Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Originally published April 20, 2006

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

Kurt Angle

February 12, 2000; The Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada:  It was the final day of the yearly Cauliflower Alley Club Convention.  Hundreds of professional wrestling stars filled the magnificent ballroom.  The banquet had concluded and it was time for the “Academy Awards” of professional wrestling.  Actor Joe Don Baker was a “Reel Member" inductee that night -- the same honor Sylvester Stallone had received several years earlier.  Then it was time to present the coveted “Future Legends Award.”  A hush fell over the room as the announcement was made:  “This year’s ‘Future Legends Award’ goes to a very deserving young man, an Olympic Gold Medal winner in wrestling . . . Kurt Angle.”

Kurt Angle

I congratulated Kurt on his win.  He was an impressive gentleman who obviously loved the sport of wrestling.  I hoped that the Cauliflower Alley Club was correct in predicting future “legend” status for him.  Wow, were they ever correct!  Kurt Angle went on to become World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion and one of the very best professional wrestlers of all time.  Although he has remained in absolute top physical condition throughout his career, Kurt Angle has received many injuries, including a broken neck.  His doctors advised him not to wrestle again.  They told him that if he landed wrong, and if he were lucky, he would very likely be paralyzed for life.  Friends and family were unable to comprehend Kurt’s unwavering commitment to continue wrestling.  They pleaded with him, “If you get hurt again, you could lose your life.”  Kurt looked seriously at them and replied, “You really don’t understand.  Wrestling IS my life.”

Most people who just read those last few sentences are thinking, “That guy’s crazy to keep wrestling.”  But, then, most of the people reading this story have never been in the ring.  Those of us who have wrestled professionally – those of us who lived the life – understand totally.  Voluntarily ending one’s wrestling career is not an option – not when wrestling is your passion and your life.  Unfortunately, some of the “new breed” wrestlers lack that level of understanding; they simply look at wrestling as a very well-paying “job.”  Not Kurt Angle.  Kurt is as “old school” as anyone could be.  He possesses those wonderful qualities that have been lost with too many of the current young wrestlers.  When he does hang up his wrestling boots, there will be no one who can fill them – no one will ever take his place.  We of the “old school” salute you, Kurt Angle!

Chris Benoit

Chris Benoit, the 2002 “Future Legends” award winner, has suffered a broken neck as well -- twice!  He also continues to wrestle.  Wrestling is in his blood, and he understands and accepts the risks.

I was discussing the “wrestling in your blood” phenomenon with wrestling great Nick Bockwinkel.  He helped put it in perspective.  “Professional wrestling,” he said with total seriousness, “is more addictive than heroin.  People who have never wrestled will never understand.”  There seems to be a belief that runs throughout the true passionate professionals of our business.  It is:  “If we have to die, let us die in the ring.”

Brute Bernard & Skull Murphy

There was a wonderful tag team back in the late 1960’s – Brute Bernard and Skull Murphy.  They were brilliant.  Professional wrestling was their world.  There is some controversy concerning the following, but this is the way I always heard the story:  Skull Murphy was told by his doctor that he had a problem with his heart and that he would have to give up wrestling.  Apparently, a second opinion confirmed the heart problem.  Because he could no longer wrestle, Skull Murphy killed himself.  Several years later, his wrestling partner Brute Bernard died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  The wrestling ring was their home, and they couldn’t go home anymore.

Nick Bockwinkel


Next week, I’m going to do a complete 180 and show you some of the extreme humor shared by the “boys.”  I’ll talk about Jerry “The King” Lawler, for example, dumping a garbage can full of water out a hotel window, with me as the intended target and the not-so-appropriate “tattoo” he drew on my back just before I went into the ring . . . the time Rowdy Roddy Piper put a gorilla mask on Andre the Giant and terrorized the people of Japan . . . the “ribs” we pulled on the announcer on live television (like when I cut off his tie with a pair of scissors during a live interview) . . . Five wrestlers going 85 miles per hour in a 20 mile per hour zone in a little Mississippi town at 2:00 AM, being pulled over by the cops, and beating the ticket . . . and, a lot more!  Until next week . . .

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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