Born Roderick George Toombs, Piper joined the WWE in 1984 after getting his start with the NWA in the late 1970s. He and Hulk Hogan met in landmark matchups including MTV’s “The War to Settle the Score” and the first WrestleMania, where Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff took on Hogan and Mr. T.
Piper’s agent Jay Schacter confirmed the news, first reported by TMZ, to Variety. “Rod passed peacefully in his sleep last night,” Schacter said in an email. “I am shocked and beyond devastated.”
Piper had suffered a bout of Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2006 but was reportedly deemed cancer-free last November.
“WWE extends its sincerest condolences to Toombs’ family, friends and fans,” WWE said in a statement.
WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon also extended his condolences in a statement. “Roddy Piper was one of the most entertaining, controversial and bombastic performers ever in WWE, beloved by millions of fans around the world. I extend my deepest condolences to his family.”
The wrestler had also made a foray into film acting, starring in John Carpenter’s sci-fi pic “They Live.”
“Devastated to hear the news of my friend Roddy Piper’s passing today. He was a great wrestler, a masterful entertainer and a good friend,” Carpenter wrote on Facebook.
WWE stars and friends such as Hulk Hogan, Chris Jericho and the Iron Sheik also shared their condolences on Twitter.
The wrestling icon was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005. He was named one of the WWE’s top 50 villains as well.
Piper is survived by his wife, Kitty, and their four children.