The fact that you can become just as popular as Hulk Hogan in the 80’s, and do an even better job at transcending pro wrestling and cementing yourself a spot in pop culture, without the full backing of the WWE, speaks volumes of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s endless talent and charisma. Nowadays, it’s clear that Piper not only made better life choices than Hogan, but he also made better career decisions when it came to acting on TV and film. My favorite part about seeing Piper in other forms of media was his interpretation of different wrestling gimmicks, even when they were simply an extension of the Hot Rod himself. So, here’s a look at the top 10 Roddy Piper wrestling-related appearances on TV and film.
Honorable Mention: The Masked Saint
The faith-based movie WWE should’ve made instead of that one they’re actually in the process of making.
10. Funny or Die Rowdy Roddy Piper Fights Childhood Obesity
If he smashed a full beer bottle against his head to prove how against carbs he was back in the day, you can just imagine how rowdy Piper would get about childhood obesity. Or simply watch the video.
9. Friends of the People “Furniture Smackdown”
Anything involving the Lucas Bros. and pro wrestling is magical. Just watch their animated series. This sketch comes from their live sketch show, Friends of the People, and Piper appears as himself to motivate a rag-tag group of furniture salesman to move more ottomans or something. This, of course, includes cosplaying as different wrestlers and performing wrestling moves on unsuspecting customers. Also, TNA’s Mr. Anderson makes a cameo.
8. Cold Case
I tried to find this streaming somewhere for free, but was unsuccessful. The reason it’s #7 without me having watched it? Because Piper plays a dock worker who moonlights as a wrestler on the indies until he’s shot. But mostly because of the terrible dye job.
7. Body Slam Web Series Pilot
In this nine minute web series (actual TV series?) pilot, Roddy Piper plays a washed up wrestler turned commentator for his cousin’s failing promotion. And what’s better than giving Roddy Piper a live-ish microphone? It’s not a bad behind-the-scenes take on a struggling indy promotion trying to get national exposure. Their top champion is a blonde Diesel type named Django, and Bret Hart AKA The Hangman is the old battered veteran who does what’s best for his brother’s business. Also, Bret Hart wrestles in a knock off Blue Demon mask. I guess Canada is as lenient as Mexico when it comes to copyright law. This is definitely worth checking out. The pilot, not Canada’s copyright law.
6. Walker, Texas Ranger
For all we know, Darren Aronofsky might’ve fallen asleep late one night with the TV set on the USA Network and subconsciously lifted the whole premise from this Walker episode for his 2008 film, The Wrestler. Let’s see, Roddy Piper cameos as Cody The Crusader, who is told if he wrestles one more time he’ll die. He has an estranged kid that he doesn’t keep in contact with, but now wants to do right by. Is offered the chance to wrestle an old rival in a rematch of their classic bout. And his finishing move does more damage to him than his actual opponent. The only thing that sets it apart from The Wrestler is that instead of confiding in a stripper with a heart of gold, Cody talks directly to God, who appears in the guise of sunlight seeping through the branches of a tree. And I thought Da Maniac was Piper’s best performance as a troubled wrestler.
5. Robot Chicken “Hogan’s Heroes” (Full Write-Up)
In typical not-giving-a-fuck Roddy Piper fashion, Hot Rod lets loose on a Nazi guard. He helps the rest of his wrestling POWs escape a Nazi concentration camp via piledrivers and suplexes.
4. Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies (Full Write-Up)
There’s no memorable lines about running out of bubblegum or kicking ass, but you do get to find out how Piper feels about zombies (hint: he hates them). If you thought Piper defeating Nazi’s was far-fetched watch him in this movie as he outlasts the zombie apocalypse in true Survivor Series fashion. Blood and guts are plentiful as expected, but Piper wouldn’t be the well-rounded actor we’ve come to love outside the squared circle if there wasn’t some pulling of the heartstrings as is the case when he’s faced with the decision of caving in zombie “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan’s brain with his own 2×4. If you pretend this movie is taking place within the same universe as WWE Network’s Legend’s House, it makes it all the more emotionally gripping.
3. Tag Team Pilot (Full Write-Up)
Roddy Piper is a wrestling idiot savant turned cop. And his partner is none other than Jesse “The Body” Ventura. I’m pretty sure this was the pitch that was given the greenlight to produce the pilot. Sadly, more episodes didn’t follow. But at least the pilot somehow made it to air and you can still see it for free on YouTube. There’s actual wrestling, and even a cameo by The Orient Express and Mr. Fuji. Random wrestling references pop up as often as wrestling moves being performed outside a wrestling ring in the line of duty. But, more importantly, this show demonstrated the unbreakable bond that only tag team wrestlers share. That is, until one of them is thrown face-first into a barber shop window.
2. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Full Write-Up)
Even more depressing than Mickey Rourke’s turn as Randy “The Ram” Robinson is Piper’s performance as Da Maniac. At least Randy still had a mobile home he was living out of. All Da Maniac has is a station wagon that’s been racking up parking tickets, some barbwire, and a bucket full of chestnuts. Yet, as sad as it all is you can’t help but smile and laugh at Piper doing his best to make you feel sorry for him. Part of that was knowing that as off-kilter as Piper was he was still doing okay for himself. In fact, the only thing Piper really had in common with this character was the adoration they had for their fans. Luckily, Da Maniac was able to turn things around for himself when he became the best selling salesman of Invigaron.
1. Body Slam (Full Write-Up)
There are two camps of wrestling fans: those who feel Body Slam is the definitive 80’s wrestling movie and those that feel that No Holds Barred is the one and only wrestling movie that matters. Either way, both movies are terrible and campy. But where as No Holds Barred was a 93 minute vanity project for The Hulkster, Body Slam was trying to tell the story of an entire movement that redefined the world of professional wrestling. And Body Slam had a much more rock ‘n’ roll feel to it with its gritty portrayal of wrestling, whereas No Holds Barred represented the bright lights of the squeaky clean, children-oriented WWE. Even as a babyface Piper does a better job than Hogan. He’s not perfect, nor does he try to be. He’s not saving an entire rec center like Hogan, he’s just fighting for his child and himself. Much more relatable. Piper proved you can still be a superstar without projecting a larger than life image and, as it’s been proven by Hulk Hogan, doing so only sets people up for major disappointment down the road.
RIP Hot Rod.