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"Rowdy" Roddy Piper's kids tell the story of the man behind the character

Ariel Teal Toombs, left, the daughter of the late WWE Hall of Famer "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, picked up where he left off after his 2015 death and joined her brother in completing his biography. Courtesy of Ariel Teal Toombs

Ariel Teal Toombs likes to say that her father, WWE Hall of Famer "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, lived the equivalent of 10 lifetimes over the span of 61 years.

Piper, who died of a heart attack in July 2015, was one of the most beloved heels in pro wrestling history and went on to success as a Hollywood actor. But it was outside the realm of entertainment that Piper, born Roderick George Toombs, endured and overcame the most -- from an unforgiving childhood in tiny, remote parts of Canada, to beating cancer in his 50s.

"He was a very unique person, obviously," she said. "But Roderick George Toombs' story, to me, is more interesting than 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper."

For Toombs, one of four children born to Piper and his wife, Kitty, the opportunity to share her father's story with the world was one she couldn't pass up. Toombs, 31, herself an actress and singer/songwriter, teamed up with her younger brother, Colt Baird Toombs, a former MMA fighter and aspiring pro wrestler, to author a biography titled "Rowdy: The Roddy Piper Story."

It was a project Piper began himself in the years before his death, an opportunity to "shed the Roddy Piper image," his daughter said, and move on to a different chapter in his life. For Piper, the journey included trips back to his Canadian roots to meet with family and friends to hear their stories.

Ultimately, it was a journey that was cut short by his death. Three months later, Craig Pyette, the book's editor, approached Toombs and her brother and asked about their interest in taking the finished research and recordings and completing the project.

Toombs was initially reluctant, with the emotional wound still so fresh, but the process forced her to deal with her father's death in a way that also helped the impact of his life resonate for so many others. It was a decision Toombs deemed "the most emotionally rewarding" project she had ever taken on.

One of Piper's greatest motives in writing the book was to get to know himself better, his daughter said. But the process ultimately helped Toombs and her brother do the same, with the subsequent interviews of Piper's pro wrestling contemporaries helping to bring him back to life.

"It was just very nostalgic, and we almost got fatherly advice [from him] after the fact when people told stories," she said. "I think that we are very blessed, because a lot of times when people have a loved one pass away, they don't get the chance to learn new things about them."

Toombs hopes that fans of Piper will draw inspiration from the many hardships in her father's life that he was able to turn into positives. The book goes into great detail describing just how much the harsh realities of Piper's youth helped shape the wrestling character he would become, as he was forced to be clever just to get by.

"He was never a scholar, but he was a very street-smart person, and he got that from his youth and just being forced into survival," Toombs said. "For some people, that breaks them, and for other people it pushes them to do more with themselves."

Piper built a reputation as one of the biggest rebels in pro wrestling history -- both on screen and off. Not only was he a staunch protector of the business from outsiders (a prevailing theme in his feud with actor Mr. T), he refused -- often quite literally -- to lay down for anyone when it didn't make sense (which explains why so many of his matches with Hulk Hogan ended without a clean finish).

In many ways, Piper's life was a constant cycle of fighting and survival. Oftentimes it wasn't pretty, including his adjustment back to life after the end of his wrestling career. To that end, his children made it a point not to sugarcoat his struggles.

"We wanted everything to be honest and factual," Toombs said. "He had instances that might have not shown him in the best light, but that was part of who he was, and we wanted to come from a place of truth so that everyone would know who this person was outside the ring."

Toombs, who was raised in Oregon, moved to Los Angeles after high school to chase her dreams of becoming an entertainer. In the process, she spent almost a decade getting to know her father on a deeper level as an adult, including a stretch in which the two lived together and Piper became a mentor of sorts -- passing down his insatiable work ethic.

"I think that's probably the most valuable lesson he taught me. You have to live it and breathe it. You have to do it all the time," Toombs continued. "You have to be constantly working on your craft, and you have to be prepared. As great as he was at improv, he really did put a lot of work in behind the scenes."

