Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Original Date of Publication:   August 17, 2006

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

ANDRE THE GIANT was a beautiful human being, and, I’m proud to say, a friend.  Standing nearly 7’5” tall and weighing 550 pounds, Andre certainly stood out from the crowd – and in more ways than one.  His kindness was legendary.   His friendship was unshakable.  His sense of humor was wonderful.  And, his word was his bond. 

Professional wrestling was a world of its own, unlike anything else.  It had its own rules and its own boundaries, which were very different from those of the “outside” world.  If Andre had chosen any career other than professional wrestling, he would have been perceived of as a “freak.”  As a professional wrestler, however, he was simply a welcomed member of our close-knit world-wide wrestling family.  Billed as the “eighth wonder of the world,” Andre quickly became a “larger-than-life” international celebrity.  He was accepted and loved by hundreds of millions of people all over the world.

I remember sharing a dressing room with Andre and a dozen or so additional wrestlers on countless occasions.   A representative night might have seen the following wrestlers together:  Andre the Giant (a Frenchman); Black, White, and Asian dwarfs; a Puerto Rican; a Mexican; an African American or two; an Arab; a 400-pounder from Uganda with a shield and face mask; a couple of huge guys from Samoa; and usually at least one bleached blond, heavily-tanned bodybuilder type.  The world of professional wrestling existed within a larger, prejudicial world.  Yet, there seemed to be no prejudice in the wrestling community at all.  All who earned the right to be called “professional wrestlers” were accepted and welcomed into our family.  And, what a beautiful family it was – and is. 

Today’s edition represents the six-month anniversary of this column.  I am delighted to see the growth in readership and the ever-increasing amount of cards, letters, and email that it is generating.  This column continues to encourage your wrestling-related questions.  The more interesting ones will be answered here.  For example, Jimmy Roberts wanted to know how my wrestling image came about.  I had been a wrestling fan since I was fourteen.  At age sixteen, I knew I would become a professional wrestler, and I started working on my image at that point.  Some of the wrestlers I watched bored me.  They were bland, and their plain tights and basic boring ring attire added to their blandness.  But, then there were some amazingly brilliant, colorful, fascinating, exciting wrestlers – such as the legendary Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson.  They were larger than life with their bleached blond hair and their colorful outfits.  I loved the idea of colorful outfits and blond hair.  I could never envision myself as a professional wrestler without blond hair.  I tried bleaching my hair when I was a fan.  It turned out red.  I bleached it two more times, and it turned out orange – at least the part that didn’t break off from the three bleaching attempts.  I remember going to the matches in Greensboro, North Carolina with that orange hair.  I was standing outside of the dressing room door talking to my ultimate wrestling hero, Rip Hawk.  I was probably fifteen years old at the time.  Rip cocked his head to the side and asked what I had done to my hair.  “I tried to bleach it blond like you and Swede,” I confessed, “and it came out this color.” 

Rip Hawk was enormously influential in my life.  Had it not been for him, I seriously doubt whether I would have ever had the desire to enter the wonderful world of professional wrestling.  Rip was one of the best professional wrestlers on the planet.  His sense of humor was extraordinary.  I will always be grateful that this major international wrestling talent took the time to encourage and guide me.  I weighed 135 pounds when I told Rip I was going to be a professional wrestler.  He didn’t talk about how impossible it would be.  As far as I could see, he never doubted me for a moment.  Maybe he saw my level of conviction.  He didn’t look at my ragged orange hair and tell me how silly it looked.  He, instead, came to my rescue.  He said, “Give it a few days for your scalp to heal before you do anything else.  Then get Lady Clairol Ultra Blue.  That’s what Swede and I use.”  I waited another day, bought the Ultra Blue from the local drug store, and successfully created the exact color I wanted.

I “borrowed” some of the absolute best features from those whom I considered to be the best of the best.  I enhanced what I borrowed, added quite a few original ideas, and made it my own.  Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson had short blond hair.  I grew mine long.  I could come across more arrogantly, I deducted, with long blond hair.  For a little more extreme and esthetically-pleasing look, I also bleached my eyebrows.  I liked the idea of wearing a long robe into the ring, but it had to be different.  All of my robes, therefore, were custom-designed velvet creations.  “Mr. Wonderful” was emblazoned across the back and they were lined with bright-colored silk.  The finishing touch was the narrow, one-piece wrap-around sunglasses.

Creating the ultimate wrestling character was easy.  I simply put together the ultimate wrestler – the wrestler whom I would want to watch wrestle over and over and over.  I created the cocky, condescending, arrogant, better-than-anybody-else.  “Mr. Wonderful” character.  I fell in love with the character I had created, and I became that character.  I lived that character for most of the eight and a half years I wrestled professionally.  Even today, I think my original wrestling creation was one of the best ever. 

A friend recently asked, “Rock, what was your biggest regret in the wrestling business?”  I didn’t hesitate for a moment.   “My biggest regret, I replied, “is that I could not sit front row ringside and watch myself wrestle.”  My friend smiled.  She thought I was kidding.  “No, seriously,” I continued, “that is the one thing I could never do.  And, I really wanted to.  Rock ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Riddle was my creation.  I created the ultimate wrestler for myself, and I never had the chance to watch my creation in person.”  “That’s pretty cool,” she said, “to be a fan of your own work to that extent.”  She smiled. “Or, maybe, you’re just a very, very strange person.”  I really couldn’t dispute either of her conclusions.  Until next week, keep those emails 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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