Rowdy Roddy Piper is a man that needs no introduction. He started as a small town boy chasing a dream. Through the years, he would battle some of the fiercest warriors ever to grace the squared circle, fight evil aliens hellbent on world domination and capture the hearts of millions of fans around the globe on his rise to super-stardom! His most recent project is no less of a challenge as he takes on the cast of FX’s ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’ in one of his most interesting matches to date! The last chapter in the story of Rowdy Roddy Piper has yet to be written. To hear him tell it, he is just warming up!
Icon Vs. Icon‘s Jason Price recently sat down with this legendary performer to discuss his amazing career, the recent rumors regarding his health, his excitement about working with the cast of ‘It’s Always Sunny’, his son’s blossoming career in MMA and what he has in store for his fans in the years to come! That’s right fight fans, Rowdy Roddy Piper is back once again to chew bubble gum and kick ass…and he’s all out of bubble gum!
Hey Roddy! How are you doing today?
Good Jason, how are you doing?
No complaints! You?
No complaints. I am doing well. I am on this side of the grass, ya know! [laughs] And I have more kids then I know what to do with! [laughs] Do you have any children, Jason?
Nope. Not yet.
Would you like some! [laughs]
I’d don’t know, Roddy. I hear that they can be quite a handful!
Well, I have a couple, you could have your choice! I want them back eventually because I sure love ’em! But you could have a couple of them right now! [laughs] So what do you have going, Jason?
First off, with all due respect, I want to ask you about your health and how you are doing. I know there had been some internet rumors circulating over the last week and I just wanted to clear that up if we could.
Absolutely! It was actually a very ugly piece of business. I did have some health problems and I was in a hospital in West Palm Beach. While I was in there, I wasn’t in contact on a daily basis with my family and somebody in the press put out a story that I was dying of cancer, terminally, with Lymphoma and that I only had a couple of weeks to live. People sent flowers to my home. My younger kids that are in school, kids came up to them and said that they were sorry about that news. My son that is a mixed martial artist and my daughter that is an actress got it too. None of it was true. I’m not sure where it came from and I don’t know why. Because my family couldn’t get to me, they got rather upset. But the bottom line is that as far as I know, I’m still going to be kicking pretty hard!
Well that is good! That is exactly what we all want to hear!
Thank you very much. I appreciate the chance to clear it up!
When you started out wrestling all of those years ago, did you have any idea that your career would take you to the heights that it has?
No, no. I was living on the street and I just grabbed onto something. I wasn’t doing well scholastically and I just grabbed onto a chance. I didn’t know where else to go and I just held on. I was so scared that I just tried as hard as I could and here we are. At the time it was just a means to get a quick twenty five dollars. God takes care of fools and babies and he is still taking care of me!
What do you attribute the longevity of your career to?
I think the way that I started. I was fifteen. It was a very hard-knock school but if you made it through that school, you had a basis that was not only an athletic basis but a showmanship and theatrical basis that was hard to beat. By that I mean, as far as getting the basics down and understanding what you were doing and what you were selling and how you had to back it up, ya know? It is easy to come out and say a lot of words but the trick is that every night you have to back it up. I think that is one of the bigger lessons that I learned. It was due to a bunch of wonderful people, old-timers and competitors that were very kind to me in a very evil way! [laughs]
Let’s touch on one of your latest projects. How did you get mixed up with the gang from ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’?
They are a wonderful bunch of people, man! Unbelievable! I am an experimental model as far as my business goes! With the explosion of wrestling in ’85 and in ’87 I did ‘They Live’ with John Carpenter, so my point is that there are a lot of very nice people that grew up watching different events that I did. The same is true with the cast of ‘It’s Always Sunny’. Danny DeVito, you can look this up on YouTube I think (watch the clip here), 1985 was the last time that I saw him. He was doing an interview and I was a little forward back in those days! [laughs] I burst right into it! It was great to see him again and he is a great guy! Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day are fantastic! Kaitlin Olsen, she is great! They all were so kind when I came onto the set. They let me improv, and being as talented as they are they didn’t have any problem keeping up! It made the episode really special. I wanted to do this piece of work. ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’ is a very hip show to do right now. It’s a good career move and it’s good to keep ya alive, ya know! And it keeps you out there in new ways, sometimes that is hard to do. So I went, and I haven’t done this in twenty years, but I had to audition for it!
