Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Initial Publication Date:   June 28, 2007

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

On February 1, 2007, I received the following e-mail:  “Mr. Riddle, My name is Dave Hillhouse and I’m covering your ‘Reel Honoree’ award for the CAC.  I’d also like to write a feature piece on your career for our SLAM! Wrestling Movie Database.  Are you available sometime in the next week for a phone call?”

I knew I was to be one of a dozen professional wrestlers receiving awards at the upcoming forty-second Annual CAC Awards Banquet in Las Vegas.  What I did not know, until I read the e-mail, was which award I was to receive.  I was amazed to discover that I would be joining the ranks of Sylvester Stallone, Kirk Douglas, David Carradine, Jimmy Cagney, Charles Bronson and dozens of additional major stars who had received the coveted award.  I e-mailed Mr. Hillhouse, informing him of my availability.  I included a link to a biography that newspaper reporter Lee Hexum had written and, of course, links to this column.  (All of the “Over the Top Rope:  Rock Riddle’s Wrestling Revue” articles and my bio are on www.HollywoodSuccess.com).  Dave Hillhouse thanked me for the links.  So that he would have time to read the articles, he suggested we schedule the telephone interview for the following Friday, eight days later.

On Friday, February 9, I was sitting at my desk at our Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, California offices.  At 12:55 p.m. a reminder popped up on the computer monitor:  “Telephone Interview, ‘SLAM! Magazine,’ CAC article, Dave Hillhouse, five minutes.”  I plugged my headset into a portable office phone, dropped the miniature phone into my shirt pocket, stood up and took in the amazing view from my seventh-floor window.  I looked to my extreme left and observed aircraft in the traffic pattern for LAX.  I slowly surveyed the landscape from my “Heart of Hollywood” viewpoint.  The day was clear, and I could see the ocean.  As I directed my attention from the west to the north, I was aware of the famous Pacific Design Center, Sunset Strip, the Hollywood Hills, “Hollywood/Highland” and the Kodak Theatre, home of the Academy Awards.  I was used to doing live radio interviews while staring out my window.  I like the fact that I can move around and not have to be stuck to my desk.  My energy is higher and the interviews are more exciting when I am standing.  As I was looking northerly toward the Hollywood Sign, I realized that this was “only” a telephone interview, not a live radio show.  I smiled.  “Oh, well,” I thought, “I like having the freedom to walk around while I talk anyway.”  I looked at my watch.  “Okay, Mr. Hillhouse,” I said aloud, “You have ten seconds … nine … eight … seven … six …”  The phone rang.  A very enjoyable one-hour-plus interview followed.  Dave was professional and thorough, even though he did attempt to influence my answers to a couple of his questions.  With someone as opinionated as I am, leading questions never work.

I had no idea of what would be included in the final story until I received my copy of the Awards Banquet program at the actual CAC event in April, 2007.  I opened the magazine-style program.  I flipped through the pages until I saw my photo and the full-page story.  I closed the program.  I didn’t want to read it.  “If there are any inaccuracies,” I thought, “I don’t want to know.  Forget about the dozens of international press people and the diehard fans; four hundred  of my professional wrestler peers, including dozens and dozens of living legends, will be reading the story.”  An hour or so later, when I had a moment away from the crowd, I glanced at the first two paragraphs.  “Yeah, it’s okay,” I said to myself.  “It will be fine.”  Later on that evening, I opened the program and quickly skimmed the story.  But it wasn’t until this morning, when I dug out my copy of the program, that I carefully read it.  “Say, this is pretty good,” I thought.  “It’s too bad that the story is only printed in those five hundred programs.  Wouldn’t it be great if the 125,000+ people who read my weekly column could also read this?”

So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the extraordinary writing of Dave Hillhouse and “Slam! Magazine.” (http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Wrestling/home.html).  The following excerpts are taken directly from the CAC Awards Program:

The old expression goes like this:  if you want something done, you do it yourself.  An addendum to that might be this:  you could also try telling Rock Riddle that he can’t do it.  Growing up in Burlington, N.C., Riddle heard that he couldn’t make it as a pro wrestler.  He did.  He then heard that he couldn’t make the transition from the ring to the Hollywood dream factory.  He did that, too.  “I love it when somebody says, ‘That’s impossible,’” Riddle said mischievously.  “I say, ‘Oh, yeah?  Stand back and watch!’”

Riddle’s success in both fields stems from not only refusing to accept defeat against the odds, which almost any person of success must do, but perhaps more importantly from a fundamentally sound sense of business.  Riddle’s start in wrestling came about through a stunt meant to provoke people, and it unwittingly became his introduction to the art of self-promotion.  At 14, Rock found himself organizing a fan club for heels Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson after seeing them in action and falling in love with the way they had the crowd right where they wanted them:  wanting to kill the two wrestlers.  Riddle credits Hawk and Hanson with showing him that there was a way into the business through hard work, and he was sold.

Finding someone in his home town who believed that his dream was possible, though, was a challenge.  Most locals pointed out what Rock was lacking, rather than what he had command of.  Namely, he was lacking physical stature at around 135 pounds.  That could be changed, however, and it was changed through Riddle’s determined regimen that saw him achieve a wrestler’s physique.  He didn’t mind one bit returning home to tell the naysayers that anything is possible.  As for what Riddle had command of, well, that was his ability to make the fans hate him.  Hearing boos that sounded to him like cheers, Riddle learned the way to sell one’s self in any way one could imagine, and this was invaluable when he decided to shoot for Hollywood.  The most impressive thing about Rock’s transition from the ring to the screen was that he did it without the backing of his pro wrestling career.

In Hollywood, he reinvented himself as an actor – although he certainly played tough guys and wrestlers (most notably on The Gong Show).  Still, many people presumed that he got those roles simply due to his size being unaware of his past legacy in the ring.  It isn’t easy to switch gears wholesale like that – just ask Michael Jordan about baseball.  – Dave Hillhouse.

(To be continued 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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