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Off the Field – Goodbye, Rowdy (Aug. 5, 2015 issue)

All hail the villain.
Feels like just yesterday I had a chance to talk about the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes’ passing, but last week the wrestling community lost another hall of fame athlete.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper passed away on Friday, July 31, at the age of 61. His death sent another ripple throughout the wrestling community that has already been shaken up enough as it is by the recent deaths of performers.
Piper, born Roderick Toombs, was one of those “heels” in the business you couldn’t help but enjoy, thanks to his bagpipes, snarky remarks and the kilt. The “Rowdy” one knew how to keep a crowd entertained out of the ring, but it was his performances in the ring that drew my attention and fandom to professional wrestling.
Roddy was actually one of the first wrestlers I had the opportunity to watch while growing up. It was during his time with WCW in the late 1990s – I remember sitting in the living room with my parents, they were flipping through channels. And as they flipped over Monday Night Nitro … you heard bagpipes and the sly-looking guy making his way down to the right murmuring stuff to the crowd.
It had me reeled in. Granted it had me reeled in because I wanted to see the guy “in a dress” get beat up by the likes of a Goldberg or Bret Hart, but he still had me intrigued.
Then the next thing I knew we started watching every Monday night, and – if I begged hard enough – we’d get a chance to watch one of the Pay-Per-View events.
As much as I enjoy other older wrestlers, Piper was the guy that bridged the interest that still carries on to this day.
His impact still continues.
Prior to UFC 190, Ultimate Fighter Championship President Dana White remarked about wrestling being fake. The initial remarks on Twitter sparked an onslaught of replies from performers across the world showing pictures of their “fake” broken bones, cuts to the face, etc.
I mentioned before when talking of the American Dream’s passing, whether it’s scripted or not, the performers are still putting their bodies on the line like any other sport.
And that’s where Piper shined. From the infamous coconut smash over Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka in the Piper’s Pit interview segment, or the Wrestlemania Hollywood outdoor brawl with Goldust, the son of Dusty Rhodes, whenboth competitors had to head to the hospital afterwards due to Piper’s broken hand from a stiff shot that caused Goldust to have a concussion.
His antics even intrigued miss Ronda Rousey, who decided Saturday night that she wasn’t going to give her opponent the chance of staying in the octagon with her for a minute – literally. Rousey dispatched her opponent in 34 seconds. It was an amazing sight to see from Rousey. But after the match with her post-fight interview, she still gave props to Piper. The respect was there to where she even asked his permission to use the “Rowdy” nickname for when she fought.
I can’t sit here and say I bawled like a child when I heard he passed away on Friday. I didn’t know the guy to react like that. But as I was leaving the Unicoi County and Sullivan Central scrimmage, the genuine sense of sadness hit – pretty hard.
But at the end of the day, the promos, the drive in the white Bronco, to his stints with his wrestling promotions, the guy who started off with a squash match where he got paid $20 was able to live his dream.
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We’re just a few weeks away from the fall sports season hitting Unicoi County and The Erwin Record will be with all the Blue Devils and Lady Blue Devils every step of the way.
To prepare for the seasons, we’ll be providing an in-depth look into each team at the high school level with a fall sports preview section that will hit stands Aug. 19. Details on each high school athletic program will be featured along with a variety of photos.
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Unicoi County Middle School saw two new changes to their fall sports teams as they approach their season openers: Sara Hubbard was named the new volleyball head coach at the school after the resignation of Tammy Larkey last season and Travis Griffith is the new head man for the football team after Jason Hensley was moved to the high school staff full time this season by head coach Glenn White.
Lydia Hilliard will return this season to the cross country team as her runners prepare for another stint for the Middle Eight Conference.
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The Erwin Record is always looking for community members with athletic stories to be heard. Contact the sports department at [email protected] to have your idea considered for an upcoming edition of the paper.
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