Iconic presence: Wrestling legend passes away and leaves behind trailblazing legacy

08/01/15 by Rennie Detore

Every decade in professional wrestling has its cookie cutter good guy, the one that kids gravitate toward, sells all the merchandise and wins the matches when it matters most.
Such is the dance that is wrestling as good battles evil for supremacy in storylines crafted once by wrestling experts and now Hollywood screen writers.
But no good guy is complete without his foil, that penultimate bad guy or, as they say in wrestling, "heel," that allows your hero to play the role so perfectly as they work through their on screen rivalry.

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"Stone Cold" Steve Austin had The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) in the late 1990s as wrestling hit its second boom period. Earlier in the mid 1990s, good guy Bret "Hitman" Hart had Shawn Michaels, a defiant bad guy that ushered in the WWE "Attitude" phase with the creation of D Generation X, a heel, anti establishment, PG 13 and then some group.
Simply put, good doesn't succeed if bad isn't better and much more hated.
Hulk Hogan, the now maligned former WWE champion multiple times over, ruled the 1980s and made millions of dollars alongside Vince McMahon, who marketed Hogan as the superhero that flourished during the perfect decade.
The original Hogan craze started with "Wrestlemania" I, but that event, a huge risk for the WWE, wouldn't have succeeded without "The Hulk" being paired up with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, a heel who only fueled Hogan's popularity by being as bad as possible.
Piper died in his sleep Thursday evening, July 30 and was found dead the following morning. 
He was 61.
Piper was a whiz on the mic, flawless and even had his own in ring and on air talk show "Piper's Pit," a short interview segment where he'd talk to current superstars or managers. The show gave way to countless others of that ilk but never could be duplicated due to Piper's flare and charisma.
As a wrestler, Piper wasn't technically sound nor would you ever confuse him with Ric Flair or other in ring technicians of his day. But Piper didn't need to know much about wrestling. He had a boxing background prior to wrestling and was portrayed as a foul mouthed fighter who did anything and everything to "win" matches and put guys like Hogan in his place.
And it worked perfectly.
Piper cultivated a legacy that makes him more than just a Hall of Fame caliber performer or one of wrestling's icons who left this world way too soon. He created a persona of "Rowdy" that made it hip and cool to be the bad guy, to torment and torture the good guys and get fans surprisingly to back him even though he did everything to turn them against him.
Piper made no apologies. He was outspoken. He didn't care. He left wrestling and went into acting and did fairly well. He returned to wrestling and never seemed to be the type of wrestler that did anything other than on his own terms.
Sadly, Piper is one of many of his generation and within this professional that died too young and most likely that can be contributed to the hard life that is traveling, performing and injuries that define this hybrid of sports and performance.
Piper never really was that guy who uttered or cried "poor me," but simply stayed truly to the "Hot Rod" mentality which was a mixture of the character and sometimes not far off from the real man, Roderick Toombs.
Piper will be sorely missed, but the mark he left on his craft and his sport still can be seen today when you watch the product in the WWE or any other federation. Every heel that swaggers to the ring, talks trash and defies authority does so with a little bit of "Rowdy" in every irreverent word and action.

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