“Rowdy” Roddy Piper, one the iconic villains when professional wrestling boomed into a profitable pay-to-view television event, died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 61.
Piper, whose real name was Roderick George Toombs, died “peacefully in his sleep” , according to his talent agent, Jay Schachter.
“I am shocked and beyond devastated. He was an amazing man and a true friend. He was one of the most generous, sincere and authentic people I have ever known,” Schachter wrote in an email. “This is a true loss to us all.”
Piper was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2006, and completed radiation therapy the following year.
Schachter said it did not appear that Piper’s death was linked to his previous cancer diagnosis, but no official cause of death had been released.
“He was in great health as far as I knew,” Schachter said.
Born April 17, 1954 in Saskatchewan, Canada, Piper was a boxer and amateur wrestler before turning pro, borrowing his name after entering the ring with bagpipes as part of his routine.
He was part of a colorful era in professional wrestling, emerging on the scene with Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and Dusty Rhodes, who died in June.
Piper’s death drew an immediate reaction on social media, with many wrestlers and fans tweeting their condolences to a man many of them grew up idolizing.
“One of the true greats of all time,” wrestler John Cena wrote on Twitter. “My heart goes out to his family and the fans he entertained over the years. RIP Rowdy.”
Piper, who was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005, was one of pro wrestling’s most famous villains in the 1980s and 1990s. He also had the honor of competing in the main event of the first Wrestlemania in a tag-team match against Hogan and Mr. T.
A leather-jacket-clad firebrand, Piper’s weapon of choice was a microphone. “Hot Rod” would often deliver caustic, borderline manic, diatribes against his opponents.
“Roddy Piper was one of the most entertaining, controversial and bombastic performers ever in WWE, beloved by millions of fans around the world,” WWE Chief Executive Vince McMahon said in a statement.
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