Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Original Date of Publication:   June 1, 2006

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

Western Florida was experiencing an extreme heat wave.  The small, cramped, standing-room-only arena had no air conditioning and very little ventilation.  It would be a great night for beverage sales, but it would be a grueling, difficult, and extremely physically demanding night for the wrestlers.   Thankfully, there were metal tubs full of iced beer, soft drinks, water, and juices in the dressing rooms.  The wrestlers had to hydrate themselves -- It was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the building and it was humid.  As I entered the ring that night, I felt a noticeable increase in temperature.  I looked up at the enormous, old-style lights.  Not only were they doing a good job of illuminating the ring, but they were also doing an excellent job of heating it!

I was sweating profusely, even before I entered the ring.  I hoped that I had taken enough liquids to get me through the match.  I knew, only too well, what this kind of heat and humidity could do to a wrestler.  Four days earlier, I had wrestled to a one-hour draw in similar conditions – and literally lost 17 pounds of bodyweight during that match!

I looked across the arena and saw my opponent heading towards the ring.  It was Billy Blue River, the man whom I had wrestled in my “first ever” professional match.  I had beaten Blue River in that historic first match; I had used an elbow drop that caused him to “see stars” for a time afterwards.   Wrestlers are like elephants; they don’t forget.  When a wrestler is injured in the ring, he will usually “return the favor” when the opportunity presents itself.  “Receipts” and “pay-backs” are a part of the wrestling business.   I realized that this could be Blue Rivers’ “pay-back” opportunity.

It was a good match, albeit a long and grueling one.  Nothing out of the ordinary took place until after the thirty-minute mark.  Blue River had maneuvered me into a sitting position.  He was behind me with a reverse chin lock and a knee in my back.  That’s when it happened – multiple rapid slaps and strikes to the right side of my face.  By the time I was able to gain control of the situation, the entire right side of my face was swelling and my right eardrum had been ruptured.  By the time I left the ring, my right eye was almost swollen shut. 

I had to walk past Blue River’s dressing room to get to my own.  The door was open.  He stared at me with the strangest look of bewilderment on his face.  “Jesus, Rock,” he asked, “What happened to you?”  Everything I knew about the man told me that what I was hearing was sincere.  “Blue River is not that good an actor, Rock,” I said to myself.  “Is it possible that he really is unaware of what he did?”  I must have presented a very strange appearance at that moment, especially with a look of astonishment and disbelief on my increasingly swollen face.  I answered his “what happened to you” question in a soft voice with these simple words: “You did.”  I frowned as I headed to my dressing room.  I didn’t understand.  “Was it a payback?” I wondered.  “Or, was it a combination of a few beers before a grueling match in extreme heat?  Could this man have actually ‘blacked out’ in the ring and not known what had happened?”  I never asked Blue River what happened that night.  Whether it was a “payback” or an out-of-control “accident” doesn’t really matter.  Either is equally acceptable. 

It was part of the Wrestler’s Creed.  It was never spoken; it was simply experienced and understood.  Jay York wrestled all over the world as “The Alaskan,” and he was an exceptionally good wrestler.  I first met him and had my picture taken with him when I was 14 years old.  Although he didn’t particularly enjoy it when I showed people that picture, he did appreciate our friendship and my mutual love of the wrestling business.  Jay must have had an allergy, because sometimes he would use an asthma-type inhaler.  He would take a breath from the inhaler before and after his matches.  Johnny Valentine, like most of the wrestlers, loved pulling “ribs” on the guys.  While Jay York was wrestling, Johnny replaced the liquid in Jay’s inhaler with rubbing alcohol.  Jay came in, inhaled deeply – and reacted as though he were about to die.  In fact, one of the wrestlers had already headed down the hallway to call 911 when Jay began to get back to his feet.  We were relieved to see that he was okay.  A few eyebrows were raised, but nothing more was said of the incident.

The final match of the evening had concluded.  One of the last of the wrestlers to get dressed was main-eventer Johnny Valentine.  Several of the wrestlers were still in the dressing room, including Jay York.  As Johnny bent over to pick up his suitcase, Jay reached into his.  Jay came up with a sawed-off 20-guage shotgun, took aim, and blew a hole in the center of Johnny Valentine’s suitcase – while Johnny was holding it.  Nobody said a word.  Johnny turned and calmly walked out of the building to his car.  Jay put his shotgun in his wrestling bag, zipped it closed, and also walked out of the building – as if nothing had happened.  Although other wrestlers continue to talk about the incident to this day, neither Johnny Valentine nor Jay York ever brought it up again.  They didn’t need to; it had been settled equitably – according to the unwritten Wrestler’s Creed.

I’ll leave you with a quick story.  As a wrestler – especially as a “bad guy” wrestler – your life depends on your ability, your ingenuity, and your policemen friends.  My priority, when wrestling in a new arena, was to make friends with the police.  The old San Bernardino, California arena, for example, had a reputation for dangerous fans.  When I first wrestled there, I made it a point to introduce myself to the police as soon as they arrived.  I invited them to sit down with me at ringside before the fans were allowed to enter the building.  And, I talked with them.  “You guys seem vastly overqualified to be doing crowd control,” I began.  “You’re obviously professional.  I can tell; my college degree is in criminology and law enforcement.  For example, I’m sure you sit right at ringside during the matches with your chairs facing the fans.”  I watched their reactions.  “And,” I continued, “I’m sure you know how to keep control in every situation.  I’ve been in the wrestling business for quite a while, and I have a suggestion you might not have thought of, if it’s okay to share it.”  As all of the cops in all of the cities always did, they agreed.  “Okay,” I continued.  “Here’s the suggestion.  This always works.  The first person who throws anything towards the ring, shoot them.  Then nobody else will give you any trouble.”  The cops smiled broadly, and each shook my hand.  They loved that I had verbalized a situation about which they secretly fantasized.  At that moment, they accepted me as one of their own, and they protected me very, very well.  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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