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WWE pro wrestling legend ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper dies at age of 61

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HOLLYWOOD — WWE Hall of Famer “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, reportedly died in his sleep at his California home Thursday night. Word of his death was posted on wwe.com:

WWE is deeply saddened that Roderick Toombs, aka “Rowdy” Roddy Piper — WWE Hall of Famer and Intercontinental Champion — passed away today at the age of 61.

WWE extends its sincerest condolences to Toombs’ family, friends and fans.

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

Piper was ranked among the top 50 greatest villains in pro-wrestling history. The wrestling legend was interviewed live on FOX43’s Morning News last May and promoted his anti-bullying organization “Stand for the Silent.”

Later the same day, he appeared at the Lancaster Barnstormers game at Clipper Magazine Stadium.

Though he was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, Piper accentuated his Scottish heritage and would be billed from Glasgow, Scotland. He would often come to the ring wearing a kilt and his trademark ‘Hot Rod’ t-shirt, and playing a bagpipe.

Piper began his wrestling career at age 15. In the many decades that followed, Piper would feud with the top good guys wherever he went. When wrestling on the West Coast for the National Wrestling Alliance, Piper took on the legendary Guerrero family. When he came east to the Mid-Atlantic promotion, Piper feuded with the likes of Jack Brisco and Ric Flair.  He wrestled Greg “The Hammer” Valentine in a dog collar match at the very first Starrcade event.

Piper’s star soared when he joined the then World Wrestling Federation, drawing jeers for blasting Jimmy Snuka with a coconut during an interview segment. He also main evented the first WrestleMania, teaming with Paul Orndorff to face Hulk Hogan and Mr. T.

When he wasn’t taunting crowds or opponents in the wrestling ring, Piper took on roles in such cult classics as They Live and Hell Comes to Frogtown. It was in the former film he uttered a phrase now etched into popular culture: “I am here to kick a– and chew bubble gum. And I am all out of bubble gum.”

After years of being reviled, the crowds began to like Piper’s antics and acerbic wit, prompting the WWF to make him a good guy. Even when he tried to be a bad guy, crowds just refused to boo the man.

In 2005, Piper was enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame. WWE also named him wrestling’s greatest villain, ahead of greats like The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, Ric Flair and The Four Horsemen, ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham, and Bobby Heenan.

After Piper’s retirement, mixed martial arts star Ronda Rousey took on the nickname ‘Rowdy’ after receiving Piper’s blessing to do so.

Roddy Piper is survived by his wife, their three daughters and one son.