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'Rowdy' Roddy Piper dies at age 61

Wrestling legend "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, the kilt-wearing trash-talker who headlined the first WrestleMania and later found movie stardom, has died at the age of 61, WWE announced Friday.

Piper suffered a heart attack at his home in Hollywood, California, according to Variety.

The WWE confirmed the death but provided no additional details.

"Roddy Piper was one of the most entertaining, controversial and bombastic performers ever in WWE, beloved by millions of fans around the world," WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon said. "I extend my deepest condolences to his family."

Piper, born Roderick Toombs in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is the second WWE Hall of Famer to die this summer, following the June death of Dusty Rhodes.

Piper was best known for his lengthy career with the World Wrestling Federation, now the WWE. He had more than 30 titles to his name and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.

Piper and fellow wrestling star Hulk Hogan battled for years and headlined some of the biggest matches during the 1980s. Hogan and Mr. T beat Piper and Paul Orndorff on March 31, 1985, at the first WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden.

Piper was a villain for the early portion of his career, once cracking a coconut over the skull of Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka. He hosted a popular WWF talk show segment called "Piper's Pit" in the 1980s and later starred in the movie "They Live."

Piper also went by the nickname "Hot Rod'' during his career. Although he was Canadian, he often appeared in a kilt and came to the ring blowing bagpipes in a nod to his Scottish heritage.
Ronda Rousey, the UFC women's bantamweight champion who also goes by the nickname "Rowdy," paid tribute to Piper on her Instagram account Friday, dedicating Saturday's title bout against Bethe Correia to him.

"Thank you for the name.... And so much more," she wrote. "Will do it justice and do you proud tomorrow.... This one's for you Roddy."

Paul "Triple H" Levesque, a wrestler and top WWE executive, tweeted about Piper's death Friday night.

Piper's son, Colt Toombs, also posted about his father's death on Twitter.

Piper became a household name because of his rivalry with Hogan and the involvement of pop star Cyndi Lauper and her friend Captain Lou Albano, also a wrestler. The feud led to an MTV special "The War to Settle the Score" in 1985. Piper was cast as the villain, and his disqualification led to Hogan claiming the WWF championship.

A brawl at the end of that fight would lead to the first WrestleMania.

Piper also had well-known rivalries with Rick Rude and Adrian Adonis, among others.

In addition to his celebrity in the ring, Piper appeared in John Carpenter's 1988 cult classic "They Live."

"He was a great wrestler. He was an underrated actor and just a marvelous entertainer, and I feel like I've just lost one of my close friends," Carpenter told The Associated Press.

Carpenter said when he last saw him, Piper had just had shoulder surgery but was doing well.

"His outlook was very good," he said. "Roddy will always be loved because of his wrestling career. He really became a legend in pro wrestling. He will not be forgotten."

Former "Survivor" star Jonny Fairplay started work in 2001 as Piper's personal assistant.

"I would wake him up in the morning and yell at him from the door of his bedroom," he said. "I'd say, 'Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, the guy who never beat Hulk Hogan.'"

Fairplay named his daughter Piper in honor of the wrestler.

"Rowdy Piper should be remembered as the greatest bad guy of all time," he said.

More recently, Piper appeared on the show "Celebrity Wife Swap," trading wives with fellow former wrestler Ric Flair.

Piper battled Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2006, but later said he had beaten the cancer.

In recent months, Piper was active in the charity Stand For The Silent, an organization aimed at honoring the victims of bullying and bringing awareness to the issue.

Piper is survived by his wife, Kitty, and their four children.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Related Video
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper dies at 61
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper dies at 61
Jonathan Coachman discusses the impact of WWE Hall of Famer Roddy Piper on the professional wrestling world and what the reaction is around the community to his death.

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