Yeah! I went and auditioned for it and I got the part. Ya know, I remember when Tom Hanks did his baseball movie about ladies baseball, set during the second World War. Madonna was in that film and they made her audition for it. I think it says something for the artist and the clout of the show. I wanted it from the ground, so I was very appreciative when I got it!
Did you teach those guys a thing or two while on set?
[laughs] I showed them how to put someone to sleep real quick! [laughs] So if they have any problems with paparazzi, they can choke them out real quick! Rob was good at it! Charlie was really cute. [laughs] I guess I can be a little intimidating, you don’t realize that when you are in my shoes. We were doing this scene right at the bar and I locked right into Charlie there and grabbed him by the pants! He didn’t know me yet, as I was only on the set for maybe five minutes. They thought maybe I was getting a little rowdy! I was gonna take a hard left hand turn on them! [laughs] They tried to get through the scene but they broke down. That broke the ice all the way around cuz I started laughing! I wasn’t meaning to be that mean! It started a really wonderful bonding experience with everybody there. When you see the scene when they are at their home, the bar, know that about three and a half minutes, check Charlie out cuz you will see him breaking down! Now you know what happened! I guess I scared him! [laughs]
Now that you have broken through on ‘It’s Always Sunny,’ are we going to see some more acting or comedic work in your future?
Ya know, there is a company that did ‘The Real World’ called Bunim-Murray. I am in negotiations with them right now to do a sitcom, a developmental deal for a sitcom. I don’t want to ruin it for ya but I am going down to LA tomorrow and I think that will be the next piece of work that I do.
Awesome! That sounds like it is going to be great for you!
You have mentioned your family quite a bit and we know that people from the wrestling world like Hulk Hogan have dabbled in the world of reality television. Is that something that you and your family had ever given thought to doing?
It surely has been brought up. I have never included my family in my business. But the same time I have a daughter, Ariel Toombs, that is an actress in LA and my son Colten Toombs is a mixed martial artist, so it would be good for them to help gain in their careers. I have all the respect in the world for Hogan but I just wouldn’t want to make those mistakes, so being honest and frank with you as a dad, that is what bothers me with it.
You mentioned your son being involved in the world of MMA. Were you a fan of MMA and being someone who has taken his share of lumps along the way in a very physical profession, did you have any worries with him becoming involved in the sport?
Interesting question, very good. Mixed martial arts is something that has been in the bowels of professional wrestling since wrestling started back in the 1700s, so I was familiar with the style but had no idea that it would come to the heights that it has come to now. My son started when he was eighteen, he is with Team Quest and a wonderful silver medalist from the Olympics, Matt Lindland as his coach. You know, when I started out, they beat me up a lot, man. With Colt, they didn’t do him any favors but I could stop the normal [pauses] “hazing” maybe, that would take its course and does absolutely no good. So, I was worried about that. He has just finished his fourth fight, he has not been beaten yet, he’s turning pro, he’s twenty. I don’t like it, but I sure love him! It’s unconditional love. I would rather him do mixed martial arts then pro-wrestling. With pro-wrestling, the politics and the amount of damage to the body from night after night after night… wheewwww! and I don’t know what they would expect of him. I am glad he is flourishing in his own field but I need a doctor or a lawyer! I don’t need another fighter! A psychiatrist preferably! [chuckles] But I love him, so be a smart fighter, Colt!
Good advice! I am curious, what is the best piece of advice that someone has given you along the way in your career?
Wow! Holy cow! I’ve got many. A lot of the guys that I fought in the eighties, I fought their fathers. One of the fathers was Johnny Valentine. He is the father of Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, who I had a horrendous match with and I lost fifty percent of the hearing in my left ear. It was in the very first Pay-Per-View ever in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1983, maybe. His father, when I was about sixteen or seventeen and wrestling in Houston, was an unbelievably rough, tough guy. Loooooong matches, he hit real hard. It was the main event in Houston and he was coming back to the dressing room. I had just showered down and changed. I don’t know what got into him but he grabbed me by the throat and slammed me against the wall! He almost knocked me out because my head banged against the wall. He looked at me and he said “I can’t make you believe that wrestling is for real, but I sure to hell can make you believe I am!” I based fifty percent of my career on that! That was a good piece of advice!
That’s definitely one for the ages!
