Manitoba

'Rowdy' Roddy Piper got his start in the ring in Winnipeg

WWE legend "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, 61, died of natural causes in his Hollywood home on Thursday.

Piper, 61, passed away of natural causes in his Hollywood home on July 31, 2015

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      A villainous icon in the wrestling world who got his start in the ring in Winnipeg has died.

      Saskatoon-born WWE legend "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, 61, died of natural causes in his Hollywood home on Friday. Born Roderick George Toombs, Piper joined the WWE in 1984.

      Piper became a house-hold name in the 80s and 90s and was inducted into the WWE hall of fame in 2005. He was also named one of the WWE's top 50 villains.

      'Rowdy' Roddy Piper was in Winnipeg in 2006 for CBC Manitoba's comedy festival. The 61-year-old man died on Friday, July 31, 2015. 1:08

      Tony Condello, a Winnipeg trainer and promoter, said he helped Piper develop his stage persona in the 70s.

      "What he brought to the wrestling world was the gimmick that I gave him, which at that time did not exist," said Condello. "I gave him the name and I gave him the kilt and that's the way he should have entered the ring. And it was new to the world. And that thing there made him famous."

      Condello said his pupil had all the makings of a superstar early on.

      He was such a positive person and he gave me a lot of confidence in myself that maybe I was lacking.- Cam Connor, ex-NHLer and Piper's friend

      "One thing I really have to give him is that he told me what he wanted to be at age 17," said Condello. "He told me that he wanted to be a big superstar with big promotion. He wanted to be a movie actor and all that stuff — and he did it all."

      Piper had an innate charisma and personality that made for a long career in the business, Condello said.

      "He was a great talker. You put him under a mic and he was a hell of a guy to cut a promo with," Condello said. "The most important thing in professional wrestling is you have to know how to cut a promo with the cameras in front of you, but he did it all."

      Wrestling fans all over the world are mourning Piper's death. Many family and friends — including people from the wrestling community with a connection to Winnipeg — expressed their condolences on social media:

      Ex-NHLer and Piper were BFFs

      Winnipegger and ex-NHLer Cam Connor grew up with Piper and said he was sad to see him go.

      "Rod, in all honesty, was one of the kindest people. He treated everybody well, whether you could do something for him or were just the guy in the street," Connor said.

      "He would always talk about Winnipeg and wanting to go back and visit some of the friends he would ask me about. He loved Winnipeg and he loved life and he gave more than he took."

      Connor said he and Piper met when they were about 15 or 16 years old. He and Piper were tough kids, Connor said, and they once ended up having a street fight — that Connor lost.

      "We both became mentally tough doing what we had to do to be better than average and I think Rod instilled that in me," Connor said.

      The pair trained together and Connor, who went on to play professional hockey in both the WHA and NHL between 1978 and 1984, attributed his work ethic to Piper.

      "By the time we got out of [the gym], every single time I'd be throwing up because I pushed myself to the max and Rod brought the best out of me," said Connor, adding the two remained closed for about 40 years.

      "He was such a positive person and he gave me a lot of confidence in myself that maybe I was lacking."

      Meanwhile, other wrestling greats with a connection to Winnipeg also shared their thoughts of Piper on Twitter.

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