Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Initial Publication Date:   July 5, 2007

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

Last week, I introduced you to Dave Hillhouse, a writer for “SLAM! Wrestling.”  I shared information on his hour-plus interview with me.  I took you to the Forty-Second Annual CAC Awards Banquet and let you peek at the Rock Riddle tribute Hillhouse had written for the magazine-style program.  I shared much of his narrative with you.  He had written what I felt to be a fair and accurate representation of me and the award I was to receive.  If you missed last week’s column (Rock Riddle’s Wrestling Revue #70), you can read it in its entirety on www.HollywoodSuccess.com.  In fact, you’ll find all seventy-one stories there.  Many are accompanied by photographs that were not included with the newspaper columns.

Hillhouse shared a good deal of insight with his readers, and finished his story with these words:  “Riddle feels truly privileged to be receiving the Reel Honoree award, and considers himself, in terms of acting influence, undeserving to share a spot on a list that includes Sylvester Stallone and Kirk Douglas. ‘I truly do not feel worthy accepting an award for my acting ability,’ Riddle explains.  When the award is put into context, however, that it honors a person’s ability to leave their mark both in the ring and on the screen, it becomes apparent that the list would be incomplete without Rock Riddle getting his due.”

In the fifty-three year history of the CAC, less than sixty-five people have received the prestigious Reel Honoree Award.  Prior to 1992, the award was presented to Richard Arlen, Charles Bronson, Tom Brown, Pat Buttram, Jimmy Cagney, Rory Calhoun, David Carradine, Anthony Caruso, Robert Conrad, Billy Curtis, Royal Dano, Michael Dante, John Doucette, Kirk Douglas, Richard Egan, Abel Fernandez, Harry Guardino, The Great John L., Mauricio Jara, Alex Karras, Gene LeBell, Karl Malden, Harvey Parry, George Raft, Aldo Ray, Charles “Buddy” Rogers, Cesar Romero, Mickey Rooney, Robert Sacchi, Sylvester Stallone, Roy Thinnes and Richard Webb.  In 1992, six people received the award:  Harry Carey Jr., John Agar, Guy Madison, John Philip Law, Will Hutchins, and Woody Strode.  In 1993, there were four honorees:  Binnie Barnes, Marie Windsor, Jan Merlin, and John Saxon.  1994 also saw four recipients:  Denver Pyle, Beverly Garland, Norm Crosby, and John Smith.  Lawrence Tierney and Fred Williamson won in 1995, and Elliot Gould, Tommy Sands and Terry “Mrs. Howard Hughes” Moore shared the honor in 1996.  Marion Ross and Robert Forster were
1997’s honorees.  Next were 2000’s winners, Joe Don Baker and Joe Roselius.  In 2001, Stan Shaw and Tommy “Butch” Bond took the honor with Don Stroud being the sole honoree in 2002.  In 2003, Roddy Piper and Mimi Lesseos were honored.  There was no award presented in 2004, but Alan Koss was the honoree in 2005, Scott L. Schwartz in 2006, and Rock Riddle in 2007.  And there you have it, the complete history of the Reel Honoree Award.  And, yes, it’s true:  When talking with the press after receiving the honor, I held my prize high, smiled inwardly, and said, “Yes, here it is:  The First Annual Rock Riddle Award.”

I’m going to switch gears now and answer a reader’s question.  J. David Shatterly, who says he’s been reading these columns regularly since their inception (Way to go, David!) asks, “When did you first begin developing your ‘bad guy’ persona and why, how long did it take for you to perfect it, and how difficult was it to separate the image from the person?”  Wow!  What a great insightful question!

My “bad guy” wrestling personality actually began to develop several years before I saw my first wrestling match.  I was a rotten, rebellious kid who felt trapped in a backward country town.  I was a smart kid.  I knew I was smart and I knew my future was not in what I called “Bore-Ling-Village.”  “Small-town thinking,” in my estimation,
was simply an excuse for the ignorant, boring, passionless people to stay that way.  I wanted out, but I was trapped.  I felt invisible in an insignificant, meaningless little town in the middle of nowhere.  I became angry and intellectually condescending.  I bragged to my very few friends, “I can insult someone so well that they won’t even know they’ve been insulted until they go home and think about it for a day or two.”  When I was twelve or thirteen, I remember my mother making an exasperated statement to me in the form of a question.  “You think you’re better than everybody here in Burlington, don’t you?” she asked.  “Not at all,” I replied, pausing for a second before I continued.  “I know I am.”  The seeds for my future wrestling heel personality had been planted.  I would go on to care for those seeds, nourish the resulting little sprouts, and carefully foster the growth of what would eventually become the “I’m-better-that-everybody-especially-you” professional wrestling persona.

When I was fourteen, my life changed.  I saw my first professional wrestling match, and a brand-new world opened.  Finally I had an exciting new direction in which to channel my
anger, utilize my wit, and exercise my extreme sense of humor.  I began a fan club for wrestlers Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson, the most hated duo in the Mid-Atlantic States.  I sat front row ringside, cheering for the despised “blond bombers” while booing and insulting their sickeningly sweet, crowd-favorite opponents.  My antics were responsible for more than one small-scale riot. On several occasions, police had to escort me from the arenas to avoid my annihilation at the hands of out-of-control, beyond-hostile crowds. I vividly remember thinking, “This is awesome.  These idiots want to kill me.  They know I’m better than they are.  They know when I insult them, that I’m right.  I’m not invisible anymore.  In fact, I’m the center of attention.  Hawk and Hanson didn’t cause the riot; I did!  Finally, I have power!”  It was the exhilarating feeling of freedom I had desperately sought for years.

Even though I was only a skinny teenager, I fantasized about becoming a professional wrestler.  I watched myself in the mirror, doing mock interviews.  It wasn’t long before I realized that my improvised interviews were as good as the ones the pros were doing on TV.  As I continued “practicing,” I became aware that a growing number of my interviews were actually better than the televised ones.  On my sixteenth birthday, I got serious about my upcoming career.  I studied every aspect of the game, especially the “image” that the top professionals projected.  Rip Hawk was my role model and I built my character from that solid foundation.  But, I took it farther.  I asked myself, “If I could create the perfect bad-guy wrestler, a wrestler I would love to watch, who would that wrestler be?”  I set out to craft that exact individual – the ultimate professional wrestler whose career I would love to follow.  I created the character.  I became Mister Wonderful, the cocky, arrogant, condescending yet witty bad-guy wrestler who looked down his nose at the inferior common people.  Masterful on the microphone, exceptional in the ring, and encompassing every quality I felt the ultimate wrestling character should possess, I created and became my own hero.  My only regret was that I was never able to sit front row ringside and watch myself perform in the ring.  I truly loved my creation … More next week.  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."

© 2007 Rock Riddle & Hollywood Success.

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