Saturday, August 1, 2015

An Ode to the Hot Rod

An Ode to the Hot Rod

I never met Roddy Piper to tell him that I thought he was the greatest. No, not just his iconic roles in such movies like the take no shit anti-hero Nada in They Live, or his performance as the last fertile man Sam Hell in Hell Comes to Frogtown. It wasn't only his role in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia as the bat-shit crazy past his prime wrestler The Maniac. Nor was it the days worth of content in Roddy's vast career inside the squared circle. I wanted to tell Mr. Piper that he was a great life inspiration.

My first introduction to Roderick Toombs was John Carpenter's They Live when I was around the age of 10. I wasn't a wrestling fan until a few years later in my life, but the way Roddy carried himself oozed charisma. I believed everything he said, and every action he did. The character of Nada was real to me, but while I loved his performance I never researched Roddy's body of work. When the USA Network aired B-Movies on late Saturday night in the early 90's I caught Hell Comes to Frogtown, and again I was reminded of how awesome Roddy was.

By the time I entered middle school I was introduced to the world of professional wrestling, and, while Roddy at the time was working for Ted Turner at World Championship Wrestling, I learned the history of Piper's in-ring work. The numerous Piper's Pit segments which laid way for the biggest storylines in wrestling. The Hollywood Backlot Brawl he had at Wrestlemania XII with Goldust parodying the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase. How personal a feud between he and Brett Hart could be. The list is endless with how awesome and memorable Piper was. Yet, even with the impression left on me by the above examples, I was not yet enamored with the man they call Hot Rod.

I started learning more about the man behind the venom spewing anti-hero. A man who, at the drop of a smile could make the crowd cheer, and, by the same token, be kicking in the guts of his opponent to make him the most despised person in the building. The more we learn about how important family was to a person who once worked 97 days on the road straight, the more we can apply to our own lives. Through his 50 plus episodes of the podcast Piper's Pit I heard him say how important it was to be a dad. Roddy said in many installments that any asshole can have a kid, but it takes a real man to be a daddy. The conviction this man spoke about how to raise his kids was inspired.

Perhaps it's that for almost every week for a year Roddy made it a point to talk for me, and thousands others on his Podcast. Each week I looked forward to hearing the stories Rod told of being trained by Judo Gene LeBell. Counting the amount of times he'd say "Sweet Baby Jesus" in an hour span. Hearing how genuine he sounded when he said "I love you" to someone with whom he had respect for, and I guess that's why I felt the urge to write this. I never got a chance to tell Roddy I loved him too.

- Chris Nichols

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