Oh, man! [laughs] He was serious too!
The rumor is that we may soon see you gracing WWE’s Monday Night RAW sometime in the near future!
[laughs] What do you think of that?
Well, I know that you have indicated that you were looking for one more match to put a cap on the remarkable career that you’ve had, so I wondered if that wasn’t going to pave the way for last match.
Very astute. I wasn’t very happy with Wrestlemania XXV. In my mind, I want to put a cap on it as you say, with one more match, an extraordinary performance. Yeah, ya know the clock is tickin’, let’s be honest, so sooner rather then later. So, I think if you saw me in RAW that it would be leading into that match. I don’t know what it is yet. But yeah, you are correct.
Even though you have stepped away from the sport in recent years, do you still follow the world of professional wrestling?
You know, it is funny, to me anyway, I have never watched wrestling. When I was performing, I never watched the show. When you watch the show, you get preconceived notions and it hinders your performance. This is the easiest example that I can give you: when I first came to Madison Square Garden, the match that I told you about with Greg Valentine that I lost fifty percent of my hearing, I was still pretty bad. They had me in the stable but I couldn’t wrestle. There is a fella named Paul Orndorff and they had me managing him, talking on the stick for him until I healed up. At the Garden, they said “Ok, go out with Orndorff.” I had never seen anything because I didn’t watch. I went out with him and he gave me his robe, I threw it to the guy that brought us down and I stayed out there the whole match. They almost had a riot! When I came back, they had all of these ideas and plans. The truth of the matter is this, Freddie Blassie, Capt. Lou Albano, The Grand Wizard, all of those managers… the way they are supposed to do it and the way the law read… was that they go down to the ring, take the robe and walk back. Nobody ever stayed out. If I hadn’t stayed out, I might not have gotten the attention from Vince McMahon, Sr. at that time that I did get. If I would have watched the show, I would have come back, but I didn’t know any better. Sometimes in my world, that is the best way to come out, man.
Well it certainly looks like it worked out for you in the long run!
Thank you, thank you, man!
I know that you did a autobiography a few years back but a lot has happened in your life since that time. Is there another chapter to be told there or possibly another book in your future?
Oh man, good for you! You have done your homework! Ya know, the first book, they took sixty thousand words out of it. It made the first book stutter a little bit and there is information that needs to be known. Boy was it hard to do! Holy cow! So much has happened since then. I had a guy try to kill me in a car, while I was finishing writing it and before I went on tour. I was five days in intensive care at Cedars Sinai. I broke my right ankle and four ribs. One rib went into my liver, my spleen and my back in two places. They thought I was gonna die! Somehow I got off the table I guess and went into that tour! So, there is a lot missing. I don’t know, I don’t know! It’s really difficult and now with my reputation, it would be a hard book to write. Ya know what? It’s looming, it’s looming! I don’t know the answer to that one, Jason.
I have to ask you about Ethan Dettenmaier’s Sin-Jin Smyth movie. You had indicated earlier in the year that you were kinda giving it until the end of the year to see what happened before giving up on it. Any movement on that front?
Unfortunately, I have heard nothing from the director/producer. It’s unfortunately that I don’t think I will be able to promote that movie or hang with it. It has been too long. Nothing is happening and I think someone is pulling the wool over someone’s eyes.
Last one for you, Roddy. Do you have any words for the critics or the fans?
For the critics, I would say that you need to see the story unfold before you cast your opinion. Sometimes, the critics on Roddy Piper are harsh and they try to figure out what he is doing. Sometimes he keeps secrets, that way, you enjoy it more when it all unfolds. The critics are hard on me. I don’t know, man… the critics are hard on me. I have been doing this since I was fifteen years old. There’s nobody, NOBODY living right now that has done what I have done in my business. For the fans, without them, I couldn’t have done it and I say to you… hang in there, keep you heart on the right side of life, God on your side and I will see you down the road someplace. I’m not finished yet!
Thank you very much, Roddy. All the best to you and your family!
For all the latest news and updates on Rowdy Roddy Piper, check out his official site at www.rowdyroddypiper.com!
You can learn more about what Rowdy Roddy Piper’s two talented kids, Colt and Ariel Toombs, by visiting www.thetoombsclan.com!
You can get the latest and greatest on ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’ at www.fxnetworks.com/shows/originals/sunny!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.