Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

by Rock Riddle, the Original "Mr. Wonderful" of Professional Wrestling

Initial Publication Date:   April 19, 2007

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

Mr. Spock had been brought back to life after his own physical death in “Star Trek IV:  The Voyage Home.”  Bones wanted Spock to discuss the phenomenon and encouraged him by saying, “You really have gone where no man has gone before.  Can’t you tell me what it felt like?”  The always logical Spock replied, “It would be impossible to discuss the subject without a common frame of reference.”  “You mean,” Bones correctly concluded, “I have to die to discuss your insights on death?”

In writing this column, I sometimes feel as though I face the same challenge as did Mr. Spock.  “How in the world,” I asked myself, “can I describe what professional wrestling was and what it was like to be a part of that world … to people who never wrestled?  How can I explain the feelings, the emotions, the passion, the respect, the camaraderie associated with something that no longer exists?”   I realize that a small percentage of my readers are professional wrestlers who actually wrestled in the 1970s and early 1980s.  I know that they “get it.”  For example, when I share the following story, they will understand totally, so much so that a tear or two may come to their eyes.  But, most of the readers of this column are not professional wrestlers.  Most of them, after reading the following paragraph, will probably say, “That makes no sense at all.”  My challenge is to “make it make sense” to all of my readers.

I was wrestling in the mid-1970s in Tennessee.  On a long drive back to our home base of Nashville, one of the lady wrestlers shared a true story with me.  She put it this way:  “My mother had asked me a few times over the years about the [wrestling] business.  She asked me if it was real, and, of course, I told her it was.  She had been sick for a while and over the past several months, she just got weaker and weaker.  Last week, we knew it was close to her time.  I was sitting in a chair next to her bed.  She said, ‘Honey, tell me one thing before I go.’  I nodded okay, and she said, ‘Is the wrestling real?’  I looked into her eyes, and with tears rolling down my cheeks, I said, ‘Yes, mom.  It’s all real.’  She smiled, gently squeezed my hand, turned her face to the side, and she died.”

I received an e-mail from Brandon W. recently which read, in part:  “Yo, Rock -- fan of the column … A few questions:  1.) Why do you guys get offended when people say it's fake?  I know you guys get hurt and you hit each other hard enough to make it look good, but …”  “Well, this is interesting,” I thought when reading Brandon’s e-mail.  “I’ve written over fifty-eight full-page stories so far.  This guy says he’s a fan of the column, and, yet, he doesn’t understand why we would take offense when someone says wrestling is ‘fake’.  That’s the same thing as saying we personally are fakes.  Maybe I wasn’t able to convey that point in the first fifty-eight columns.”  I continued reading Brandon’s email.  His point number two stated, “2.) You often pine away for the good old days, but I've never read what the difference is between then and now as you see it.”  “I haven’t explained that either?” I asked myself in a mild state of disbelief.  “That just doesn’t make sense.”  I thought I had made it clear that an amazing professional sport and unique way of life was replaced with ‘sports entertainment.’

With a questioning frown on my face, I read the balance of Brandon’s e-mail:  “The first match I ever saw was the Nature Boy -- whoooo -- and Chris Adams. Of course I was immediately hooked as any red-blooded boy would be. That was about the mid eighties and the only change I see is that the guys take a lot more chances and the whole production is bigger.  Take it easy, Brandon”  “Oh, now it makes sense,” I said to myself.  “There it is.  The first match this guy ever saw was in the mid-1980s.  That was AFTER the ‘transition.’”   THEN it made sense.  Simply stated, people under the age of thirty do not understand what professional wrestling was.  They never had the opportunity to experience it.  In future columns, I will have the wonderful opportunity to introduce the “under thirty” crowd, as well as everyone else to deeper levels of understanding into the wonderful world of professional wrestling.  It should be an extraordinary journey.  And, with the continued input from readers such as Brandon, I will be able to continue tweaking the writing of my columns to entertain and enlighten all of my readers.

In future columns, I will take you deeper into the innermost workings of professional wrestling.  You’ll learn just how far we, the wrestlers, would go to “protect the business.”  I’ll tell you why the “good guys” and the “bad guys” would never eat in the same restaurants at the same time.  I’ll let you know why it was easier for me, as a career-long “heel,” to walk out of a restaurant if a “good guy” was there – rather than the other way round.  You’ll know why certain wrestlers would oftentimes be dropped off two blocks away from the arena.  Promoters didn’t want more than a few wrestlers living in the same town at times.   I’ll tell you about the phone call from promoter Roy Shire telling me that I might need to move to another town because three other wrestlers already lived within the city limits of Hayward, California.

In future columns, I’ll share with you the overwhelming, all-consuming passion we all shared for the wrestling business.  You’ll experience, through the written word, the amazing power, the prestige, and the tremendous sense of accomplishment we always felt after a match.  You’ll understand the utter physical exhaustion we felt after a match and why we loved the feeling.  You’ll know why we pushed ourselves beyond our limits.  Each night, we would stretch to go beyond where we had gone before (to keep with the opening Star Trek theme).  You’ll be able to see friendship and a sense of family beyond what most people will ever know.  You’ll experience the excitement and the danger.  You’ll learn that the lifespan for professional wrestlers is shorter than that for just about any other profession – and you’ll understand why a shortened lifespan is a small price to pay to experience that which we lived.  You’ll experience the injuries, and you’ll know why we took pride (and take pride) in them.

I’ll tell you about the time a Japanese wrestler kneed me in the face near the end of our match.  My eyebrow was split, but the bleeding wasn’t covering my entire face until I was nearly back to the dressing room.  The promoter walked briskly towards me and said, “Get back out there.  Let the fans and the TV cameras see your face.  Don’t waste that blood.”  When I looked in the mirror the next morning, I saw that I had a big black eye under those butterfly closures on my eyebrow.  I said aloud, “Excellent!  This is going to look great on the TV interviews tomorrow.”  That complete story and many more like it are upcoming in future columns.  And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  We’ll talk about the wonderful art of deception – how to do illegal moves that the fans and the TV camera see but the referee can not.  That is really fun.  So, you and I have a lot to look forward to in this column.  Until next week, keep those e-mails coming.

This column welcomes your wrestling-related questions.  You may contact the author via email: RockRiddle@hotmail.com or Rock@HollywoodSuccess.com.  Be sure to put "Wrestling Question" in the subject line.

About the author:  Rock Riddle wrestled professionally for over 8½ years and helped sell out major arenas all over the country.  He held numerous titles including the Americas Tag Team Championship (with John Tolos) and the East Coast Tag Team Championship (with Rocky Montana.)  At the height of his career, he was given top billing over the heavyweight championship of the world.  He is extremely well-connected in the world of professional wrestling and knows the business exceptionally well.  His fascinating biography, complete with over 100 photos and lots of additional information, is available at www.HollywoodSuccess.com – just click on "Rock Riddle Bio."    If you have missed any of Rock’s columns, they are all available on the website by clicking "Wrestling Revue."

© 2007 Rock Riddle & Hollywood Success.

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