“Rowdy” Roddy Piper, who as a professional wrestler/esteemed alumnus appeared on myriad WWF and WWE TV programs over the decades, died Thursday from cardiac arrest, TMZ reports. He was 61.
“Roddy Piper was one of the most entertaining, controversial and bombastic performers ever in WWE, beloved my millions of fans around the world,” WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement. “I extend my deepest condolences to his family.”
Born Roderick George Toombs, the Saskatchewan native got his start as a professional grappler in the 1970s with the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance), before moving up to the WWF (World Wrestling Federation). There, and clad in a kilt, Piper enjoyed a storied career as one of the “bad boys” of wrestling — he hosted “Piper’s Pit” (a forum for other “villain” characters), and his feud with Hulk Hogan culminated in 1985’s seminal WrestleMania I (see highlights below) — before evolving into a fan favorite later that decade.
After largely retiring from wrestling in the ’90s, Piper provided color commentary for WWF TV and at one point served as the WWF’s interim president. In 2005, he was admitted to the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) Hall of Fame.
Piper also guest-starred not as himself on the occasional TV series, including It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Breaking In, Cold Case and Walker, Texas Ranger.
Piper was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2006, but declared himself cancer-free in late 2014.