A quick-witted master on the microphone, Piper not only left behind countless stories of overnight road trips in his wrestling days (when he would stay up brainstorming one-liners as others slept), he left behind notebooks filled with ideas that Toombs often glances at to this day.

"You can see where he came up with [the line] 'Just when you think you have the answers, I change the questions,'" she said. "So he would think of things like that so that when he was performing and an opportunity presented itself, he would have cards in his deck to play."

"I think that's probably the most valuable lesson he taught me. You have to live it and breathe it. You have to do it all the time," Toombs continued. "You have to be constantly working on your craft, and you have to be prepared. As great as he was at improv, he really did put a lot of work in behind the scenes."

When it comes to Toombs' interest in following her father into the wrestling business, a TMZ report from October linked her name with the daughters of Hulk Hogan, Diamond Dallas Page, Kerry Von Erich and Jean-Claude Van Damme about starting an all-women's wrestling promotion.

While Toombs said she can't comment on it at the moment, she described her bond with the other famous daughters as a sisterhood due to how much they can relate to the hardships and "weird things" each family has experienced. Toombs is also "100 percent on board" with anything that helps push her father's legacy forward.

"What I will say is that I do feel an obligation to carry the torch a little bit," she said. "I'm an actor and a singer-songwriter first and foremost, but I take a lot of pride in the [wrestling] industry and everything my dad built -- and I don't want to see that die."

When it comes to Piper's legacy, Toombs believes there are multiple layers. She credits his ability to make the underdog a star, as well as his legendary stubbornness behind the scenes, in helping the industry evolve from its "Wild West" early days. In that regard, Piper was never afraid to walk away for stretches on his own principles to explore new opportunities, knowing that his talent would one day allow him to return.

"I think he really made sure that you can't bury talent," Toombs said. "That is what saved his career, and he was always very careful to preserve that as much as he could. I think that did a lot in making sure that the talent and the work paid off for these guys down the road. [Pro wrestling] is a much better place now than when it first got started as [far as] how they take care of people and having your family there." While Toombs believes Piper will most be remembered as a great heel, it's the love he received from fans that will endure.

"He was one of the most hated villains, and then two years later he was one of the most beloved," Toombs said. "That's something that didn't happen at the time. People learned to love the art of the villain through him, and really started rooting for the heel."

In the end, Toombs hopes the book will help Piper's many fans finally get to know the person she will best remember him as: George Roderick Toombs, or simply, Dad. And her favorite story that explains his unique character goes back to when she was 15.

Toombs accompanied Piper on a business trip to Los Angeles, where her teenage mind envisioned a tourist journey to see Marilyn Monroe's handprints and the iconic Hollywood sign. But as soon as the two of them entered the rental car, Toombs received a much different tour.

"He takes me down to this really ghetto alley somewhere off of Venice Beach and was like, 'This is where I slept on the streets when I was your age,'" Toombs recalled with a laugh. "And then he would be like, 'A woman got murdered right outside my window when I lived in this guy's basement.'"

Toombs claimed the tour ended with her father illegally driving the car onto Venice Beach at night. Soon, the two were startled by a scary individual who approached the vehicle.

"This person came up to us and was kind of being intimidating and was hitting on the window," Toombs said. "He was obviously crazy. So my dad kind of swerved like he was going to hit him, and I freaked out and was like, 'Dad, what are you doing?!'

"He was like, 'Oh, honey, it's a rental. They will never link it back to us.'"

When Toombs returned to Oregon, she was greeted by friends excitedly asking about which famous Hollywood sites she had seen. All she could say was that she had received "the wrestler's tour."

"And my dad thought that was so funny, because in his heart of hearts, he thought he was giving me this amazing retrospective L.A. tour," she said. "I saw none of the things I wanted to see, but I loved it. That's kind of how my whole childhood was. We had a great time, and I wouldn't have it any other way."

Rowdy: The Roddy Piper Story is in stores now.