Wrestling fans the world over are in mourning for veteran wrestler/actor/comedian “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (real name Roderick Toombs), who died in his sleep due to cardiac arrest Thursday night at the age of 61. Piper, who competed in the main event at the first Wrestlemania and remained one of the industry’s biggest attractions through the '80s and '90s, also found success dabbling in Hollywood, starring in John Carpenter’s 1988 cult classic They Live and most recently guest-starring on television shows It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Celebrity Wife Swap.
But what’s not quite as well known are his musical endeavors.
Sure, his feud with singer Cyndi Lauper in the early days of MTV helped kick off the '80s wrestling explosion and is one of his career highlights. But there have also been a few instances where the Hotrod himself tried showing off his Rowdy Roddy pipes. In 1992, he recorded a single, “I’m Your Man,” for Sony/Epic Records, which was released in the U.K. Not quite as silly you would expect, it’s a record whose seriousness is comparable to Eddie Murphy’s “Whatzupwitu?”
But several years prior to that, when novelty singles from professional athletes lit up the charts from sea to shining sea, the then–World Wrestling Federation released the first in a series of wrestling albums, with songs either about its superstars or those stars attempting to sing the songs themselves. As a fan of wrestling and pop culture oddities, discovering such records years later became a source of tremendous joy for me.
In 2003, I was a young teenager at the now-famous San Diego Comic-Con, waiting in line with many much older men to meet “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. This was about a month after the WWE had fired him for speaking in an HBO Real Sports segment about the untimely deaths of wrestlers. While some in line expected the Hot Scot to be dour, he appeared in gleeful spirits as he signed all the older fans’ wrestling videos, toys and magazines. Piper signed each of these for free, as he smiled and took his time with each fan, really giving them a special, memorable experience.
When it came time for me to meet Piper, he greeted me with a big smile and one of those handshake-hug hybrids, saying in all his rapid-fire exuberance, “Hey, great to meet you! Why, look how young you are! You look smart! Why, I bet you're so young and smart, you're going to grow up to invent a replacement synthetic cartilage! And when ya do, remember old Hotrod needs that for his hip!”
He said all of this before I could even utter, “Hi, my name is Chaz.”
After exchanging pleasantries, I pulled out what I wanted him to sign: my copy of 1985's The Wrestling Album, which featured his song “For Everybody.”
Being a careful listener, I asked him (softly, as this question contained a swear word) if “For Everybody,” based on the lyrics, was actually supposed to be “Fuck Everybody”?
His eyes lit up as he declared, “Chaz! That's exactly right!” He went on to tell me the story about how he was somewhat at odds with the makers of the album at the time. When he brought them the track under the title “For Everybody,” he insisted on recording his own vocals last.
When it was finally time for him to lay down his vocals for the chorus, which had the background vocals already applied, Piper joyfully chanted “Fuck Everybody!” each time. Apparently, the person overseeing the recording in the booth didn’t notice Piper’s new word choice until the very end, as his eyes went wide and his face went white. Piper finished the take and said, “Sorry, can't rerecord this, I gotta run.”
To this day, even on The Wrestling Album’s most recent rerelease for Record Store Day earlier this year, if you listen carefully, you can still make out Piper's voice on the chorus singing, “Fuck Everybody.”
Just when we thought we had all the answers, he changed the questions and the chorus. Rest in peace, Roddy.