wrestled hundreds of matches for the National Wrestling Alliance,
the largest governing body for professional wrestling in the world.
One of their larger promotions was based out of Mobile, Alabama.
That was a great time. The trips were relatively short – most were
less than a three-hour drive each way, so
I had plenty of “personal time.” I lived in a beautiful little
house located directly on the ocean in Pensacola Beach, Florida. I
would open my front sliding door and literally be standing on the
sand. Fifteen paces more and I would be standing in the surf. When
the tide was especially high, the waves would actually touch my
front door. My “front yard” was a beautiful white-sand beach
hosting my personal heavy stone picnic-style table. More than a few
wrestling legends shared lunch with me there – eating, signing
autographs, and working on our tans simultaneously. Ms. Pamela, my
valet in the professional wrestling business for a time, usually
served as our chef and waitress for these elaborate luncheons.
was a great life. I would wake up in the morning, open my front
door and go for a five- or six-mile
run on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. I’d have
breakfast, go to the gym for an hour or so, and be back home by late
morning. At that point, I would usually load my inflatable 3-man
boat with food, beverage, suntan lotion, and reading materials and
row “out to sea” a hundred feet or so. I
would toss the anchor over the side and float for hours,
until it was time to leave for the evening’s matches.
Because of the short trips, I would frequently leave home as late
as 4:30 or 5:00 PM. Oftentimes, I would finish my match, shower,
grab some food to eat on the drive back, and be back home, on the
beach, listening to the waves, before midnight. Ah, yes
... those were the days.
of the high points of my wrestling career took place while I was
living on Pensacola Beach. It happened in
Mobile, Alabama, only an hour’s drive from home. One of the big
events that evening would be a match for the world championship.
National Wrestling Alliance Heavyweight Wrestling Champion Jack
Brisco was set to wrestle the Junior Heavyweight World Champion, Ken
Mantel. The purpose of the match was to determine, once and for
all, the undisputed Heavyweight Wrestling Champion of the World.
This historic match would be the semi-final event of the evening.
The main event was me – Rock Riddle versus 601-pound Haystacks
Calhoun. Each of us would have two partners, making the main event
of the evening a 6-man tag match. I was happy – I had top billing
over the Heavyweight Championship of the World!
referee came into my dressing room with the evening’s program in his
hand. He was confused. He looked at me and asked, “This can’t be
right, can it? The program says you’re main event and you go on
after the world championship match.” “Well, gee,” I responded.
“You seem surprised. It’s only natural that I have top billing over
the world champion.” I made sure I didn’t smile; I said it with
such a sincere look, “I’m younger, I’m stronger, I’m more talented,
and I’m MUCH better looking. Let’s face it. I AM main event
material. I’m the reason the arena sold out so quickly.” The
referee sarcastically said, “Wow, I’m so impressed. Could I have
your autograph?” “No,” I responded, “but hang around for a minute,
because I know someone who should have an autograph.” I took an
8x10 photo from my wrestling bag, and I began the personalized
signing. It read like this: ”To little Jackie Brisco, One of my
biggest fans … Hang in there, kid. Keep working hard, and maybe –
just maybe – someday, you’ll be main event, too -- just like me!
Signed, Your Hero, Rock ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Riddle.” I handed the
autographed photo to the referee. “Would you be so good as to
personally deliver this to the World Champion?” I asked. “It will
mean so much to him.” The referee gave me a sneer, but actually
delivered the photo to Jack Brisco. I was told that Jack displayed
the photo on his trophy wall at his home. When I asked him about it
last year, he simply smiled and said, “Gee, Rock, I don’t
remember.” Well, Jack Brisco, my friend – I have it on good
authority from another wrestler friend of yours who said he
personally saw it on your wall – so
there. In all seriousness, Jack Brisco was one of the greatest
professional wrestlers of all time. It was an absolute honor for me
to have wrestled him many times. It is a much bigger honor to be
able to call him a friend.
a time, while living in Pensacola Beach, I teamed with a very
talented and extremely funny
wrestler known as Apache Gringo. We had a tremendous amount of fun
doing live TV interviews. There was no delay.
It was live. Whatever we did went out over the air as we did
it. I remember a few of the tamer interviews – ones that I can
share with you here. Gringo and I were both dressed in suits. We
were talking about class. We had class, and the other wrestlers
didn’t. We went on for at least five minutes talking about our
superior education and sophistication. We were watching the
countdown to the upcoming commercial, and we always timed our stunts
perfectly. Our interview ended with Apache telling the live studio
audience and the TV audience at home all about his good taste, his
mastery of etiquette, his superior upbringing, and, in short, his
“class.” At that moment, he raised an eyebrow in reaction to having
a little sniffle. He grabbed his tie, loudly blew his nose with it,
dropped it back into place, and continued with his “speech” as we
went off the air. I had to bite my lip a few times to avoid
laughing when working with that man.
Speaking of ties: There was a local TV announcer in Mississippi who
was more than a little distrustful of me. Sure, I had tricked him
into standing up so I could take his chair on live TV a few times,
but I had never done anything nasty to him. I saw him in the
hallway of the TV studio before a live match. I complimented him on
his tie. “Is that a special tie?” I asked, “Anybody special give
you that?” He said, “No, it’s just a K-Mart tie I bought. I
actually like yours a lot better.” I had a habit of intimidating
him on camera. We had just begun a live TV interview. I kept
getting closer, and he kept trying to back up while still staying
“in frame.” During the interview, at what I thought was the most
opportune time, I pulled a pair of scissors from my tights and cut
his tie off about three inches below the knot. Other than his eyes
getting very large, neither of us acknowledged what was taking
place. Afterwards, he wasn’t sure whether he should speak to me or
not. I said, “Wait here.” I went to my dressing room, grabbed my
blue silk tie, and presented it to him. “This is a gift,” I said
with a hint of a smile. As I was leaving, I heard a shallow,
reserved, “Thank you.” Months later, I told him how lucky he was
that I liked him. I’m still not sure whether he ever understood my