Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Date of Original Publication:   May 18, 2006

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

I was based out of Tampa, Florida when I began my professional wrestling career.  After only a few months, I received a phone call from the promoter.  “Rock,” he said, “we’ve got a little problem with a fan.  He’s knocking the business and he’s knocking you.  He says you’re a phony and he’s challenging you.”  “Okay,” I responded, “I assume there’s a reason you’re telling me this.”  “Yeah, Rock,” he explained, “I want you to take this scumbag in the ring and break his arm.  Be at the arena at five o’clock Saturday afternoon.  We’ll do this before the doors open for the matches.”

It was called “protecting the business.”  It happened a lot.  Let’s just say that, in the entire history of professional wrestling, a fan never "proved" anything to a wrestler.  It wasn’t smart to “knock the business” or to challenge “one of the boys.”  Fans who were stupid enough to enter the wrestling ring were routinely “disciplined.”  That’s a nice way of saying that they seldom left the ring under their own power.  Part of the unwritten “wrestler's creed” was to always protect the business.  The ultimate insult was to question the legitimacy of professional wrestling.  When a “fan” would call a wrestler a “dirty S.O.B.,” the wrestler would usually respond with something like:  “Oh, I didn’t know you knew my mother.  Does this mean we’re related?”  Then the wrestler would smile, turn and walk away.  When someone would say, “Wrestling’s fake,” that person’s safety was oftentimes immediately jeopardized.

It was Saturday afternoon.  I was at the arena, dressed and ready to “protect the business.”  It would be my first time in the ring with a non-professional.  There would be only three of us in the entire building:  the promoter, the “fan,” and me.  I was in the ring, on my home turf.  That 18 by 18 foot ring was my home.  I was the alpha male about to defend my territory from an incompetent invader.  The guy was dressed in a sweat suit and tennis shoes.  He was beyond belligerent.  The wrestling ring was hallowed ground and I resented a belligerent non-wrestler entering it.  It was obvious that this was the first time the "fan" had ever set foot in a professional wrestling ring.  I looked him in the eyes, and then I looked through him.  “Now,” I said, “you belong to me.”  It was totally obvious that this guy was vastly outmatched in every area in every way.  I waited for him to make the first move.  He made an inept attempt at some sort of botched amateur take-down.  I countered with a hammer lock and front face lock, driving his left shoulder and face into the mat.  At that point, I smelled alcohol on his breath.  I rolled my eyes.  “There is no fairness here," I thought.  "There was no contest even before this idiot stepped into the ringThis misguided misfit is, at best, an amateur -- taking on a trained professional -- on the professional’s home turf.  And now, the guy's also intoxicated.  Oh, great.  What a wonderful accomplishment, beating up a drunk.”  I was slightly disgusted.

I had the guy on his back on the mat – with a variation of a top wristlock.  He felt it.  He knew that with just a little more pressure, his arm would be broken and his left shoulder dislocated.  I stared directly into his eyes.  I watched his eyes fill with tears, and I heard him say, in an emotionally-charged breaking voice, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”  I stared at him for a few more seconds.  My expression throughout had been very stern.  I left him with three words, “Get out now.”  And, I let him go.  He was out of the arena very, very quickly.

The promoter stared at me for a few seconds.  “Good, Rock,” he said, “but what happened to the broken arm?”  “It wasn’t called for," I responded.  "The guy had been drinkingBesides, I left a MUCH stronger impression on him than had I broken his arm.  Now, you have a believer – and a grateful, respectful believer.”  Not another word was said between the promoter and me until the evening’s matches were underway.  I felt as though I had handled my first “fan challenge” well.  I was proud that I had achieved the desired objective without seriously injuring the man.  I had set a precedent.  I would be challenged many times by many more not-terribly-intelligent fans.  I would find myself in the middle of riotsI would have knives pulled on me dozens of times – and, too often, I would chase the knife-wielding fan into a hostile crowd and disarm him.  Through all of those challenges, I was disciplined enough to use only “necessary force” to rectify the situation.  I’m proud to say that, during my entire professional career, I never seriously injured anyone. 

I’ll leave you with a short story.  I was in Mobile, Alabama, managing the tag team champions.  They were big, powerful men with shaved heads.  Ours was the first match of a double main event that nightThe crowd was very unhappy that we had won.  I watched the final event from just outside the dressing roomsI knew the crowd was on the verge of doing more than simply reacting.  Sure enough, a full-scale riot broke out and there was no way that wrestler Billy Spears could get back to the dressing room without help.  I looked at my two guys.  “Let’s go bring him back,” I said, and I led the way to the ring.  I was in street clothes.  I made it through the crowd almost to ringside.  “Let’s go, Spears,” I yelled.  Apparently I must have drawn some attention to myself, because the focal point of the riot quickly switched to me.  The first row of ringside seats was now the 12th.  I was staring at a fan who was holding a knife, threatening me.  I was down to one knee.  I knew that, as long as I looked the knife-wielding fan in the eyes, he would not have the courage to cut me.  As I was watching him, I was being hit on the head by other fans.  “Oh, no,” I thought.  “Now I’m bleeding and it’s going to mess up my suit.”  I couldn’t defend against everybody, so I took the knife away from the one guy and began to fight my way back.  After a few minutes, I saw the dressing room door at the back of the arena – and standing there watching were the two wrestlers I managed – they had stayed there the entire time.  As I was getting stitches in the top of my head at the local hospital, I told the promoter.  “Those two cowards no longer have a manager.”   He simply replied, “I know. He paid the hospital and doctor bills and thanked me.  It was a good night.

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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