Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Scheduled Publication Date:   March 22, 2007

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

The 2007 WWE Hall of Fame Inductees had been announced:  Dusty Rhodes, Mr. Fuji, The Sheik, Jerry Lawler, Nick Bockwinkle, and Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig.  Although I had advance knowledge as to who was being considered and what decisions had been made, I still applauded, sitting in my living room, as they were officially announced on WWE’s televised wrestling shows.  I had wrestled Dusty Rhodes at least fifty times.  He was a legend, even then, and I had some very good matches with him.  I got to know him over the years and considered him to be a friend.  I knew that two things were likely to happen when I wrestled Dusty.  First, we would have a really good match with great crowd response.  Second, I knew to be aware of one particular move of his.  I knew that when Dusty shot me into the ropes, one of the possible follow-up maneuvers would be his “patented” punch to the stomach.  I still don’t know exactly how he did it.  All I remember is that there was no way to prepare for it that didn’t hurt.  If Dusty and I were to wrestle again, I would still be wary of that maneuver.  I know Dusty would smile to learn that, twenty-plus years later, I still equate him with that stinging stomach punch.

Mr. Fuji and I traveled and worked a lot together.  He was (and is) a very funny and entertaining guy.  Of all my memories of Mr. Fuji, I cannot remember a
time outside of the ring when he was not smiling.  He became a trusted friend.  He was a brilliant wrestler who became even better known as a manager.  I’m delighted that he is one of the 2007 WWE Hall of Fame inductees.

I met Jerry Lawler very early in my career.  I was twenty or twenty-one years old, and I was wrestling in Memphis, Tennessee.  Because I was the “new kid in town,” most of the wrestlers, including Jerry Lawler, stood outside of the dressing rooms with the promoters and watched my match.  Quite a few of the guys complimented me afterward
.  Although Jerry was never easily impressed and said nothing, I watched him from the ring as he was watching me.  His expression told me that I did well.  I spent a lot of time traveling, in the dressing rooms, and in the ring with Jerry “The King” Lawler.  I wrote of several of our experiences in column number eleven.  (In case you missed it, it is reproduced, along with all fifty-six of my columns, on my website:  www.HollywoodSuccess.com.  Just click on the “Wrestling Revue” link in the upper left corner of the home page.)

I didn’t know The Sheik very well.  I had met him in the dressing room and talked with him a few times.  I had spoken with him a couple of times when he was in
Australia handling the booking of wrestling talent there.  Leo Garibaldi had been the matchmaker for Australia and wanted to bring me in.  Suddenly, as oftentimes happens in business, Leo was no longer the booker; The Sheik was.  I did not know The Sheik very well personally, but I was certainly familiar with his ring abilities, and I was a fan.  Although he is no longer with us, I’m very happy to see that he is being honored for his contributions to our sport.

Curt Hennig is the son of Larry “The Ax” Hennig.  I wrestled Larry a few times in the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based AWA (American Wrestling Association).  I also wrestled Curt during the early stages of his career.  I watched him grow as a wrestling talent, and I was happy to see him reach the top in our industry.  At a CAC Reunion and Awards Dinner several years ago, I ran into Curt again.  At least two people took pictures of us together.  “This is amazing,” one of them said.  “Mr. Wonderful and Mr. Perfect together!”  If either of those two fans are reading this, please contact me.  I’d love to have a copy of those photos.  The wrestling business lost one of best of the best when Curt Hennig left us on February 10, 2003.

I’ve known Nick Bockwinkle for many years, and I consider him to be a friend.  I first met him in the AWA.  I kept running into him in dressing rooms around the country.  We worked a lot together in the Los Angeles-based NWA (National Wrestling Alliance).  Now, basically I see Nick once or twice a year at wrestling conventions.  At the CAC Wrestling Reunion and Awards Dinner Banquet in Las Vegas, Nevada, I had the opportunity to introduce him and speak with him on camera.  The camera light was on, our director of photography said, “Rolling,” and I looked directly into the camera.  “Nick Bockwinkle is one of the greatest professional wrestlers living today,” I began.  “He is a living legend in the business.  I’ve known this outstanding individual for many years and am proud to call him a friend.”  Nick smiled.  “My father would love hearing those things,” he said.  “Share with us,” I continued, “for those who have no idea what the wrestling business was when you were at your peak, what was it like?”

Nick had a pensive look on his face.  “I would say it was a positive compared to all the bad things we’re hearing about what’s going on today,” he began.  “It was a positive experience.  We traveled a lot.  It was an extremely hard profession.  And, whenever somebody would say, ‘Well, isn’t it all fake?’ I’d say, ‘Please step right up.  I have a fake bodyslam for you.  In fact, I’ll give you a fifty percent discount on the slam.  I’ll only drop you from three feet instead of six feet.’  That’s all anybody needs to do, to have a three-foot bodyslam.  And, even if you fall on a, quote, ‘padded’ floor, it will knock the wind out of you.  The physical brutality of what takes place in the ring … it was unbelievably brutal.  Those of us who survived it; we all hobble, we all wobble, we all limp.  But, still, the entire essence of what the business was at the time was wonderful.  If somebody said, ‘Nick, if you couldn’t change anything, but you could press a button and do it all over the same way, would you do it?’ I’d say, ‘Right now!’”  I totally understood and reiterated, “Yes, in a heartbeat!  I don’t know if people get that, but I hope they understand.”

“It was exciting, it was colorful,” Nick continued.  “The personalities – you understand, it’s tough to be an introvert and be a professional wrestler, and wrestling had an extroverted type of essence about it.  This, in turn meant there were a lot of glowing personalities; very diverse, very unique, very different -- anything from the absurd to the comical to the mundane to just simply the joyous.  We all lived on the edge.  And, when you’ve got a group of people who live on the edge, ironically, you do a lot of edgy things.  But, like I say, I thought it was just terrific.”  We’ll continue talking with Nick Bockwinkle next week.  Until then, 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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