Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Initial Publication Date:   April 26, 2007

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

A few weeks ago, I introduced you to tenth-degree martial arts grand master and former World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion, Professor Toru Tanaka.  Tanaka had been wrestling professionally for over thirteen years when he asked me if I, as a longtime friend, could help him transition to the Hollywood-based film and television industry.  Yes, this icon of the professional wrestling world wanted to become an actor.  Tanaka loved wrestling, but it was time for him to make a change.  Even though it offers many wonderful opportunities and an amazing lifestyle, the wrestling business can also be inflexible, intolerant, and tremendously demanding.  Repetitive physical exhaustion and injuries have always been a part of the game.  Occasionally the grueling schedule and constant demand to “push the envelope” also produced mental and even emotional exhaustion.  I knew my friend Tanaka well enough to understand that he truly did need and deserve a break from the wrestling business.  I had greatly reduced my own wrestling schedule, and, for two years I had been successfully marketing actors through APS Entertainment (HollywoodSuccess.com).  I had developed literally hundreds of contacts in the entertainment industry and I was happy to help my friend in his new pursuit.

In Rock Riddle’s Wrestling Revue #59, I shared with you the initial phase of Tanaka’s marketing as an “actor.”  “I’ve never done any acting before,” Tanaka admitted.  “Do you think I can make it?”  I answered his question with a question:  “Do YOU think you can make it?”  Tanaka pondered the query for a moment, smiled slightly, and said, “Well, I hope so.”  I looked directly into the eyes of the big man.  “Wrong answer,” I said in a somewhat challenging way.  His raised brow told me that he didn’t totally understand.  “Tanaka,” I continued, “whether you believe you can or whether you believe you can’t, you’re right.  So, again, do you think you can make it?”  Tanaka smiled and said, “Absolutely.”  “Then you can,” I told him.  “And, with me marketing you, you absolutely will!”  Tanaka liked that.  “So when do we start?” he asked.  I smiled and said, “We already have.”

Utilizing the APS marketing “machine,” Tanaka’s photos and resumes were delivered to a minimum of fifty active producers every week – producers who had legitimate upcoming feature film and television projects and were (or shortly thereafter would be) looking for talent for their projects.  Tom Cruise said it perfectly in the film “Jerry Maguire” -- “The key to this business is personal relationships!”  Less than a month after our initial meeting, Tanaka had his first Hollywood audition.  “Can you come with me?” he asked.  “This is my first audition, so I want you to be there.”  It was an unusual request, but I agreed to accompany and give moral support to my friend and “new client.”

Tanaka’s initial interview/audition was set to take place at 20th Century Fox.  Tanaka wanted to ride with me.  “You know where we’re going,” he said.  “I don’t.  So I prefer that you drive your car and I ride with you.”  I smiled.  “My car is pretty small, you know,” I said to my large friend.  “I could drive your van, and you’d probably be a lot more comfortable.”  “No,” Tanaka said, “I’d rather ride with you.”  So, there we were in a tiny Karmann Ghia; me, at 218 pounds, driving with a passenger weighing about 325.  It must have been a very funny sight for whoever was behind us.  Tanaka and I talked as we drove towards the studio.  “I think maybe we’re going to get there pretty early,” Tanaka said.  “In this business,” I responded, “to be early is to be on time.  To be on time is to be late.  And, to be late is unforgivable and costs you work.”  Tanaka nodded his head.  “Yeah, pretty much like the wrestling business,” he commented.  “So, who are these big shots we’re going to meet?”  I smiled at his choice of words, and I briefed him on the four people I expected to be in the room with us.  “There will be two very nice ladies,” I told him, “Cathy Henderson and Barbara Hanley.  They are the casting directors.”  “And you know these ladies?” he asked.  “Yes, Tanaka-san,” I answered.  “I’ve known them for a while.  Cathy used to go with Mick Jagger.  She goes surfing sometimes in the morning before she goes into the office, and she’s one of the most knowledgeable and one of the nicest people in the business.”  I thought for a moment and added, “And, she rides a Harley Davidson motorcycle.”  Tanaka grinned.  “She sounds like my kind of woman,” he said.  “I’m feeling better about this interview thing.”  During the balance of the trip, I brought Tanaka up to date on the movie, told him who the confirmed stars would be, and gave him some background information on the producer and director whom he would be meeting shortly.

We arrived at the outer office about fifteen minutes early.  Cathy Henderson greeted us.  “They’ll be ready for us in about two minutes,” she said, “Go ahead and have a seat.”  “Who are ‘they’?” Tanaka asked.  “The producer, Frank Capra, Jr. and the director, Steve Carver,” I answered.  I put my hand on Tanaka’s shoulder.  “Tanaka,” I said, “I think it’s better if I wait for you out here.  You don’t need me in there for your interview.  You’ll be fine.”  “No,” Tanaka said, his eyes slightly larger for a moment.  “No, I want you with me.”  “As your … manager?” I asked.  “No,” Tanaka smiled.  “I’ll tell them you’re my bodyguard.”  The famous Toru Tanaka sense of humor was alive and well.  I knew he would “get over,” as we say in the wrestling business.

A few minutes later, we were in a large meeting room.  “In this room,” I thought, “are two of the top casting directors in the world, along with two living legends – producer/director Frank Capra, Jr. … and Toru Tanaka, the internationally known wrestling superstar.”  I smiled.  There were definitely some powerful people in that room!  I knew that during the next twenty-four hours Tanaka would be recognized and asked for his autograph dozens of times, I would be asked a few times, and the other four powerful people would not be asked at all.  It was a strange reality.  I directed my attention back to Frank Capra.  He was obviously in charge, and he asked most of the questions. 

Tanaka handled himself very well and grew increasingly comfortable with the situation.  I knew it was “Tanaka’s show,” so I chimed in only when I thought it was necessary.  This was my first meeting with director Steve Carver, so I wasn’t surprised when he asked, “And, who are you, Rock?  Are you Tanaka’s manager?”  Before I could answer, Tanaka said, “No, Rock is my personal bodyguard.”  Steve accepted the answer saying, “Oh, okay,” and turned his attention back to Frank Capra, who had the next question.  The director totally believed that I was the bodyguard of a man most people considered to be the toughest man on the planet – a man who outweighed me by over a hundred pounds of mostly massive muscle.  Tanaka and I couldn’t help but laugh.  I must have immediately bonded with director Steve Carver when I let him know that Tanaka was kidding.  “I’m actually here to protect you from Tanaka,” I said to the director with a smile on my face.  “Tanaka doesn’t take rejection well, so just in case you decided to go with someone else, I wanted to be here for you.”  My smile was now a grin.  In fact, everyone in the room was now in on the joke and smiling. 

Interestingly enough, the movie script had actually called for someone totally unlike Tanaka to play the role.  But, once the producers met him, discovered his personality and experienced his sense of humor, Tanaka was hired.  It was the first of dozens of co-starring roles for him.  As they say, the rest is history.  And, yes, I will share more of that history with you next week.  I’ll tell you about this first film and I’ll let you know who the producers originally wanted for the role.  I think you’ll be surprised.  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.

Previous Column Wrestling Revue Home Page Next Column


Live Seminar Events Rock Riddle Bio Marketing-Promotion-PR Calendar of Events

Copyright © 2014 -- APS Entertainment, Hollywood Success and Rock Riddle -- All Rights Reserved
APS Entertainment, 6464 Sunset Blvd., Suite 740, Hollywood, CA  90028
Serving the Entertainment Industry Since 1978 -- Same address and phone for over 28 years
(323) 462-2777  --  e-mail:  Rock @ HollywoodSuccess.com

Home ] Up ]