I made the decision on
my 16th birthday to become a professional wrestler! After
all, I had been President of a fan club for one of the world’s most
famous villainous wrestlers (Rip Hawk) for nearly two years. And,
having a fan club for one of the most hated ‘bad guy’ wrestlers
alive was news. I had already been interviewed for magazine and
newspaper stories and I had appeared a number of times on live
television. Yes, at the age of 16, I was hooked. I had the wrestling
business in my blood and I knew it would always be
there. I wasn’t content running a fan club for someone else. No, I
had to be in the ring. That’s where I belonged. The wrestling ring
would become my home. I knew it with every fiber of my being. And, I
set out to make it happen.
In my junior year of
high school, I joined the wrestling team – are you ready for this? –
wrestling in the 138-pound weight class! Yes, I weighed about 135
pounds dripping wet. No normal person would dare to even imagine
such an impossible goal. Thankfully, I was not normal. Normal is
boring. Normal is small-town limited thinking. Normal is living life
in a strait jacket. I knew that I could and would live my
dreams. Everybody told me it was impossible. The wrestling coach
hated me because of my ambition to turn pro. He made it very tough
on me, and that’s just what I wanted!
I remember sitting in
the only chair there
was in a little barber shop attached to an older house on
Main Street in Graham, North Carolina. "Boy, you ain’t never gonna
be big a-nough ta rassle pro," the old gray-haired barber said. "Ya
otta jus git yerself a good job lak ya Daddy. He’s been a-working
ere in a drugstore since he-uz 14." I
thanked the old man for his advice, and, as usual, I had the last
word. "I’m going to do it," I told him. "You don’t have to take my
word for it; I’ll show you." I smiled as I walked out of the shop,
knowing that I would be back for my "I told you so" appearance.
Fast forward five years.
I had turned pro at the age of twenty. I had already wrestled some
of the best in the world. The main event was about to go on at a
sold-out National Guard Armory in Burlington, North Carolina.
"In the corner to my right," the ring announcer
touted, "weighing in at 218 pounds, the former Heavyweight Wrestling
Champion of the World, North Carolina's own George Becker!"
The announcement was met with thunderous applause. "And, in
the corner to my left," <the boos had already started> "weighing in
at 236 1/2 pounds, claiming to be from Hollywood, California and
disavowing any connection to the town of Burlington," <tremendous
boos>, "Rock 'Mr. Wonderful' Riddle!"
to the dismay of the fans, I used a few ‘short cuts’ I had
learned from my hero Rip Hawk. Remember,
my opponent, George Becker,
was loved and adored. I was hated from the time I was a fan club
president. I beat the former heavyweight champion in the middle of
the ring, causing the local police to call for
back-up (every cop in the county!) to put down what they
were sure was about to
escalate into a
A few of the fans pulled
knives and one attempted to hit me with a
cane. The poor, misguided soul. The front page story in the local
newspaper said that the guy went flying over eight rows of chairs.
Gee, all I remember was that I gently placed my hand on his chest
and gingerly guided him backward so he wouldn’t get hurt.
share the entire story with you in a future column.
after that historic main event, I was once
again sitting in the barber chair in
Graham, NC. I weighed a muscular 236 pounds,
sporting 18 ½ inch arms, bleached blond hair, and a great
tan. The same
old gentleman cut my hair as though he was in a daze, not
saying a word, occasionally shaking his head in disbelief. "Damn,
boy," he finally muttered, "After what you
done, I don’t thank nothin’s impossible no more." He was absolutely