On July 31st, 2015, Roddy Piper tragically passed away at the age of 61. Prior to his death, Roddy was writing a new book about his early years and subsequent career both in the ring and in Hollywood. As a tribute to their father, daughter, Ariel, and son Colton, picked up where he left off and finished his life’s story.
Although Piper had written a book years ago and had released several documentaries, I believe this is the first time he’s truthfully delved into his troubled childhood. Homeless at fifteen, Piper lived in youth hostels across the country before starting a career in wrestling. Most wrestlers seem to shoehorn their lives before wrestling into their books because they likely feel it’s necessary in telling their story. More often than not, it falls flat due to an unremarkable childhood but Roddy’s pre-wrestling life was absolutely brutal. I think it plays an important part in who he became and how he was able to achieve the level of success that he did.
Once he had enough money to buy a car, he started driving to shows and sleeping in his backseat. He would often change into his gear and stay in the car before he was due to perform as a response to how badly he had been hazed by the boys in the locker room. After getting a few years under his belt as a preliminary performer, Roddy moved on to the East Coast of Canada and performed for Emile Dupres’ International Wrestling promotion (later renamed Grand Prix Wrestling). It was really cool to learn that he wrestled one of his first matches in the old North Sydney Forum – a repurposed airplane hanger close to my hometown on Cape Breton Island.
Following his stint in the Maritimes, Piper’s travels within the territory system of the United States are then explored. From his battles with Chavo Guerrero Sr. in LA, “Playboy” Buddy Rose in Portland and Greg Valentine in North Carolina, there are plenty of hilarious and fascinating stories to sink your teeth into. More than any other time in wrestling, I love reading about this era specifically as the truth about the business was still heavily guarded. This led to the majority of crowds believing that they were watching legitimate contests. As a bad guy (or heel), Piper loved to get the crowd riled up. One of the best stories had me laughing out loud when in order to appease a heavily Mexican crowd in Los Angeles, Piper agreed to play the Mexican national anthem on his signature bagpipes. He then proceeded to play “La Cucaracha” as chairs came flying into the ring in anger from the insulted masses.
I was surprised that he doesn’t get to the WWF until about the halfway mark of the book as that is arguably where he made his biggest impact. All of his big moments are covered from the first Wrestlemania squaring off against Hulk Hogan and Mr. T to his first pinfall defeat at the hands of Bret Hart in 1992. In between his landmark achievements in the WWF, his career in Hollywood is discussed. I enjoyed the story behind the ridiculously long fist fight with Keith David in They Live but his struggle to find a meaningful follow-up to that film is heartbreaking. Roddy had such a huge presence and could have been a massive action star if he had had the right guidance.
As far as wrestling biographies go, I thought this one was one of the better ones. Ariel and Colt put a tremendous amount of work in and it shows. My only real complaint would be that his time in WCW and his return to WWE in the early 2000s were kind of glossed over but when you compare the work he did early in his career to his later years, it’s understandable to see where the focus should lie. While it’s not as good as some of the classic wrestling books out there, it’s a worthy read that fans will enjoy.