Rock Riddle in "Paradise
I was working out at the old Holiday
Health Club, about a block west of
Hollywood’s famous Chinese
Theatre. From somewhere behind me, I heard a voice, “Mind if I
work in with you?” I looked around to see a guy in his late
20’s wearing boxing trunks. I tried not to smile. I said,
“Sure, be my guest.” “Hey, you’re the wrestler on TV,” my new
workout buddy offered. “Yes,” I responded, “and you are a
boxer?” “Ah, yeah, a boxer,” he replied, “The name’s
Stallone.” It took all of my willpower to keep from smiling
when he told me his first name was “Sylvester.” He would prove
to be one very interesting guy.
Through our numerous discussions over the weeks and months that
followed, I developed a great respect and an admiration for this
man. He possessed a great wit and a sense of humor even more
extreme than my own. And, he was a huge wrestling fan. Sly, of
course, would go on to complete “Rocky”, win the coveted Academy
Award, and become one of the best-known
actors of all time. Yes, I was able to witness the birth of a
major international superstar. ”It couldn’t happen to a more
deserving guy,” I thought. I was happy for him; I still am.
Sylvester Stallone and
Not too many months passed before Sly presented me with a
business proposal. “Rock,” he said, “I’m going to do a movie
about wrestling called ‘Hell’s Kitchen’. I’d like you to do the
choreography for the matches.” “Sure,” I said, “Give me a
decent role, and I’ll be happy to do it.” He told me he already
had a good role in mind for me. “Cool,” I thought, “I’m going
to be co-starring in a wrestling movie with Sly Stallone. It
doesn’t get much better than that.” Ah . . . yes . . . but
things would change when Sly discovered how it would be to
climb into the ring with real
We were in the gym again. Sly had a concerned look on his face,
one I had not seen before. “Rock,” he said, “Some things have
happened. I had to change the script. I told you you’re going
to be in the movie, and you still
are. Only, it’s not going to be the big part.” “Okay,” I
said. I was a little disappointed, but it wasn’t a big deal.
“After all,” I thought, “Sly is the writer and the director.
It’s his baby. If he says it needs to change, that’s okay. I’m
fine with whatever’s best for the project.” That’s always been
my attitude in business.
Rock Riddle and Gene
LeBell -- 2005
Sly said, “You see, Rock, I met with
Gene LeBell.” “Okay, that explains it,” I interrupted, “What
did he do to
you?” “Well, he told me to choke him,” Sly replied,
“So I did. Then he said, ‘No, I mean really choke me.’ I gave
it all I had, and the guy just stared at me with a sneer on his
face. Then he showed me . . . a few
moves.” “Okay, I understand,” I said, “Gene didn’t hurt you,
but he made it obvious that he could, very easily, right?”
“Yeah,” Sly admitted, “You see, Rock. I was going to have to
work with real wrestlers, and I simply can’t take the chance of
getting hurt. So, I changed the script. Now, I’m going to be
the brother to the wrestler. I got this guy, Lee Canalito, to
play the wrestler part. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s gonna be
great. And, I changed the title to ‘Paradise Alley.’ So, now
it turns out that Terry Funk will probably be doing a big
role.” "So, Terry Funk got my role,"
I thought. Well, that was
okay. Terry was (and is) a great, deserving guy. He’s a true
living legend and a friend. Terry accepted
the starring role of ‘Frankie the Thumper,’
and he did it brilliantly. Nobody
else could have come close to what Terry Funk brought to that role.
Terry Funk and Rock
Riddle -- 2005
Our conversation continued to center around
my friend Terry Funk.
“Rock,” Sly began with a questioning look on his face, “I’m on
the cover of every magazine, I’ve won an Academy Award, you
know?” “Yes,” I responded, “Everybody in the world knows who
you are.” “Yeah,” Sly continued, “I guess so. So, I’m in Texas
with Terry Funk. We’re in public, people see us, they get
excited, rush towards us, and they basically push me out of the
way to get to Terry.” “And, you want to know why that is?” I
asked. “Yeah,” Sly admitted. “Well, Sly,” I explained, “you
see; you are ‘only’ a movie star. Terry Funk is real.” Sly had
the strangest look on his face, but he “got it.” He totally
understood. I think Sly always wanted
to be a professional wrestler. He’s actually
done the next best thing; he’s been accepted by the
professional wrestling world as one of their own, and he was
publicly honored by wrestling’s premiere fraternity, The
Cauliflower Alley Club.
Next week, in PART TWO, you’ll be taken onto the set of
“Paradise Alley” with many of the greats of the wrestling
business: Bob Roop, Red Bastien, Ted DiBiase, Dory Funk Jr.,
Don Leo Jonathan, Jay “The Alaskan” York, Ray Stevens, Dick
Murdoch, Gene Kiniski, Terry Funk, and yours truly, Rock
Riddle. You’ll read a never-before-divulged
true story about Sly Stallone, his elbow, a TV show,
professional wrestling, how they all fit together...
and much more.
Don Leo Jonathan
Dory Funk, Jr.