Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Original Date of Publication:   August 3, 2006

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

Many people claim to have inside and even intimate knowledge of professional wrestling.  Unless these people have actually stepped inside a professional wrestling ring and competed, unless they have actually lived the life of a real professional wrestler, they do NOT know the wrestling business.  Only a few thousand people on the planet have actually lived the life, and only a few hundred of them ever achieved international main-event status.  Of those few hundred main-eventers, a few dozen have written about their experiences in the world of professional wrestling.  I am fortunate to be one of those very few.  As far as I know, I am the only professional wrestler to write a weekly wrestling newspaper column.  I consider this to be a great opportunity.  I believe that along with great opportunity goes great responsibility – responsibility to be honest and insightful with the readers.  For the hundreds of professional wrestlers who read this column, my objective is to bring smiles (and occasionally tears) to their faces; to reminisce; and to share some of their amazing experiences with the “outside world.”  For the majority of readers (non-professional wrestlers, fans, and those who simply enjoy the column), my purpose is to take you, as deeply as is possible, into the wonderful world of professional wrestling.  One of the greatest compliments I have gotten on this column is from a fellow wrestler who said, “It’s the next best thing to actually climbing into the ring.”  I’m very proud of that statement.

Many of the early professional wrestlers began by working in carnivals.  The carnivals would go town-to-town touting their wrestler, who would take on all comers.  Anyone who could beat the wrestler would win $50 or $100 or $500 or $1000.  The carnival wrestlers would make very short work of the “marks.”  “Mark” was the carnival term for the locals.  You’ve heard the term, “an easy mark.”  Carnival people were a family that lived in their own world.  The outsiders (the “marks”) never stood a chance.  No matter how good the “local boy” was – whether he was a lumberjack, bodybuilder, martial artist, or collegiate wrestling champion – he stood no chance of pinning the shoulders of the carnival’s “pro” wrestler.  These amazingly talented and tremendously tough individuals made the transition to real professional wrestling.  All of wrestling’s legends and most of today’s professionals still speak and understand “carnie,” a language created by carnival people that the “marks” wouldn’t understand.  It is equivalent to an adult spelling a word when he or she does not want a young child to comprehend what is being discussed.

The carnival “wrestling challenge” carried over into professional wrestling.  Many wrestlers had open challenges to the fans.  Five thousand dollars to anyone who could break the sleeper hold of Tim “Mr. Wrestling” Woods, for example.  It was extremely rare that anyone could even last more than thirty seconds in the ring with a professional wrestler.  In fact, I know of only one instance, out of hundreds, where the wrestler was not in absolute control.  That incident involved the amazing masked wrestler known as Mr. Wrestling.

Some of the fans questioned whether a “sleeper hold” would actually put someone out.  “Oh, that’s not real,” some would say, “You can’t really make somebody go to sleep with that hold.”  To wrestlers like Tim Woods, it was all about “protecting the business.”  Mr. Wrestling would take people from the audience on television and at live “house” matches.  The referee would ask both people if they were ready, and the contest would begin.  Tim would apply his sleeper hold.   It only took a few seconds for the “mark” to lose consciousness – except on one specific, horrifying occasion.

“You don’t want to take on this psycho, Tim,” the other wrestlers warned.  “The guy’s seriously crazy.  He’s dangerous.  Let’s get him out of the arena, and you can take on somebody else.”  Tim Woods was an amazingly good, totally competent wrestler who feared no one.  “It’s fine,” Tim said, “I’ll put him out fast.”  Since they could not talk Tim out of accepting the challenge, the management/promotion reluctantly agreed.  The very large, very scary local man was allowed into the ring.  Tim got behind him in position for his famous sleeper hold.  The referee looked at Tim.  “Are you ready,” he asked.  “Ready,” Tim replied.  The referee looked at the local.  “And, are you ready?” he asked.  The challenger said, “Yeah,” grabbed Tim’s hand, pulled it to his mouth, bit off one of Tim’s fingers and spat it at him.  Tim Woods lost a finger and $5,000 that night. 

When East Coast wrestling promoter Vince McMahon (the “Old Man”) passed away, his son Vince McMahon, Jr. took over and changed wrestling forever.  It went from “professional wrestling” to “sports entertainment.”  As a result, fans got a few little glimpses into the “inside” of the “new” wrestling world.  The fans were still “marks,” but they thought they were “smart” as to the innermost workings of the business – after all, they had been privy to a tiny bit of insight.  These people are now known as “smarks” – a word derived from two words that are a total contradiction in terms.  The new classification basically means a “knowledgeable ignorant person.”  The “smarks” like to impress each other with how knowledgeable they are about the wrestling business.  We, the real professional wrestlers who have lived it, simply smile and shake out heads in disbelief.  They have a tiny little bit of insight as to what it has become, but they will never know professional wrestling – unless and until they actually step into the ring.  My goal is to give them and all of my readers real insight.  Once true insight is gained, respect for our wonderful business automatically follows.

Next week, I’ll take you on the road, into the arenas, the dressing rooms, and the ring.  I’ll answer reader Nelson Collier’s question, “What were your most serious injuries in the ring?  Did you really have two teeth knocked out with a metal chair?”  In future columns, we’ll talk more about my friend Andre the Giant, creating and living the image, my biggest regrets, the most dangerous wrestlers, the best wrestlers, the toughest wrestlers, the wrestling bear that was locked in a jail cell, J.C. Dykes and his Infernos, the money we made, $300 tips for the waitress, picking up hitchhikers, Verne Gagne’s plane – and why the wrestlers refused to fly in it, 6:00 AM workouts with Roddy Piper, death threats, disarming fans, fear in the arena, and much more.  Until then, 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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