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Word Life: #RememberingRoddy

I'm not an 80s kid, and I won't pretend to have grown up watching Roddy Piper's matches from that era, or even his greatest promos.

What I can tell you is that Roddy Piper's passing devastates me nonetheless as a wrestling fan because out of the legends I saw on TV growing up, Piper was the one I connected with the most. It most likely has to do with his frequent appearances in the 2000s.

There was always something about Roddy Piper's entrance that got me really excited whenever he'd show up on TV. It helped that the crowd always, always popped hard for him. 

#GoosebumpsMomentOfTheDayRoddy Piper enters the 2008 Royal Rumble Match! :')<UndisputedSarcasm>
Posted by PG Kills WWE on Friday, July 31, 2015

Remember that moment? Piper entered the 2008 Royal Rumble at #19 and made time stand still as everyone—including Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker—stopped what they were doing to behold the sight of Piper and Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka facing off against each other in Madison Square Garden. It made for a classic moment that just made me so happy to be a wrestling fan.

Sure, he wasn't on the same level as Hulk Hogan or Dusty Rhodes. And some people would be quick to point this out because Roddy was never a World Champion.

But I think that's what made a young fan like me get attached to the Rowdy One. He was a legend, but he wasn't a megastar legend. That made it easier for him to keep popping up on TV in his 50's. To me, that's what made him more accessible.

I recall first seeing Piper on TV in 2005 when he made his second return to WWE, and the year he got inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Piper would go on to be one of the more frequently seen legends on WWE programming because his Piper's Pit segment would always seem to add a good kick to any hot feud they wanted to spice up. Hell, he even had quite a few feuds himself in the 2000s, particularly in 2009, where the Rowdy One teamed up with Snuka and Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat" in a match against Chris Jericho at WrestleMania XXV.

In fact, I always seemed to think that whenever Piper would show up and hold Piper's Pit, he would play the guy who kept it real and made tried to give the character involved a hard dose of reality.

The best example for this was in 2011, when Piper tried to get John Cena to address the crowd's hatred towards him during his feud with the Rock.

What I've come to love about Piper is how he evolved from being one of the greatest heels in wrestling history into the grizzled voice of reason. Despite his age, Piper's mic skills never really betrayed him, and the passion with which he carried out his segments was consistent throughout his career. Piper's work on the mic also helped me realize the importance of good verbal storytelling, which is honestly my favorite part of wrestling.

Notice the 7:54 mark, when Piper gives Cena a hard slap of reality. That's when Piper took the intensity of the segment to another level, goading Cena into tapping into his inner heel. But we all know how this story ended. Cena chose to be the bigger man, gave Piper his Hall of Fame ring back, and walked away.

Now, let me take you to one of my favorite moments from watching Roddy Piper in the 2000s. It was at Cyber Sunday 2006 when the fans voted Roddy Piper in as Ric Flair's tag team partner in the World Tag Team Championship match against the Spirit Squad. 

Piper would spend much of the match taking the heat from the Spirit Squad, even getting himself locked in his own finisher, the Sleeper Hold, at one point. Flair and Piper would go on to win the match and have a glorious celebration along with fellow legends Sgt. Slaughter and "the American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, who were in their corner at ringside. It was particularly poignant seeing how genuine Flair's reaction was to winning the tag team gold, as if he won the World Championship for a 17th time. And given the history between Flair and Piper, it was amazing seeing how their careers would link them together again in 2006 as the World Tag Team Champions.

Piper and Flair's reign would end in a shocking manner just eight days later in the UK, when Rated-RKO laid Piper before their match officially began. Edge's Con-Chair-To send Piper to the back, leaving Flair alone to defend the gold against Randy Orton and the Rated-R Superstar. 

Fun fact: Two of the security guys that Jonathan Coachman brought in to escort Shawn Michaels and Triple H out of the arena in that bit during Rated-RKO's entrance were Sheamus and King Barrett. Later in the match, when DX came out again to save Ric Flair from a post-match attack from Rated-RKO, they would send the security guys out of the ring, with Sheamus taking a Pedigree from Triple H.

I was already a smark in 2006, and I knew that Piper and Flair wouldn't have had a lengthy reign anyway, so even then, I knew that the short title reign made sense. It made them transitional champions, taking the belts from the Spirit Squad so that they could drop it to Rated-RKO, who was going to feud with DX after that. But that didn't stop me from feeling angry during that match that Roddy Piper had to take a Con-Chair-To and couldn't even defend his only Tag Team Championship reign. 

In many ways, this match was symbolic of Piper's run as a legend in this business. He was never really the type of guy who needed the championship to validate his status. His work in the ring and on the mic as a unique character was enough to make him immortal in the eyes of many fans like myself. Winning the Intercontinental Championship and the World Tag Team Championship just once each was but a ceremonial gesture for him to elevate those titles, instead of the other way around.

I don't know if we'll ever see another transcendent legend like Roddy Piper again. Maybe we already have it among our current crop of idols in the cartoon world of wrestling. But the passing of Roddy Piper crushes me because cartoon or not, the connection I felt with him was real, dammit.

Thank you, and rest in peace, Mr. Piper.

Photos from WWE.


Stan Sy is a radio DJ, an events host, a freelance writer, one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, and Smark Henry's official PPV reviewer. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. Every now and then, he dresses up in fancy suits to book matches as PWR's longest-tenured General Manager to date. Follow him on Twitter: @_stansy

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