Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Scheduled Publication Date:   January 4, 2007

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

If you were in the presence of professional wrestlers and were to say something nice about a highly successful non-wrestler – for example, a major movie star or the president of a country -- you would most likely to be met with, “He’s nothing!  He never beat anybody!”  It was a statement which was one-third joke and two-thirds actual belief.  To us, the wrestling world was real and the outside or so-called “real” world was totally fixed.  The conspiracy theorists had nothing on the wrestlers.  It was more obvious to us than anyone; we knew the public was being manipulated.    

There was usually a monitor in the dressing rooms for the TV tapings.  When the “news” was on, we would make a game of deciphering it.  “Hey, watch this, guys,” one of the wrestlers would say, pointing at the TV monitor.  At a certain point, there would be a collective, “Ooooh, yes, there’s the ‘swerve.’”  Usually it would be obvious to us, at that point, what the “hidden agenda” was.  The purpose of their “manipulation” became blatantly clear.  We found it amusing that the “zombified” public never “got it.”

I had figured it out even before I entered the world of professional wrestling.  I had very little interest in the watching the “news,” but when I did, I asked myself two questions:  (1) “What do the want the masses to believe by presenting the ‘story’ in such a manner?” and (2) “Who benefits financially and/or power-wise if the public believes it?”  Unfortunately, it was usually very easy to answer the questions.  Others would say that I and the other wrestlers were jaded and cynical.  We knew we were simply realists.  Our world was the world of professional wrestling – the trusted world.  We knew enough to never quite trust the “outside world.”

What kept us happy and balanced was our highly developed sense of humor.  Seeing humor in all situations helps us to appreciate the gift of life we have all been given.  As professional wrestlers, we put our lives at risk every time we climb into the squared circle.  Injuries and death are a very real part of the business.  In professions where the possibility of serious injury and death exists, highly developed senses of humor also exist.  Among the most extreme are the classic senses of humor possessed by professional wrestlers.  We see humor in everything.  We regularly play “ribs” (jokes) on the other wrestlers.  Yes, we take ourselves seriously, but we never take ourselves too seriously.

In the AWA (American Wrestling Association) I met the one man whose sense of humor surpasses all others.  He was already a legend in our business.  He was the funniest person I had ever met, and he still is.  I had the pleasure of spending time in dressing rooms, on the road, and even in the ring with this amazing icon of professional wrestling.  I am honored to call this man a friend.  Even non-fans know his name:  Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. 

I had the opportunity to do a televised interview with Bobby at a CAC Wrestlers’ Yearly Reunion and Awards Dinner at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Bobby and I were in front of the cameras.  Before we officially started, I introduced our director of photography.  “This is Peter Redford, producer, director, and cinematographer …” Peter interrupted his introduction with one word, “Rolling.”  Immediately I began Bobby’s introduction.  “Oh, yes!  I would like to introduce to you – for those people who do not know who this man is – This is a true ‘great’ in the world of professional wrestling, a living legend and a good friend.  And, someone I have admired for an awfully long time, Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan.  Bobby, it’s so good to see you.”  The consummate professional and comedic genius that he is, Bobby replied, “Well, Rock, thank you.  Very nice comments, and, no, I won’t co-sign for a car for you.”  I gave Bobby a questioning look.  “Oh, okay,” I said, “forget it.”  We both walked off-camera in opposite directions.

This was producer Peter Redford’s first up-close encounter with professional wrestlers.  Somewhat bewildered, he was rapidly shifting his attention to me, then to Bobby, then to me, seemingly at a loss as to what to do.  Both Bobby and I smiled.  If Peter reacted, so would the fans who saw the tape.  We came back to our respective positions in front of the camera to continue the interview.  “Bobby,” I began, “we’re in the development phase of producing a feature film about late 1970s professional wrestling – the way it used to be, the camaraderie, the friendship, the family – all of the stuff we had before wrestling became whatever it is now.  So, Bobby, would you share with the people, especially the people under thirty, who have no idea what professional wrestling was, some of the feelings about that era?”

Bobby was now in a serious frame of mind.  “Well,” he responded.  “I’d be glad to.  I can only do it one way.  I can only tell the truth.”  “Absolutely,” I responded, letting him know it was totally okay to be blatantly and even brutally honest.  Bobby continued, “When you were talking about the camaraderie and everything; there wasn’t as much of that camaraderie as far as I was concerned.  ‘Cause, the way I looked at it, everybody wanted your job and my job.  You see, in baseball it’s a team.  We’re not teams; we’re individuals.  Everybody wants to be World’s Champion.  Everybody wants to make that money.  And if that guy [the champion] falls down and breaks his leg, they’ll help him up so they can walk over him so that they can get that title shot.  That’s just the way it is.  There’s no team effort here.  There’s no team spirit.  You don’t win a ring or anything, and everybody’s out for themselves.” 

I was a little surprised by Bobby’s reaction.  I raised an eyebrow.  “But, when a guy gets in trouble sometimes,” Bobby continued, “or needs a helping hand, yeah, we go help the guy.  But, basically, it’s cut-throat business.”  Next week, I’ll continue the interview.  It gets more and more interesting as it progresses.  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."

© 2006 Rock Riddle & Hollywood Success.

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