Originally Published March 30, 2006
Click on any of the smaller photos to
Leo Garibaldi and Roddy
I was warming up in
the dressing room at the world-famous Olympic Auditorium in
Los Angeles. Start time for the live televised wrestling
event was about an hour away when I
received an unexpected visitor -- ex-professional wrestling star
Leo Garibaldi. Now the booker and matchmaker for Southern
California, Leo always seemed to have a grin on his face.
He pulled up a folding chair, straddled it backwards facing
me, and leaned forward. “Rock Riddle, today’s your lucky
day,” he began. “Oh, no,” I thought, “What
ridiculously dangerous stunt does he wants
me to do this time.”
“We brought in this
Middle Eastern type, Java Ruuk,”
Leo explained. “He’s really good – well, he’s really good in the
ring, but he’s no good on the microphone.
We need someone to manage him. You’re a great ‘stick man,’ Rock.
You are amazing on the microphone! No,
really, you are. You’re a natural, one of the best.” When Leo
Garibaldi compliments you like that, you know you’re in
trouble. “Rock, we had a meeting today,” he continued, “and we
decided you should manage Java Ruuk.
Congratulations. You’ve just moved from mid-card to main event
status – and main event money!”
“Okay, Leo,” I
cautiously responded, “Let me see if I understand. You want me to
speak for this guy on television, make him a top star, and draw tons
of money for the wrestling promotion, right?” “Absolutely,” Leo
grinned, “And, lots of money for you, too,
Rock!” I wasn’t convinced. “You want me to wear a suit and
tie," I added, "shouting
instructions to this hated villain to help
him destroy the crowd favorites – all
while sitting at ringside with my back toward
a hostile crowd?” Leo wanted to explain, but I continued. “Leo,
you have only four cops in the entire arena. Three stay up at the
snack bars, and all four are afraid of the fans. That’s why I work
mid-card – so I can wrestle my match and get out of the building
before the idiots leave. Thank you, but I’ll pass.” “But, Rock,”
Leo pleaded, “We’ve got a live TV show about to go on the air, and
nobody else is good enough to do it!” I
reluctantly responded, “Okay, Leo.
You’re a friend, and you need a solution. Let me see what I
I went to the
dressing room down the hall and talked to one of the newer
wrestlers, a likable and talented guy named Roddy. I had wrestled
him several times, and I thought he had tremendous potential. All
he needed was a break. I told him what had just been offered.
He congratulated me. “No,” I
are not in order. I turned
them down.” “Oh, wow, why?” Roddy said
in disbelief, “I would have done anything for an
opportunity like that!” “Really,” I asked with a very serious look
on my face. “Are you sure?” Roddy enthusiastically replied,
"Absolutely!" I looked him directly in the eyes and said,
“Roddy, I’m going to get you that break” “Wow!
Thank you, thank you,” he responded. “Hold
on,” I said sternly, “Don’t thank me. The first time you get
stabbed by some idiot fan, you may actually
hate me for this.”
Rowdy Roddy Piper
I spent some time
coaching Roddy on his upcoming interview.
There was news of an Arab oil embargo then, so I suggested
that he say something like this: “Mr. Announcer, I represent the
greatest professional wrestler of all time, Java Ruuk.
People here want to persecute this man. But, you, Mr. Announcer,
are different. I have just spoken to Java Ruuk's
father, the Sheik, who has a personal message for you. He says he
appreciates your friendship with his son, and for having Java Ruuk
as your regular dinner guest – (see, Roddy, this will be great
because the announcer doesn't like the guy
either. He won’t know what to say; he will not
want the fans to associate him with this
villainous anti-American Java Ruuk
character) – And, so, Mr. Announcer, out of friendship,
Java Ruuk’s father, the sheik, has sent you a gift. It is a barrel
of Arabian oil. And, he wants you and the miserable people of your
country to know that it is the last barrel of Arabian oil
your country will ever see!”
Roddy was a
natural. He did it beautifully. The
promotion loved it and complimented him on his “original idea.”
That was the beginning. He would go on to become one of the very
best in the world. The name “Rowdy Roddy Piper” would become
a household name. He would become an icon of professional wrestling
and be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Roddy Piper would also be attacked by fans
on many occasions.
time he was stabbed by a fan took place
– you guessed it – at the Olympic Auditorium.
It happened within a matter of months after our original
conversation. Roddy Piper, I'm proud to say,
became a friend -- and never
again thanked me for
initiating his “big