Originally Published: March 23, 2006
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the past few years, I have attended some of the most prestigious
wrestling reunions in the world. These yearly events are sponsored
and produced by the Cauliflower Alley
Club, an organization consisting of the best of the best in
professional wrestling. Every year, literally hundreds of
wrestling’s greatest stars attend – stars who became famous as early
as the 1940’s through stars who are just becoming famous now. These
are amazing events for amazing people. Each
takes place over three days, culminating in an awards dinner
on the final night.
A couple of years
ago, I ran into my friend Pat Patterson at one of the reunions.
Pat was one of the best professional wrestlers in the world.
He was United States Heavyweight Champion, and he was absolutely
amazing in the ring. I wrestled him at least fifty times, and
match we ever had was amazing.
All of the
wrestlers had "open contracts"
then. Usually, we had no idea who our opponent would be
before we saw
him entering the ring. I got to the point that I looked for
wrestling posters on my drive to the arenas. When I saw “Rock
Riddle vs. Pat Patterson,” I smiled. The fans were definitely going
to get their money’s worth that night. And, we
brought the house down many, many times.
and I talked about the “good old days,” about how the business has
changed over the years; what it lost
and what it gained. Pat was Senior Vice President of WWE – Vince McMahon's
dominant monolithic wrestling
promotion. Very few people alive have the insight that Pat
Patterson has. It
was an enlightening conversation. “Pat,” I said seriously, “Let’s
get back in the ring again.” The look in his eyes said he wanted to
(every wrestler alive, no matter how many years past his prime,
dreams of someday making a “comeback”). “No, Rock,” he said sadly,
“Maybe you, but not me. I’m too old.” I didn’t believe him. I
still don’t. I think, somehow, some day,
someway, we will face each other in the ring again – and I’ll have
an amazing photo to publish in a future edition of this column.
Dozens of people
had waited for quite some time to speak
to the living legend himself, Pat
Patterson. I had monopolized
his time long enough, I thought, so I started to walk away. “No,
Rock,” Pat said, “Let me introduce you.” He looked towards
a couple of his
friends: “Guys, this is Rock Riddle. This is the
original 'Mr. Wonderful.' I had some of the best matches of my career
with this man.” For a moment, I found myself waiting to see if
there were going to be a "punch line."
But, Pat was totally sincere. When that realization
hit me, it took some effort to hold back the tears. What a
touching, wonderful, amazing compliment! It’s not often that I am
speechless, but, at that moment, I definitely
Pat continued to introduce me during
the course of the evening, using the same words, and with pride in
his voice. I thanked him for the introductions, and I told him how
much it meant to me. “Look, Rock,” he said, “I don’t have to say
anything unless I want to. I say it because it’s true.” His words
left a life-long impression
with me and made a difference in my life.
Thank you, Pat Patterson!
It had been
another wonderful event, but now it was getting late and things were
winding down. It was a little sad, knowing that the event was
almost over. I was about to leave. I hesitated, though.
I hesitated because I knew that one of the greatest
performers of all time was in the room, I had not met him, and I
wasn’t sure if I should. He was a genuine celebrity. Most people
know him as the Undertaker’s manager, Paul Bearer. He was
surrounded by people. “This guy’s a major international
star, Rock,” I said to myself. “You haven’t wrestled for fifteen
years. He won’t even know who
you are. What do want, Rock, an autograph? Leave the guy alone.”
As I was turning to leave, I must have caught his eye. He abruptly
stopped his conversation, stood up from his chair, walked towards
me with his hand extended, and said, “Rock Riddle! Sir, it’s an honor to meet you. I’d
like to shake your hand.” About this time, I’m waiting for other
wrestlers to come out from their hiding places and laugh.
to be a joke," I thought . . . but, it wasn’t. This major superstar
who was watched by 500 million people every week – this man who was
more recognizable than Presidents and heads of
state – this
brilliant performer I
had personally watched for years on television – was honored to
“I was a fan, Rock,” he explained,
“I sat at ringside at the matches in Mobile and watched you
wrestle. Rock, you inspired me to get into this business. You
paved the way for me and for so many
of the guys.
Thank you, Sir. Thank you.” I was dumbfounded, delighted,
absolutely amazed and flattered -- all at the same time. Once I
regained my composure, we had a great conversation, and
consider this man to be a friend. And, what an amazing friend to have: Percy Pringle, aka
Paul Bearer. A true gentleman and a testament to the wonderful
world of professional wrestling. Thank you,
Percy Pringle/Paul Bearer. Thank