We learned through watching A&E's Biography: "Rowdy" Roddy Piper that Roderick Toombs (aka "Rowdy" Roddy Piper) was such an intense man that kept his painful memories and feelings to himself, that even those closest to him would be kept at arm's length at times. Like most famous wrestlers, there's the road life and the home life, with the former taking the lion's share of his time. But with Roddy Piper, the life and persona he lived while on the road were so all-absorbing of his mind and energy, that on the limited time he had to actually come home and see his family, he would check into a hotel room for a day or two to decompress and become an attentive husband and father for the short time he had with them. It's this internal conflict that seemed to define the man underneath Roddy Piper that made this biography film so captivating and emotional to take in.
Growing up in a painful environment with a physically abusive father, Toombs left home as a teenager and lived on the streets at different times in his early life. A successful young boxer, he was eventually offered some money to try pro-wrestling at the age of 15 and from then, began a career that would span five decades and would make him a star in both the worlds of wrestling and Hollywood.
The program loosely tracks his wrestling career, with most of the details provided on the early stages of both his introduction to the industry and what brought him to Los Angeles in NWA, to Georgia in GCW, and eventually to the northeast for the WWF, right as Vince McMahon was changing the game from a regional territory system to a nationwide powerhouse with big tv and Hollywood cooperation. Roddy Piper was at the front of this moment as the best talker in the industry (as featured in his iconic Piper's Pit segments) and as the main adversary to super-babyface Hulk Hogan, eventually leading to the two main-eventing the first Wrestlemania with Mr. T and "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff.
It is then, like the biography of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin before it, mostly focused on the man behind Roddy Piper and the toll his career took on him. We see that he suffered terrible injuries that he tried to keep mostly hidden and just work through. We see that he suffered the real-life punishment of being wrestling's greatest antagonist and was stabbed three different times by wrestling fans (including once just missing his heart). And we see that he did everything he could to hide his family from both the harassment of overzealous fans and the internal pain of his hard-lived life.
Through it all, we see how brilliant Roddy Piper truly was as a performer and storyteller. A recurring visual throughout the program is a look at his hand-written notes, which he would jot down religiously, containing all of his ideas for the character and all of his most famous lines and catchphrases. His mind was always running and his numerous filled notebooks were proof. Even as he became a talented actor, he would be writing these notes and his iconic line in John Carpenter's They Live was created by Piper himself.
Roddy Piper passed away too young at the age of 61 in 2015 from a heart problem, something he predicted would happen in his infamous 2003 interview with HBO's Real Sports where he unloaded on the reality of the wrestling industry and how many of his contemporaries died young. While already an icon, Piper has only become more popular after his death, with many younger fans discovering him on the WWE Network and realizing how influential he was in the industry, along with being a genuinely gifted actor in films and tv shows.