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WWE legend ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper dead at age 61

Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, left, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, second from left, look on as Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, second from right, steps into the ring to battle Chris Jericho during WrestleMania 25 April 5, 2009. (Photo by Bill Olive/Getty Images)
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WWE legend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper died suddenly at his Hollywood home on Friday from cardiac arrest, according to multiple reports. TMZ was first to break the news with WWE later confirming.

“Roddy Piper was one of the most entertaining, controversial and bombastic performers ever in WWE, beloved by millions of fans around the world,” WWE CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement. “I extend my deepest condolences to his family.”

Piper, whose real name was Roderick George Toombs, was 61 years old.

Piper, a native of Canada, rose to fame in the 1980s as a brash Scotsman who was always ready for a fight. One of his most memorable performances came in the main event of WWE’s (then known as the WWF) inaugural WrestleMania.

Piper and Paul Orndorff lost to Hulk Hogan and Mr. T in the star-studded match that also featured boxing legend Muhammad Ali, New York Yankees Manager Billy Martin, Liberace and even some Rockettes. Fellow pro wrestlers Jimmy Snuka and Bob Orton, father of current WWE star Randy Orton, also got involved.

Piper continued to wrestle regularly into the late 1990s, including with rival promotion WCW, but eventually he returned to WWE where he had been making periodic guest appearances until last year. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.

Piper’s biggest fight, however, came in 2006 when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a disease he reportedly beat last November, according to TMZ which said his family confirmed on Friday that was not the cause of his death and he was cancer free as far as they knew.

“I am devastated at this news,” a representative of Piper told TMZ on Friday. “Rod was a good friend as well as a client and one of the most generous, sincere and authentic people I have ever known. This is a true loss to us all.”

Piper is survived by his wife Kitty and their four children, including three daughters and a son Colt Toombs, a former mixed martial arts fighter.

WWE personalities — past and present — were quick to react on social media on Friday, some alluding also to the recent and sudden death of Dusty Rhodes, who died in June.

Those outside the pro wrestling world also reacted, including UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, whose nickname “Rowdy” was bestowed on her by Piper. On Friday, the 28-year-old who made a guest appearance at this year’s WrestleMania alongside Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson, posted a photo of Piper to Instagram and said she planned to dedicate her Saturday fight against Bethe Correia to Piper.

“Thank you for the name…. And so much more….,” Rousey captioned the photo. “Will do it justice and do you proud tomorrow…. This one’s for you Roddy….”