Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Original Date of Publication:   September 7, 2006

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

On my sixteenth birthday I made an iron-clad contract/agreement with myself.  I vowed to become a professional wrestler.  There were no escape clauses and failure was definitely not an option.  I was serious.  I was determined.  I was focused.  I now met the minimum age requirement to drive in North Carolina, and a driver’s license was my birthday present to me.  “Now, finally,” I thought, “I can drive to Greensboro or Raleigh where at least they have body-building and martial arts gyms.”  Finally, indeed!  Until that time, I had taught myself wrestling, judo and karate through books.  I build a life-size practice dummy.  I thrust my hands into sand in order to toughen them for breaking boards.  I did push-ups on concrete on my bare knuckles to toughen them.  I had a weight bench, a Roman chair, barbells and dumbbells in my room.  I had even built a 6-foot by 6-foot by 8-foot structure out of lead pipe and pulleys to use as a combination lat machine and chinning bar.  I had improvised fairly well, but now I could finally go to an actual gym and study with real coaches and teachers. 

I enrolled in a karate school in Greensboro and studied under Sensei Bill and Parker Shelton.  I learned a lot there and progressed rapidly.  I would have progressed more rapidly had I concentrated strictly on the study of Shorin-ryn Karate.  I was often admonished for incorporating and even concentrating on professional wrestling moves in class. 

In the body-building gym, I spent almost as much time looking at myself in the mirror as I did working out.  I was practicing posing and future interviews that I would do as a professional wrestler.   The fact that many of the gym members thought I was “mentally off” never affected me.  I was doing it for me, not for them.  And, I discovered at a very young age that I must live my life for me, not for other people.  I had met so many sad people in my young life who lived their lives to meet someone else’s expectations.  “Letting someone else run your life,” I surmised, “is like letting the waiter eat your food!”  It simply made no sense to me -- It still doesn’t. 

I wrestled in high school and college.  I always had to be different.  I could never, for example, conform to the traditional wrestling “uniform.”  The word “uniform” itself was contrary to my way of thinking.  Uniform:  Each one is the same as all the others.  “Not so!” I emphatically said to myself, “I am not like everybody else.  I am not like anybody else.  I am different.”  And, it didn’t take long for my upcoming professional wrestling persona to replace the word “different” with the word “better.”  I wore orange and black wrestling boots, for example, with “Rock” on them.  I even wore, on occasion, a tank-top with cartoon characters.  There was a guy on his back on the mat and another one jumping up and down on his stomach.  The caption read, “It is better to give than to receive.”  That one got me sent back to the lockers twice.  I often lost amateur matches because I was disqualified.  I would take a hammerlock beyond the maximum 45-degree angle, for example.  That is usually an automatic disqualification in amateur wrestling.  I was much more proud of being disqualified that I was of winning.  The wrestling coaches did not care for me.  (Gee, I wonder why?)  They were extremely hard on me, which is exactly what I wanted.  They made me tougher, which, in turn, made my transition to the professional ranks easier.

This column welcomes your e-mail questions, and we’ve received some great ones over the past few weeks.  For example, James Sycamore asked, “Did you ever wrestle under a mask?”   Early on in my career, I wrestled and even managed under a “hood.”  Our three-man team was billed as “Dr. Slaughter and the Butchers.”  I was Doctor Slaughter.  All of us dressed in white and wore masks.  The Butchers would actually wear butchers’ aprons into the ring.  Sometime during the match, I would usually instruct them to “bust open” the other wrestlers.  The Butchers had a ceremony.  After they drew blood and defeated their opponents, they would wipe some of the opponent’s blood onto their aprons.  They never washed the aprons.  Every week, they were bloodier than the week before.  To say we were hated was an understatement.  Although I was very careful, twice the fans figured out which was my automobile and did hundreds of dollars worth of damage to it.  In both cases, I looked at the Butchers and said, “You see that?  You see what they did to my car?  Do you know what that means?”  I hesitated, then continued, “That means we’re doing a fantastic job!”  The last time the fans got to my orange Cadillac convertible, they stole it, stripped it, and burned it.  When the police discovered the remains and informed me, once again, I smiled.  With 230,000 miles on that car, it was time for the insurance company to buy me a new one.

Barbara Jamison had an interesting question.  “Who did you enjoy wrestling and who did you dread wrestling?”  There were hundreds of wrestlers I really enjoyed working with in the ring.  Pat Patterson, for example, comes up very close to the top of my list.  He was one of the best in the world.  Even under the worst of circumstances, I knew a Rock Riddle/Pat Patterson match would be brilliant.  It was like poetry in motion.  At will, we could stand the fans up, bring them to the edge of the ring, push them back to their section and put them back in their seats.  I’d love to get Pat back in the ring one more time – just to show the newer wrestlers what it was really like. 

Who did I dread wrestling?  New guys who were not ready to compete or guys with bad attitudes.  I did some “attitude adjusting,” but I would much rather have wrestled experienced professionals.  I was always very cautious when wrestling Gene LeBell.  Gene is now a “senior citizen,” and is still one of the toughest people on the planet.  He was a highly skilled, very experienced professional wrestler.  There was always the fear that I might end up in Gene’s sleeper hold.  That was not a place I wanted to be.  It wasn’t fun losing consciousness.  It was my practice, before each match with Gene LeBell, to talk with the doctor at ringside.  “If this guy puts a sleeper hold on me,” I would say to the doctor, “don’t think I’m just lying there.  Get in the ring and make sure I’m okay.”  I never told Gene about this.  When he reads this column, there will be a big grin on his face.

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."

© 2006 Rock Riddle & Hollywood Success.

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