Saturday, August 1, 2015

Sad bagpipes

Even I remember Rowdy Roddy Piper, and I come from wrestling pre-history, from the primordial ooze of Dick the Bruiser and Mitsu Arakawa and Yukon Moose Cholak, and also Pepper Gomez.

I come from the days when a villain looked like Baron Von Ratschke, who always sounded as if he gargled with limestone. I come from the days of Black Jack Lanza, and black-and-white TV, and fierce debates with my middle-school buds about whether or not what we were seeing was real or just a musical revue without the music, but with tights and whatever evil weapon Lanza always had hidden in the waistband.

But even I remember Rowdy Roddy Piper, who died of a heart attack in California yesterday at 61.

He came along one generation removed from me on the wrestling timeline, when the WWF dispensed with the pretense and presented pro rasslin' as pure entertainment. The musical revue without the music actually included a musician for awhile, in the person of Cyndi Lauper. There were elaborate storylines involving a smokin' babe named Miss Elizabeth. There were outlandish cartoon characters: Randy "Macho Man" Savage and Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka  and the Nature Boy, Ric Flair, and of course the Iron Sheik, who lives on these days as a Twitter sensation, still playing the role for which heaven made him.

And then there was Rowdy Roddy.

He hailed from Saskatchewan but played a kilt-wearing Scot in the ring, and he was the best villain ever. Partly this was because he was, as all good wrestling villains are, a cheating, underhanded SOB. But what set him apart was his quick wit. Not even Bobby Heenan was as gifted a talker of smack, and everybody called Bobby "The Brain."

Rowdy Roddy was the real brain. Of all the villains in the history of wrestling, he was the one you most wanted to see get his ass kicked. Partly this was because you always sensed he was smarter than all the good guys lining up to kick his ass. But mainly it was because no actor in the game (ad they were, and are, actors) was as good at playing a complete and unrepentant jackhole.

 His greatest claim to fame was starring, along with perpetual foil Hulk Hogan, in the first WrestleMania, perhaps the signature event in pro wrestling history. But who could forget that time he cracked the coconut over Snuka's head? Or his battles with Captain Lou Albano and his sidekick, Lauper?

Good times. And so, in their memory, some bagpipes, please.

Play them slowly, Play them softly. Rowdy Roddy would have appreciated the irony.  

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