Sad news for wrestling fans today, as one of the sport’s most recognizable and best-loved figures has passed away. ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper has died aged 61 of cardiac arrest, a death police said appears to be natural. According to Piper’s agent Jay Schacter, the star died in his sleep on Wednesday night. He is survived by his wife Kitty and their four children.
Piper, whose real name was Roderick George Toombs, began his World Wrestling Entertainment career in 1984 after appearing in various National Wrestling Alliance events. He was originally cast as one of the WWE’s most loathed villains, and together with ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Paul Orndorff, took on Hulk Hogan and Mr. T in the first-ever WrestleMania in 1985.
Although he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2006, he announced that he’d beaten the disease last November, and his family says he was cancer-free at the time of his death. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 and participated in competitions until 2008.
“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 in a statement. “I extend my deepest condolences to his family.” Big names from the wrestling community have been paying tribute to Piper on social media.
Born in Canada in 1954, Piper played on his Scottish heritage for his WWE persona and often appeared in his signature kilt. When not wrestling, he tried his hand at presenting, refereeing, and acting — he appeared in the lead role of the 1988 cult film They Live, and recently showed up in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia too. John Carpenter, who wrote and directed They Live, said Piper was “a great wrestler, a masterful entertainer, and a good friend” in a post on Facebook.