‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper’s first biography, In the Pit With Piper, was a very good effort marred by his fuzzy recollection of the past. Indeed, Roddy outright falsified stories in the name of kayfabe throughout his life, with them often varying depending on the day of the week. A second biography was planned before his death, eventually being completed by two of his children, Ariel and Colt. And, while not written by the man himself, it’s more truthful and all the better for it.
Rowdy – The Roddy Piper Story takes the fragments Piper put together before passing away and expands on them through interviews with family, friends, and co-workers. And when these range from his siblings to legendary opponents such as Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart, you know you’re in for a good time.
The book picks up shortly after he is born, with Roderick George Toombs proving to be as much of an energetic rascal as the man who become famous. Some of the anecdotes about his childhood are hilarious, including a nasty experience with an electric wringer, a love of worms that equals The Boogeyman, and confusing bullies with a bit of twin magic. However, he has a strained relationship with his father, is preyed upon by bullies, and struggles through his teenage years. Trouble is never far away, including a very dicey brush with gangsters.
Taken under the wings of Merv Unger and Al Tomko, Roddy finds a purpose, but his live-wire attitude doesn’t change. He makes his debut in 1973, and the stories of him breaking into the business, living on the road, and experiencing hazing are gold. Working his way up the card, he clashes with Muhammad Ali at a press conference and comes out on the winning end. From LA, to Mexico, and Japan, Piper squeezes in his acting debut in 1978 in the movie The One and Only.
By the early 80s Roddy is working the Carolinas, often battling Ric Flair in the evenings and partying with him until the morning. We then hit the highlights that fans know, beginning with his fantastic feud with Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine in the NWA. That it takes halfway through the book to get here is a testament to the breadth of Piper’s run.
The rest is history: Piper’s Pit, walloping Jimmy Snuka with a coconut, his tussles with Hulk Hogan and Mr. T, and the first WrestleMania. The fans turn Roddy face by WrestleMania III, as he takes on good buddy Adrian Adonis in Piper’s retirement match, before going back to Hollywood for B-Movie classic, Hell Comes to Frogtown.
A cut scene from Frogtown lands in the lap of John Carpenter, who instantly knows he has found his lead actor for the movie They Live, the role Piper is best known for. He can’t quite stay away from wrestling though, and is back doing Piper’s Pit by WrestleMania V, along with a stint as a commentator, returning to the ring full-time shortly after SummerSlam ‘89. His racially-iffy WrestleMania VI bout with Bad News Allen is covered in detail, as is the comical aftermath.
Placeholder feuds with old friend ‘The Model’ Rick Martel and Ted DiBiase lead into a friendly rivalry with best friend Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart at WrestleMania VIII, which produces an all-time classic match (and ends in a rare pinfall loss for Piper). After taking a break to get a hip replacement, Roddy is at it again versus Goldust in a surreal Hollywood Backlot Brawl, before defecting to World Championship Wrestling. From there, he bounces between the independents and WWE, with his wrestling career covered up to his feel-good WWE Tag Team Championship win with Ric Flair, with the final agonizing pages detailing his untimely death.
Falsehoods are debunked along the way. While it’s commonly known that Roddy wasn’t Scottish (he was Canadian), the truth about his 15-second debut against Larry Hennig, his match against Victor the bear, and that coconut shot are illuminating.
If there are faults, it’s that Roddy had such a long storied career that not all of it can be covered in detail in one book. For instance, it’s a shame there aren’t more tales of WCW and, while his acting career gets a look-in, his great turn on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is nowhere to be found.
Surprising, touching, and frequently hilarious, Rowdy – The Roddy Piper Story is a must-read for fans of the territories, 80s and 90s pro wrestling, and the man himself. “We could write another book and not tell the same stories twice”, write Ariel and Colt and, after reading this biography, you’ll hope they do.