Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Initial Publication Date:   May 10, 2007

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

It was April 20, 2007.  The second day of the prestigious 42nd annual CAC Wrestlers Reunion/Convention at the Riviera Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas was well underway.  Literally hundreds of professional wrestling’s greatest living legends were in attendance.   There was an abundance of wrestling stars whose careers had peaked all the way from the 1950s through the 1990s.  The majority of them looked as though they could easily step into the familiar squared circle and teach the current “superstars” a thing or two.  In fact, at least a dozen of the “old-timers” do just that; they train wrestlers.  Several present-day wrestling stars were there, as were a handful of promising young wrestlers who are destined to become future legends.  Add in a limited number of wrestling fans, a lot of reporters, a considerable amount of international press and a great degree of excitement.  Those are the ingredients that produced what most people felt was the best annual CAC wrestling extravaganza to date.

The culmination of the event would be the major awards dinner on the following night, April 21.  This year, however, something had been added – a special Friday night dinner event saluting many of Canada’s outstanding professional wrestlers.  Although many of wrestling’s major stars were there, the main event of the evening seemed to be Bret “The Hitman” Hart.  I know most of the famous Hart family members (often referred to as “The First Family of Wrestling”), but this was my first opportunity to speak with Bret.  At least four hundred of us were sitting at our respective tables, having dinner before the “bonus event” was scheduled to begin.  My friend and “official” photographer was sitting next to me.  “Look at that,” she said.  “Bret Hart has been mobbed since the moment he came in.  He’s been signing autographs and posing for pictures for at least twenty minutes.  He hasn’t even had a chance to sit down, much less eat.”  “That’s okay,” I said.  “He’s a gentleman.  There are only a few people standing around him now.  He’ll have a chance to sit down and eat soon.”  “Good,” my friend said with a smile.  “But not until after he takes a few pictures with me,” I added.  “Let’s go.”  I noticed some reluctance on my friend’s face.  I smiled.  “You wouldn’t want to deprive Bret Hart of the opportunity to have his picture taken with the original Mr. Wonderful, would you?”

Bret’s brother, Ross, greeted me as I approached.  I shook Bret’s hand.  “I know you haven’t had a chance to sit down since you came in,” I said, “but are you willing to have a couple more photos taken before you eat?”  Bret, of course, was more than willing.  He was tired.  He had flown in from a great distance to make this event and he had gotten very little sleep, but sleep deprivation couldn’t keep the smile from his face.  “You’re in a room of wrestling legends,” I said to Bret Hart.  “And yet, you are the center of attention.  You are a legend amongst legends.”  I paused before I continued.  “Do you know how loved you are?”  Bret’s smile broadened as he acknowledged my question with a nod.  There was sadness in his eyes, even as his mouth was smiling.  Bret was one of the best professional wrestlers of all time.  He was, after all, in his own words, “The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.”  Many people in our business believe that expression to be only a slight exaggeration.  Bret is a relatively young man.  He should still be wrestling and setting all-time attendance records at arenas all over the world.  Unfortunately, Bret sustained a career-ending injury at the hands of a person many refer to as “one of wrestling’s worst.”  The injury left Bret with a condition called “concussion syndrome.”  Bret doesn’t dare get back into the ring.  With concussion syndrome, one wrong move could literally kill him.  It was important that I reminded him how much he was loved.  That may be, at least in part, why he attended the major yearly awards dinner the next evening, waiting to leave until after I had received my award and given my acceptance speech – even though he was sleep-deprived and had a 6:00 a.m. flight the next morning.

Saturday was a day or networking, reminiscing, and interviews for most of us who were to receive awards that night.  It was a very full day.  In the early afternoon, I made my way to a wrestling seminar.  Some of the more experienced pros were teaching newer wrestlers about the business.  I arrived during the lunch break, but was able to say hello to several of the instructors including a couple of wrestling promoters.  I was asked if I would like to take the microphone after lunch and address the group.  I agreed, and came back an hour or so later.  Promoter/trainer Roland Alexander introduced me.  There were several people on the panel sitting behind tables, facing the audience.  There were several microphones, both fixed and wireless.  Roland handed me a wireless mic.  I left the panel and stood in front of the table, closer to the audience.  I love wireless mics.  They provide great freedom for the speakers using them.  I was able to move and really relate to individual audience members.  I knew that the panel wanted to cover a lot of ground, and I knew they had to do it quickly, since the big awards dinner ballroom doors would open at 6:00 p.m. that night.  I looked at Roland.  “Let me know when you want the microphone back.”  An hour and ten minutes later, I wrapped my speech, thanked the panel members and the audience, shook hands with many of the attendees, and left.

I headed back to my room.  It was time to change into my tuxedo and get ready for the main event of the evening – the main event of the year for the CAC organization and all who were in attendance.  My friend and “official” photographer, Bobbie Thompson met me on the way out.  “I got some great pictures,” she said.  “So, how about your ‘standing O’?  Pretty cool, huh?”  “What’s a ‘standing O’?” I asked, somewhat distracted.  “Your standing ovation,” she said matter-of-factly.  I stared at her.  “You didn’t know you got a standing ovation when you spoke?” she asked.  I had no idea.  She showed me the digital photos she had taken.  I smiled.  Standing ovations are wonderful.  I knew I had inspired, motivated, educated, and moved many in the audience, but a “standing O” was equivalent to an added bonus award.

It was 6:00 p.m..  The ballroom was open.  I smiled as we entered.  The press and the dozens of cameras had the feel of being on the red carpet at a world premiere Hollywood movie event.  Actually, I’ve been on the red carpet at several world premiere movie events, and, quite honestly, this felt much better.  It was more exciting and it was very special.  I noticed signs on all of the entrances:  “Absolutely no photographs or autographs until after the ceremony.”  I looked to a couple of my friends and smiled.  “On behalf of Bret Hart,” I said, “we thank you!”

The dinner would be served at 7:00 p.m., so we had an hour to network with our peers.  I was so proud when the realization hit:  “My peers are the greatest stars the world of professional wrestling has ever known.”  What an amazing realization, and what a unique and wonderful event was just about to commence.  I will take you there 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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