talk Show)
“ You see Piper wasn't the biggest man in the ring, he didn't have 24-inch pythons, and he couldn't fly through the air like the Macho Man. But you put a microphone in his hand, and there was nobody else that could hang with him. He was too quick, too fast, and chocked full of charisma. To quote the man himself, "You don't throw rocks at a man who's got a machine gun!"
“ I never knew it at the time, but Piper was the catalyst for everything I've become. In high school, my mom denied me tuition to join wrestling school, and at some point I had to admit she was right to do so. A guy my size, has to bring something to the table no one else can match, in order to make it in that world. Frankly, I couldn't do that.
As I got older, I worked jobs, got married and had a family. But there was still this voice in my head, telling me I'm not fulfilled. There's this little man in my head screaming at me to do something with my life. Do something you love. So, I went and tried my first open mic, bombed my ass off, and fell in love with standup comedy. You see comedy is only a steel chair shot away from being pro wrestling. There's no other form of entertainment that is as much scripted - as it is off the cuff. There's no other form of entertainment where anything can and usually will happen.
“So here I am three and a half years later, still screaming at strangers, but from the front of a mic. Here I am still chasing this dream of mine. And I don't know that I could have ever done it, had I not been captivated by a crazy man in a kilt when I was a child. Maybe I'm not big enough to be a wrestler. Maybe I'm not strong enough to throw grown men around a ring. But I can talk. Man, I can crack wise to groups of people I don't know, and I can run my mouth with the best of them.
I'll never get the opportunity to meet the man. I'll never get a chance to shake his hand and tell him "thank you" for being a beacon of what could be to a small child, and a stiff reminder of the dreams I've yet to claim as a young adult. I just took my wife and 2 kids to Stockton Arena Sunday night to watch the WWE. Watching my daughter turn into a crazy person is worth the price of admission by itself.
“Thank you Roddy Piper. Thank you for being the Rowdiest son of a gun that's ever lived. Thank you for showing a young boy that you could go through this life doing it YOUR WAY. Thank you, for being you.”
Thank you Jason, from every Piper fan on earth.
When I was 12 years old, I had 3 posters hanging in my bedroom. One of sports hero Marcus Allen, one of Miami Vice's Don Johnson, and one of professional wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper. The Holy Triumvirate of Cool for this Manteca teen.
There was definitely a stigma 30 years ago surrounding those that followed Big Time Wrestling with fanaticism. Non fans felt compelled to constantly remind them “Big Time Wrestling is fake. How can you watch that crap?!”...or “You need to grow up, that stuff is for idiots”
Well here we are 30 years later, with “reality” shows like The Bachelor and The Kardashians ruling television ratings. Shows as staged and mind numbing as it can get. Unfortunately, those shows never end with someone taking a chair to the face, or being body slammed from the top rope. Which I think we can all agree, would make them at least watchable.
Marcus Allen eventually jumped the Raider's ship, and anchored up with the hated Chiefs – his poster came down immediately. I never outgrew my love of the Miami Vice's Sonny Crockett – and still contend he is the coolest television character ever. But like many a TV hero, he eventually took other roles – and the luster of the Sonny Crockett star faded. Though not too much, I still dress as him every other Halloween — but one poster stayed up long after I stopped watching professional wrestling.
The Piper poster followed me through adulthood, mostly because it was a cool looking piece of pop culture. If you are enjoying a cocktail, at the home bar of a 26-year-old with Roddy Piper hanging overhead – it is a certainty you are having a good time. The poster was always a springboard for me and my cronies to jump in to the “All Time Favorite Wrestler” conversation. I loved Piper, because he always remained Piper. He never jumped ship like Marcus Allen. He and Sonny Crockett were both technically actors. Both delivered their character spiel from scripts. The difference? Piper had to do it on one take. And in front of 10,000 rabid fans yelling at him. He'd have one shot, and he always nailed it!
It doesn't matter what you do now as an adult; lawyer, construction, doctor, teacher, salesman, farmer. because all men have a favorite wrestler. It's due to one common trait – they were all 12 years old at some point.
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