Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Originally Published:   June 29, 2006

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

June 10, 2006 – Las Vegas, Nevada – Part II:  It was Saturday, the third and final day of the 41st Annual CAC Wrestling Convention & Reunion – the largest and most prestigious event of its type in the world.  Hundreds of professional wrestlers and wrestling aficionados were in attendance.  What an amazing opportunity to reunite with so many members of our wonderful professional wrestling family!

I wrestled literally hundreds of professionals during my career, including most of the world’s top stars.  I wrestled Mil Mascaras, for example, on at least a dozen different occasions.  It was great running into him again at the Vegas event.  He has maintained an extraordinary physique over the years, which impressed me.  Still, I was surprised when he told me that he continues to wrestle regularly all over the world.  “Of course,” he added, “I also do many starring roles in many feature films as well.  Actually, I have been wrestling now for over forty years, and I plan to wrestle for at least another forty!”  Karl Lauer, Executive Vice President of CAC, chimed in, “I’ve known this man for forty years, and I have never seen his face!”  He was right.  Mil Mascaras NEVER took his mask off around other wrestlers, promoters, or fans. 

“It is a wonderful thing,” Mil said, “I put the mask on, and I am instantly recognized as a movie star and wrestler everywhere I go – all over the world.  I take it off, and nobody bothers me.  Almost no one who ever saw me with the mask saw me without it.”  “I’ve seen you without the mask,” I smiled.  “No,” Mil said with a slight Spanish accent.  His pronunciation of “no” was somewhere between a statement and a question.  “Yes.” I responded.  I directed my explanation to a couple of friends standing with us.  “I was working out at World Gym in Santa Monica,” I explained.  “I noticed this guy staring at me, smiling.  Guys don’t usually do that, so I watched him as he approached.  When he was next to me, he said, in a very soft voice, ‘Mil Mascaras.’  I hesitated for a moment, as I evaluated what he had said.  I realized that it was, in fact, Mil Mascaras standing next to me.  I smiled and we shook hands.  He made a silent gesture and said, ‘Shhhhh.’ I was expecting him to say in that faint, hushed tone, ‘Don’t tell nobody it’s me.’  We talked briefly, and then went back to our individual workouts.” 

Word spreads quickly in the wrestling world.  Most of the sport’s living legends had wrestled Mascaras many more times than I.  Yet, none of them had ever seen him without his mask.  On three different occasions, guys actually came up to me and asked me what Mil Mascaras looked like without the mask.  I had three different answers: (1) “Oh, my gosh.  He’s absolutely hideous looking!  I promise you, you do not want to see that man without his mask.”  (2)  “He’s extraordinarily, unbelievably handsome.  Believe me; he has good reason for that massive ego of his.”  (3)  “Oh, I don’t remember.  He was just another fan wanting me to talk to him.”  In each case, I gave the answer with a totally straight face and walked away.  Eventually I would look back, make sure the wrestler saw me, and smile.  Wrestling humor is so much fun!

I spent some time talking with ex-World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion Harley Race.  He was wondering when we had first met.  “Oh, I’ll never forget that day,” I said, “It was my first day in the AWA (American Wrestling Association).  I had only been in the business for a couple of years.  You were a living legend even then.  I had watched you wrestle on television and I had read about you.  But, to meet you in person along with other major international stars – and to share the dressing room with all of you – that was amazing.  To have everybody accept me was like a dream come true.”  Harley smiled.  He understood.  I’m sure he felt the same way when he was new to the business and met one of his idols for the first time.

We reminisced about that first meeting.  “I remember another new guy in the dressing room that night,” I said.  “I was only 23, but this guy made me look like a veteran.  I think he must have been about 18.  I remember you talking to him from across the room in that booming Harley Race voice.  You said, ‘Hey, kid.  Where you wrestling tomorrow night?’  I think he said, ‘Green Bay.’  Then you said, ‘Oh yeah?  Me, too.  Wanna ride with me?’  It seemed that nearly all of the other guys in the dressing room tried not to laugh.”  Harley smiled.  He knew what I was going to say.  “Later,” I continued, “a couple of the guys clued me in on the ‘rib.’  They said you had a really fast car, like a Porsche or a Ferrari.  And, you’d get the new, unsuspecting wrestler to ride with you.  They said you’d be going about 150 miles per hour and become airborne going over a hill while the kid in the passenger seat would scream and beg you to let him out.  And, the louder he would scream, the more you would laugh.  So, Harley, I never asked you before.  Is that true?”  Harley’s grin told me the answer.  “Well,” he began, “Let’s just say it’s partially true.  Actually, it was a Buick Wildcat, and it was only about 120 mph.  But, yes, that car could fly and it actually did become airborne a few times.”  For those of you who don’t remember the Wildcat, the standard engine was a 455-cubic inch V8, rated at 370 horsepower with an earth-shaking 510 foot-pounds of torque.  It had a 10:1 compression ratio, a cast iron block, hydraulic lifters, five main bearings, and a four-barrel carburetor.  Luckily, I already knew about Harley’s “new guy initiation” back when he asked me where I was wrestling the next night.

I had barely turned around from my conversation with Harley Race when I ran into my friend Red Bastein.  Red had been President of the CAC since 2000.  He was an amazing professional wrestler – a true living legend.  I mentioned to Red that I had a videotape featuring one of our matches.  “I need to do a little editing on it before I show it to you,” I told him, “The way it is now, it looks like you won!”  Once I edit it, I’m sure Red will want a rematch.  Now, that will be a classic!

The entire three-day event culminated in an awards ceremony Saturday night.  I had known for months that I would be one of the presenters, but I did not know to whom I would present until late Saturday afternoon.  I did know, however, who the recipients would be.  Several of my friends were to be honored.  Hall of Famer Harley Race was to receive the highest award possible, the Iron Mike Mazurki Award.  Eddie Sharkey would receive the Art Abrams Lifetime Achievement Award.  Verne Gagne, whom I had wrestled many times, was scheduled to receive the Lou Thesz Award.  Killer Tim Brooks – a man with whom I had both teamed and wrestled – was to be honored.  Additional honorees would be wrestlers Scott Casey, Pepper Martin, Mil Mascaras, Wild Bill White, and Jessica Rogers (I wrestled all of them except Jessica).  Mike Martelle was the martial arts honoree, Dr. Ken Ramey the manager honoree, and Scott L. Schwartz the “Reel Member Inductee.”  Receiving posthumous awards would be my friend and colleague, Vivian Vachon, and my very good and beloved friend Bobby Shane.  I’ll take you to the awards ceremony next week.  Until then, keep those cards, letters, and 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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