This is a cross-post from the Royal Ramblings UK Huffington Post Blog:
As we were off working on other Royal Ramblings pieces, our good friend Neil Martin readily volunteered to cover “Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s London leg of his UK ‘Tour To Settle The Score” with Eros Comedy. What follows is Neil’s take on what sounds like an event we shouldn’t have missed!
“I may not actually hail from Glasgow, Scotland, but I’ve been proudly
flying the flag for the whole of the UK for almost 45 years!”
As I anxiously queued outside the Leicester Square Theatre in London, lining up to see my wrestling hero, I was transported back to around 1990, a happier time, long before the WWE were saying: “Don’t try this at home!” At that time, the now late Ultimate Warrior was the biggest star in wresting, after having beaten Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VI. But me, I was different, I wasn’t a ‘little warrior’ or a ‘Hulkamanic’. For me, it was as the snare drums rolled and the skurl of the bagpipes began (The Bonnie Lass of Fyvie to be precise), that I bowled and swaggered into the ring (aka my parents king-size bed!) wearing my ‘Hot Rod’ T-shirt and a red bath towel wrapped around my waist as my kilt – for my wresting hero was none other than ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper.
Piper, who turned 60 in April, has in his lifetime been in an aeroplane crash, stabbed three times and has even beaten cancer. Now, there was I, (almost 25 years since I chipped a tooth attempting to suplex my brother whilst pretending to be ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper), about to see the man himself. As he entered to a standing ovation and chants of “Rowdy, Rowdy, Rowdy…” the atmosphere was electric. The evening certainly didn’t disappoint as Piper began to recount his origins, being mentored and ribbed by the greats and spending far too much time in the dressing room with naked wrestlers.
Piper told the packed audience that he made his pro-wrestling debut aged just 15, for just $25, against Larry ‘The Axe’ Henning (Mr Perfect’s dad), in a fight that lasted less than 10 seconds. Though he may have lost, this was also the night that Roderick George Toombs got his new name. Being a bagpipe player, Roddy asked his Pipe Band mates to play him into the ring, and although born in Canada, the ring announcer introduced him saying: “Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland…Roddy the Piper!” The rest is history, and whilst he admits: “I’ve always felt guilty and wanted to clear this up” he told us that: “I’ve been proudly flying the flag for the whole of the UK ever since.”
When asked in the Q&A, “What’s it like to be a hero to so many of us here this evening?” He paused and humbly said “I really don’t look at it in that way. I owe everything to my fans, they were the ones who cheered for me and they were the ones who gave me the means to provide for my kids”. There was a genuine authenticity in what he said, and a gratitude to his fans for whom he said:”I would do anything.” In fact, the show started about 45 minutes later than planned, as Roddy didn’t want a single fan to miss the chance to meet and greet their idol. Many of them continuing to live vicariously through his crazy anecdotes, including the time he wrestled a live bear!
The passage of time and some very wild nights on the road back in the day with friends like Ric Flair and Andre the Giant had clearly taken their toll on Piper, but the spark was very much still there in the WWE Hall of Famer. That wild glint in the eye and the spirit that earned him the nickname ‘The Rowdy One’ was just as infectious and unpredictable as ever and somehow, especially with his recent success on ‘Legend’s House’, I don’t think the WWE has seen the last of ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper who said he’d gladly wrestle Vince McMahon “for free” anytime, anywhere!
During the Scotland leg of his UK tour, Piper told the audience that a movie is being made about his life, and that Mark Wahlberg will be playing him. He later tweeted ‘ALL STORIES TOLD ON THE UK TOUR ARE LIES’, but as arguably one of the most important and influential figures in pro wrestling during the late twentieth century, if not a movie biopic, surely he could have at least been invited to be a guest referee or announcer for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow?! Perhaps for safety’s sake though, they shouldn’t allow any coconuts in the stadium – and if you don’t get what I’m talking about, then you should think about coming to see the man himself when he’s next in town!