Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Original Date of  Publication:   March 29, 2007

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

I was conducting an on-camera interview with my long-time friend and 2007 WWE Hall of Fame inductee Nick Bockwinkle.  We were discussing the “good old days” of professional wrestling – specifically the late 1970s and early 1980s.  The wrestling business was very different then than it is now.  “When people would say, ‘Isn’t wrestling fake?’” Nick admitted, “I would say, ‘Well, step right up!  I will give you a fake bodyslam.  In fact, I’ll give you a fifty-percent discount.  Instead of slamming you from six feet, I’ll only slam you from three feet.’  I would make a believer of them real quickly.  It was a brutal business.”

Before the wrestling business evolved (or "devolved," depending on your point of view) into what it is today, we took our sport very seriously, and we “protected the business.”  If a “fan” said, “You’re mother’s a prostitute and you’re a mistake,” (usually in coarser language) we’d simply smile internally and respond with something like, “Oh, my goodness.  Now my secret is out.  Oh, I certainly hope you don’t let anyone else know.”  Especially for us “bad guy” wrestlers, receiving insults from the fans was a good thing; it meant that we were doing our jobs well.  However, when a fan would say, “Wrestling’s fake,” we took it personally.  “Oh really?” we’d respond.  “Want to step into the ring and find out for sure?”  Of course, most of the fans would cower, but occasionally one would actually accept the challenge.  The professional, or course, would make short work of the fan, taking just enough time to ensure a major attitude adjustment was accomplished and the fan was hurt and humiliated.  Oftentimes the fan would have a broken bone and/or be bleeding by the time he left the ring.  It wasn’t uncommon for the “victim” to need assistance to exit the arena.  And, still, every once in a while, some crazy fan would “challenge” a professional wrestler.   I don’t know of any wrestler who ever turned down a challenge from a fan.  No matter how good the fan thought he was – regardless of whether he was a collegiate wrestling champion, Marine drill instructor, or martial arts master – the professional wrestler made an example of him in the ring.

Oftentimes when I wrestled, I would create such hostile feelings (“heat”) that someone from the audience would approach the ring.  On dozens of occasions, I found myself holding open the ring ropes for the threatening fan to enter.  Most of those threatening people were very large and just intoxicated enough to make them mean and stupid.  I would look directly into their eyes and say, “Come right in.  This ring is my home.  This is my world.  Once you step through those ropes, you belong to me, and your stupid drunk friends will have to carry you away.”  Those sincere words were like a pitcher of ice water thrown into the face of the misguided individual.  He would usually “get it” and quickly back down.  When I was in the ring, few people doubted the fact that I was in control.  I’m proud to say that I never seriously hurt a fan.  I never broke a bone.  I felt as though I could “discipline” the “challenger” and make my point without doing any serious or permanent damage.  I seem to have been the exception to the rule in the world-within-a-world of professional wrestling.

Fans were well-advised not to mess with any of the professional wrestlers, especially someone like my extremely intelligent, brilliantly talented, and very tough friend Nick Bockwinkle.  “The wrestling business was exciting,” Nick said as we continued our televised interview.  “It was colorful.  The personalities were outstanding.  I thought it was just terrific.  Yes, I hobble and I’ve got two bad knees and a terrible ankle.  But a lot of people who didn’t do what I did, who didn’t have the fun and the travel and everything that I had, they have bad knees and they have bad ankles, too.”  “And they don’t have the wonderful memories that you have,” I added.  “That’s true,” Nick said.  “And,” I continued, “they were not able to live that wonderful life that we lived.”

“Oh, there are times …” Nick continued, “If you get two or three of us sitting together and we start telling stories, well, some of the stories are just so wild and off-the-wall.  They’re not degenerate or bad or anything of that nature; predominately they’re just off-the-wall and unusual and different and not what mainstream America would ever have a chance to do.”  “What about writing a book?” I asked.  “People say that a lot to me:  ‘You should write a book.’  I say, ‘Why don’t we get about three or four of the guys together, we sit down together, and we all four write the book at that moment?’  “Wow, that’s an amazing idea!” I said with a slight look of astonishment on my face.  I had thought of the same scenario months ago.  I was going to get five or six of the guys together and work on what I knew would be an amazing book.  In fact, I had already begun a series of conversations with “one of the guys” months earlier that was laying the foundation for the book.

It was amazing to hear Nick explain to me an idea that I already thought was wonderful.  “As the guys would talk,” Nick continued, “all of the things would come out.  Everybody remembers something a little more than someone else does.”  I nodded my head in agreement.  “That’s what’s so nice about the yearly Cauliflower Alley Club events,” he continued.  “You get to see a lot of the old friends and conjure up all sorts of tons of old memories.”  I was inspired.  I looked directly at Nick and enthusiastically suggested, “Let’s get five or six of the guys together, record it, and write that book!”  Nick smiled.  “It would be good!” he said.  “Oh,” I interjected, “It would be very, very good!”

The idea began to gel in my head.  “We’ll talk over the phone to set things in motion,” I thought.  “Then we’ll select a location where we can all meet for a week or so.  Maybe it will be Vegas, maybe Hawaii.  No matter where it is, it will be great.  We’ll professionally video and audiotape the entire event.  We’ll talk for hours, for days, and we’ll produce an outstanding book on professional wrestling the way it used to be.  We’ll come up with a great title and a great subtitle – something like ‘When Wrestling Was Real’ – and it will be six times better than a book written by and based on the personal experiences of one wrestler only.”  At that moment something caught my eye.  It was our director of photography, Peter Redford, moving his index finger in a circular motion.  That was my sign to “wrap up the interview.”  I looked at Nick Bockwinkle, shook his hand, and said, “Nick, it is such a pleasure seeing you again and such a pleasure knowing you.  You were such a tremendous asset to the wrestling business; I just wanted to
publically say ‘Thank you!’”  Nick knew I was totally sincere.  He smiled and said, “Thank you!”  Until next week, 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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