Here’s something you may not know about “Rowdy” Roddy Piper: He was a black belt in judo under “Judo” Gene LeBell. One of the two sons of promoter Aileen Eaton, LeBell and his brother Mike eventually took over the Los Angeles promotion where Piper got his first big break. Gene also worked as an underneath wrestler and the promotion’s “policeman” before retiring and becoming a uniquely animated TV interviewer. So he had plenty of dealings with Piper, and they became friends for decades, coming to an abrupt end over the Summer when Piper passed away.
Today, a new interview with LeBell was released by Submission Radio. Being that it’s the first time he’s been on the show since Piper’s death, they asked LeBell about his friend:
Well Roddy Pipper, he’s good. I mean, when I say good, I don’t take that lightly. He would have made a fortune off MMA, but he was making a fortune doing Piper’s Pit. And every time he got in a bad mood he’d call me up ‘come on, we’re going down to the gym and wrestle’. And he spent a lot of time on an airplane, going from town to town. He had a little radio program here I was on, and two days before he passed, I was with him and he said he wants to come down on Monday to the dojo and workout. And I said ‘no problem’. I says ‘how do you feel’? He says “I’m tired. Gene, I’m really tired”. And you burn the candle at both ends, it’s gonna come up and get you in the middle.
So anyway, he at 61, he passed. And I used to – I have a terrible memory. But I used to tell him, every year his birthday was April 17th and 1954. And I said ‘oh, it’s you’re birthday’, you know and he always asks ‘how do you remember?’. Well I do things through association. I won Judo nationals through that date for the US on April 17th 1954. So you know, now I am 104 and going up, but he was a good guy.