Friday, 31 July 2015

Goodbye Hot will be missed.

Today the world of entertainment lost one of it's giants; not literally, of course. In fact, in the world of Professional Wrestling, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper wasn't anything resembling a "giant". He was of average height (just 6'0") and weight, not in particularly great shape, and in fact, wasn't even a very good wrestler.

But, oh, could he talk.

About six weeks ago, the world of pro wrestling lost another legend who could be compared to Piper in many ways. Sure the "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes was a couple inches taller than Piper, and a lot heavier, but nobody would ever have confused either of these men of being great "wrestlers".

But, oh, could HE talk.

Rhodes' death hit me hard. Way harder than I would have expected, given that I was never much of a fan of his. I was late to the "pro wrestling" party. I didn't watch wrestling when it was hitting it's peak in the early 1980's, and when I did start watching, it was WWF only. Rhodes was a longtime NWA/WCW guy, and I had never, until very recently, seen any of his classic matches against the likes of "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard or Harley Race. When he did finally come to the WWF, he was given a ridiculous gimmick of a buffoon in polka dots. He even made that work.

He was a classic "good guy". Fans loved him but I never got it; I don't think I ever cheered for him once. He was always in a feud with one of my favorite "heels"...whether it be The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase, Mr. Perfect, or Randy "Macho Man" Savage, I was always cheering against Rhodes. So why did his death hit me so hard?

I felt the grief; not my own grief, but the grief of everyone who ever knew him. This man was loved and revered by all. Social media absolutely blew up with condolences and sadness when word of his passing leaked out. Everyone who ever came into contact with him, even years ago, had nice words to say about him. The WWE, with whom he was still working as a trainer at their NXT facilities (where the stars of tomorrow are honing their craft), put on hours of tribute programming for him. It was SO upsetting, not because of my own personal experiences with the Dream, but because my heart ached for those who knew and loved him - including all the current wrestlers in WWE and NXT - and especially for two of those performers, his two sons Cody Rhodes (Stardust) and Dustin Runnels (Goldust). I never met the man born Virgil Riley Runnels Jr, and I never cheered for him, but I'll miss him forever.

And here we stand, just six weeks later, and we are about to experience it all again. Roddy Piper was another one of those universally loved legends. Check out Twitter today; every WWE Superstar, past and present, saying about the same thing: Roddy Piper was a legend in the ring, but more importantly, a great human being and family man out of it. The grief is palpable. Because Piper crossed over into a couple of mostly-forgettable mainstream films (although "They Live" is considered a cult classic by many), even the world of Hollywood is offering their condolences. Piper transcended wrestling. He was an entertainer.

Piper wasn't working with WWE much these days. Outside of a few random appearances, he had pretty much faded into the background....but I would imagine we are going to be able to watch quite a tribute on Monday Night RAW. And every other WWE programming this week, and the WWE network, and everywhere else.

Nobody could cut promos like these gentlemen.

They brought us in, made us love or hate them, and most importantly, made us watch. Every week, every Pay-Per-View, every time we knew they were performing. It wasn't about title matches: although Rhodes was a three-time NWA Heavyweight Champion, that was many years before I knew him. He never got near a title in the WWF. Piper was never World Heavyweight Champion, settling for only one short run with the WWF Intercontinental Championship around his waist. No, it wasn't about titles, it was just about entertainment, and few did it any better than these gentlemen.

Roddy Piper, born Roderick George Tooms, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, passed away last night in his sleep of an apparent heart attack. He was only 61.

Just when you think you know the answers, he changes the question.

Rest in peace, Hot Rod. Tell the Dream we said "hello".