Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Scheduled Publication Date:   June 22, 2006

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

June 8, 2006 – Las Vegas, Nevada – 1:30 PM.  I had just checked into my hotel and was anticipating a very interesting next three days.  I was in Las Vegas to attend the 41st Annual CAC Wrestling Convention & Reunion – the largest and most prestigious event of its type in the world.  These yearly events are attended by literally hundreds of “name” professional wrestlers.  It’s not at all unusual to see one to two dozen former World Heavyweight Wrestling Champions at a single event, and the gatherings attract international press.

Most of the Plaza Hotel and Casino’s third floor was reserved for the wrestling reunion.  I checked in at the registration tables, donned my name badge, and stepped forward into the glorious world of professional wrestling.  I knew that somewhere past those registration tables a professional wrestling ring had been set up.  I knew that several of wrestling’s greatest living legends had been conducting a “hands-on” training seminar for about a hundred very lucky newer and less experienced wrestlers. 

The ring was only about 150 feet away, but it took over an hour to get within sight of it.  Most experienced professional wrestlers consider their peers to be close family.  Every few feet, I was met by another “family member.”  Handshakes, hugs, and reminiscing were in order.  Eventually, however, I entered the room housing the wrestling ring and over a hundred wrestlers and onlookers.  I had been in the back of the room for less than five minutes when I heard an announcement over the PA system.  On the microphone was a legend of professional wrestling, Les Thatcher.  Les had wrestled for twenty years, holding at least half a dozen titles including the NWA Junior Heavyweight Championship and the United States Tag Team Championship.  “Okay, guys.  There’s another legend in the house,” he began.  I glanced around to see if anyone else had entered.  “There he is in the back of the room.  He started in our business as a fan club President for Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson.  I guess they didn’t know what to do with him, so they got him into the wrestling business to get rid of him.” Les smiled, “Please welcome Rock Riddle.”  There was enthusiastic applause from everyone in the room.  “Come on up here, Rock,” Les continued, “Okay, folks, I’m going to hand the microphone to Rock – so we may never see this microphone again.  Your BRIEF comments, please, Rock.”  Les smiled, knowing that I would take at least 15 minutes to address the newer wrestlers.  I actually gave them at least twenty minutes of hard-hitting insight and critique, along with a generous dose of inspiration, motivation, and reality.  By the third day of the event, nearly everyone in that room had shaken my hand and thanked me.  To be introduced as a legend in our business is amazing and wonderful.  To experience the applause of the younger wrestlers and to feel their respect, admiration, and acknowledgement is even better.  “Maybe there is hope for the newest generation of wrestlers,” I thought.  “Maybe we can recapture the extraordinary greatness that wrestling once knew.” 

Later that evening, a few of us went to Quark’s Restaurant and Bar for dinner.  It’s worth a trip to Vegas just to experience this place.  Ferengi, Klingons, and Borg roam the restaurant to interact with the diners.  The establishment presents an intergalactic menu of food and beverages.  The Warp Core Breach continued to bubble and smoke even after we drank it.  Of course, the Holy Rings of Betazed were excellent as always.  But, once again, despite my insistence, the Borg refused to assimilate me.  It was a good thing that they refused, because I was scheduled to be a presenter at the CAC Dinner and Awards Ceremony two days later.

On Friday the wrestling seminar continued, accompanied by a wonderful wrestling nostalgia fair – nine more hours to “catch up” with more wrestling legends.  There were wrestlers and fans at the nostalgia fair.  I signed lots of autographs.  I even signed several old wrestling magazines containing stories on me that I never knew existed.  On Friday night, there was a great buffet dinner, lovingly referred to as the Baloney Blowout.  Karl Lauer, Executive Vice-President of the CAC, strolled throughout the enormous ballroom with a wireless microphone.  He asked dozens of the legends to speak.  One was wrestler-turned-movie-star Pepper Martin.  Pepper shared with the audience the “above celebrity status” of professional wrestlers.  “Wrestlers are MUCH bigger celebrities than movie stars,” he said.  And he should know.  He’s been both.  When the microphone made its way to me, I followed up on Pepper’s premise.  “I used to work out with Sylvester Stallone,” I began, “Sly was a huge wrestling fan.  He said to me, ‘Rock, I’m on the cover of lots of magazines, I’ve won an Academy Award, and I’ve been to the White House.  I’m a major star.  So, I’m in Texas with Terry Funk, and we’re in public.  People see us.  They rush towards us and basically push me out of the way to get to Terry.’  Sly wanted me to explain the phenomenon.  I looked directly into his eyes and said, ‘Sly, you are only a movie star.  Terry Funk is real.’”  Everyone in the room applauded.  They totally understood – just as Sly had understood when I told him many years earlier.

The wrestling nostalgia fair continued on Saturday.  From 10:00 AM until noon, several major wrestling legends were conspicuous by their absence.  I later learned that they were in a two-hour “behind-closed-doors” CAC board meeting.  From 1:00 until about 5:00 PM, there were wrestling matches for some of the younger wrestlers – those who were chosen from the previous two days of training.  I saw some promising new talent.

In the late afternoon, Karl Lauer shared some wonderful news with me.  “Rock,” he said, “today we had our board meeting. “  He paused, probably to add a dramatic flair to what he was about to say.  He watched me lean in to him in anticipation of his next words.  “We had twenty-four board members,” he continued, “and the vote was unanimous – 24 to nothing – that you be a recipient next year.”  I waited for a moment to make sure he was serious.  He was.  “I can’t tell you which award yet,” he continued, “but just keep up with our website over the next few months.”

Wow!  Talk about an honor.  Now I have to decide who I want to present my award.  Let’s see:  Pat Patterson, Terry Funk, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Percy “Paul Bearer” Pringle, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Dusty Rhodes, or who?  I think it will be … oops, we’re out of space for this week’s column, so … to be continued next week … 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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