Last week, I decided to start a semi-regular series looking at how the worlds of professional wrestling and television have crossed paths outside of the squared circle over the years. Sometimes brilliantly, like Paul "The Big Show" Wight stealing SNL away from Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson or the (in)famous Andy Kaufman/Jerry "The King" Lawler moment with David Letterman. Other times painfully, like pretty much any time Hulk Hogan appeared on a late-night talk show. And sometimes? Well… we have head-scratchers, like when Vader appeared on ABC's Boy Meets World. But to kick things off, I'm focusing on one of my favorite wrestlers of all time and my favorite sitcom of all time. That's right, I'm talking about "Rowdy" Roddy Piper's turn as "Da' Maniac" on FXX's Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton, Kaitlin Olson & Danny DeVito-starring It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
If you're looking for a recap of Piper's nearly 40-year career, one which spanned runs in the NWA, WWF/WWE, TNA, and other companies, there are definitely sites that do a much more thorough rundown. But what some folks forget is that Piper had a very strong presence outside of the ring, one that made people want to pay attention to him. On the big screen, he was the lead in the John Carpenter-written & directed cult classic They Live. And who can forget his 1999 appearance on Bill Maher's ABC late-night talk show, Politically Incorrect, when he called out Maher for mocking the realities of wrestling and the tolls it takes on wrestlers?
But 2009's S05E07 "The Gang Wrestles for the Troops" (directed by Randall Einhorn and written by Scott Marder & Rob Rosell) will forever be my favorite outside-of-the-ring moment with Piper. And though unpaid parking tickets kept him from seeing the "Birds of War" (McElhenney's Mac, Howerton's Dennis & Day's Charlie) hit the ring (before getting their asses handed to them by David Hornsby's Cricket in full heel mode), Piper's time on the screen was another example of how he could easily blend comedy with layers of darkness by effectively tapping into some personal experiences in a number of scenes. Fortunately, we would be visited by Da' Maniac one more time, in 2013's S09 E04 "Mac and Dennis Buy a Timeshare" (directed by Dan Attias and written by Dave Chernin & John Chernin). Unfortunately, his last appearance would be one that was away from the ring. And with his passing in 2015 went any possibility of having The Gang back in the ring with him.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: "The Gang Forms a Stable"
But if we could pitch our idea on how it would go, it would go like this. Seeing how popular pro wrestling has gotten again, The Gang decides to give it a go full-time on the local wrestling scene with a "stable" made up of the "Birds of War" and Frank's (DeVito) The Trash Man. After arguing that she should be part of it, Dee's (Olson) Desert Rose is brought on as their valet. Translation? Dee has to take all of the hits outside of the ring (like the chair shot she took from Cricket in the original episode). But The Gang needs someone who knows the scene, so they bring in Da' Maniac to lead their stable. And for weeks, it goes well- for Mac, Dennis, Charlie & Frank, at least. Because while they're doing all of the trash-talking (inside and outside of the ring), it's Da' Maniac who's doing all of the work inside of the ring (while Dee continues to be a chair magnet).
After having pissed off most of the local wrestling scene, Mac, Dennis, Charlie, Frank & Da' Maniac are set to main event a major local card. But just before the match, Da' Maniac gets another phone call… except this time, it's a call up to the WWE or AEW. So Da' Maniac thanks them for everything and tells them they have all the skills necessary to be a success in the ring. And then Mac, Dennis, Charlie & Frank get the living crap beaten out of them in the ring, a "tough love" lesson in what's meant by "working stiff." The episode ends a week or so later with The Gang sharing a hospital room, staring up at the television as Da' Maniac is shown cutting a promo. "That shit's fake, anyway," Frank finally admits… before shitting off the television. Da' Maniac loved The Gang, and we love that Piper will always be a part of the "Always Sunny" canon- especially with the episode's 13th anniversary hitting on October 29th.