Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Originally published April 27, 2006

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

 

I especially enjoyed wrestling out of the “San Francisco office” for promoter Roy Shire.  His promotion covered all of Northern California, along with Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada.  Many of the world’s greatest professionals wrestled for this promotion – Pat Patterson, Ray Stevens, Rocky Johnson, Cowboy Bob Ellis, Kinji Shibuya, Red Bastien, Pepper Gomez, Pepper Martin, Terry Garvin, Lars Anderson, Superstar Billy Graham, Moondog Mayne, Ripper Collins, Dick Murdoch, Paul DeMarco, The Great Mephisto, Peter Maivia, Buddy Rose, The Samoans, Mando & Chavo Guerrero, Professor Toru Tanaka, The Great Fuji, Roddy Piper, Don Muraco, and dozens more.  Every Wednesday we would receive our “booking slips” for the following week.  They listed upcoming dates and towns where we were booked to wrestle.  They never contained any additional information – like who our opponents would be, for example.  It was very rare when we knew ahead of time whom we would be wrestling.  And, we really didn’t care.  Our attitude was, “If you know how to wrestle, you can wrestle anybody.”  If that statement surprises you, sit down for this one:  In my entire career as a professional wrestler, I never set foot in a wrestling ring unless it was for a scheduled match, with a live audience, for which I was paid.  In other words, I never “trained” or “practiced” in the ring.  None of us did.

It was a welcome sight when I saw “Las Vegas” on my booking slip.  The promotion paid for round-trip airfare when we wrestled in Vegas.  It was like a day off, a paid mini-vacation. -- The Silver Slipper Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada:  I was in the dressing room early, as usual.  I had my tights, trunks, and wrestling boots on under my street clothes.  Some of the biggest names in the sport were on the card that night.  I assumed that I would be wrestling mid-card – maybe the second or third match.  The “matchmaker” (a.k.a. the “booker”) walked into the dressing room.  “Do I have time to go downstairs and lose a role of nickels?” I asked.  “Sure,” he said, “you’re on last.  You’re main event.”  Everybody in the wrestling business seems to be a comedian; I figured I’d get the real answer later on.  I expected to eventually hear something like, “Yeah, Riddle, you’re main event.  And, tonight the main event is going on second.”  In other words, in that example, I would be the second opening match – one of the preliminary matches.

I went down to the casino floor, fed my role of nickels into the slot machines, and hurried back to the arena.  I found the booker and asked again, “When am I on tonight?”  He replied, “Oh, I thought I told you.  You’re on last.  You’re main event.  You’re wrestling the bear.”  I don’t know that I really expected a straight answer.  After all, this was the wrestling business.  An hour passed, and the semi-final event was about to go into the ring.  “Is this me?” I asked the booker.  “No, Rock,” he said, “You’re main event.  You’re wrestling the bear.  Now, go down to his dressing room and talk with the trainer.”  It finally became apparent that he was serious.

I had never wrestled a bear.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to.  But, I had an open contract, which meant that the promoter could match me up with anyone (or anything) he wanted.  I went down the hall and knocked on the bear’s dressing room door.  “Come on in, Rock,” the trainer said.  “I’m Tuffy Truesdale.  Let me introduce you to my protégé.  This is Brutus.”  I found myself staring at a 550-pound live bear.  “Brutus has been touring California for the past few weeks,” the trainer continued.  “It’s been raining there, and Brutus doesn’t like the rain.  He’s been a little irritable.  He was supposed to wrestle the German guys tonight, but they wrestled him last week and they got hurt.  They refused to get in the ring with him again, so tonight’s your lucky night, Rock”  “Great,” I thought, “The bear has been hurting wrestlers in the ring, and now it’s my turn.  Oh, joy.”  Tuffy continued, “Brutus can do just about anything a human wrestler can do, only Brutus does it better.  When you tie up with him, make sure you keep your hands in a fist.  If you get a finger near his mouth, he’ll bite it off.  He’s not being mean.  It’s instinctual.”  “Great,” I thought.  “Make a note to yourself, Rock.  Make fists when tying up.  Good point.”  “Now, when the bell rings,” Tuffy continued, “be aggressive.  Brutus loves it when you’re really aggressive.  If you hold back, he gets bored.  Rock, he weighs 550 pounds.  If he gets bored and decides to leave the ring, we can’t stop him.”

Rock Riddle vs. Pepper Martin

It was time.  I entered the ring.  I looked at Brutus … and I smiled.  I was home now … the bear was on “my turf” … and, somewhat surprisingly, I felt absolutely no fear.  In fact, I was anxious to get the match underway.  The bell rang.  I was aggressive – very aggressive.  Brutus loved it.  He quickly backed away, lifting his legs as I attempted to hook them.  When he stood up, he was considerably taller than I.  He grabbed me under my left arm, lifted me several feet off the mat and threw me more than half way across the ring.  I put a reverse headlock on him, and he threw me over his back to the mat.  No matter what I tried, he had a dramatic counter-move.  Brutus was great.  His trainer was right; this bear was a better wrestler than many of my human opponents.  We had an amazing match.  We both enjoyed it immensely.  After about ten minutes, Brutus cocked his head to the side and smiled.  Then he took me down hard, pressed his 550 pounds on my chest and shoulders . . . and licked me in the face as the referee counted one … two … three.  I believe both Brutus and I left the ring happy, content and with mutual respect for a new “friend.” 

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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