Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Original Date of Publication:   May 25, 2006

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

I wrestled hundreds of matches for the National Wrestling Alliance, the largest governing body for professional wrestling in the world.  One of their larger promotions was based out of Mobile, Alabama.  That was a great time.  The trips were relatively short – most were less than a three-hour drive each way, so I had plenty of “personal time.”  I lived in a beautiful little house located directly on the ocean in Pensacola Beach, Florida.  I would open my front sliding door and literally be standing on the sand.  Fifteen paces more and I would be standing in the surf.  When the tide was especially high, the waves would actually touch my front door.  My “front yard” was a beautiful white-sand beach hosting my personal heavy stone picnic-style table.  More than a few wrestling legends shared lunch with me there – eating, signing autographs, and working on our tans simultaneously.  Ms. Pamela, my valet in the professional wrestling business for a time, usually served as our chef and waitress for these elaborate luncheons.

It was a great life.  I would wake up in the morning, open my front door and go for a five- or six-mile run on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.  I’d have breakfast, go to the gym for an hour or so, and be back home by late morning.  At that point, I would usually load my inflatable 3-man boat with food, beverage, suntan lotion, and reading materials and row “out to sea” a hundred feet or so.  I would toss the anchor over the side and float for hours, until it was time to leave for the evening’s matches.  Because of the short trips, I would frequently leave home as late as 4:30 or 5:00 PM.  Oftentimes, I would finish my match, shower, grab some food to eat on the drive back, and be back home, on the beach, listening to the waves, before midnight.  Ah, yes ... those were the days.

One of the high points of my wrestling career took place while I was living on Pensacola Beach.  It happened in Mobile, Alabama, only an hour’s drive from home.  One of the big events that evening would be a match for the world championship.  National Wrestling Alliance Heavyweight Wrestling Champion Jack Brisco was set to wrestle the Junior Heavyweight World Champion, Ken Mantel.  The purpose of the match was to determine, once and for all, the undisputed Heavyweight Wrestling Champion of the World.  This historic match would be the semi-final event of the evening.  The main event was me – Rock Riddle versus 601-pound Haystacks Calhoun.  Each of us would have two partners, making the main event of the evening a 6-man tag match.  I was happy – I had top billing over the Heavyweight Championship of the World!

The referee came into my dressing room with the evening’s program in his hand.  He was confused.  He looked at me and asked, “This can’t be right, can it?  The program says you’re main event and you go on after the world championship match.”  “Well, gee,” I responded.  “You seem surprised.  It’s only natural that I have top billing over the world champion.”  I made sure I didn’t smile; I said it with such a sincere look, “I’m younger, I’m stronger, I’m more talented, and I’m MUCH better looking.  Let’s face it.  I AM main event material.  I’m the reason the arena sold out so quickly.”  The referee sarcastically said, “Wow, I’m so impressed.  Could I have your autograph?”  “No,” I responded, “but hang around for a minute, because I know someone who should have an autograph.”  I took an 8x10 photo from my wrestling bag, and I began the personalized signing.  It read like this: ”To little Jackie Brisco, One of my biggest fans … Hang in there, kid.  Keep working hard, and maybe – just maybe – someday, you’ll be main event, too -- just like me!  Signed, Your Hero, Rock ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Riddle.”  I handed the autographed photo to the referee.  “Would you be so good as to personally deliver this to the World Champion?” I asked.  “It will mean so much to him.”  The referee gave me a sneer, but actually delivered the photo to Jack Brisco.  I was told that Jack displayed the photo on his trophy wall at his home.  When I asked him about it last year, he simply smiled and said, “Gee, Rock, I don’t remember.”  Well, Jack Brisco, my friend – I have it on good authority from another wrestler friend of yours who said he personally saw it on your wall – so there.  In all seriousness, Jack Brisco was one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time.  It was an absolute honor for me to have wrestled him many times.   It is a much bigger honor to be able to call him a friend.

For a time, while living in Pensacola Beach, I teamed with a very talented and extremely funny wrestler known as Apache Gringo.  We had a tremendous amount of fun doing live TV interviews.  There was no delay.  It was live.  Whatever we did went out over the air as we did it.  I remember a few of the tamer interviews – ones that I can share with you here.  Gringo and I were both dressed in suits.  We were talking about class.  We had class, and the other wrestlers didn’t.  We went on for at least five minutes talking about our superior education and sophistication.  We were watching the countdown to the upcoming commercial, and we always timed our stunts perfectly.  Our interview ended with Apache telling the live studio audience and the TV audience at home all about his good taste, his mastery of etiquette, his superior upbringing, and, in short, his “class.”  At that moment, he raised an eyebrow in reaction to having a little sniffle.  He grabbed his tie, loudly blew his nose with it, dropped it back into place, and continued with his “speech” as we went off the air.  I had to bite my lip a few times to avoid laughing when working with that man.

Speaking of ties: There was a local TV announcer in Mississippi who was more than a little distrustful of me.  Sure, I had tricked him into standing up so I could take his chair on live TV a few times, but I had never done anything nasty to him.  I saw him in the hallway of the TV studio before a live match.  I complimented him on his tie.  “Is that a special tie?” I asked, “Anybody special give you that?”  He said, “No, it’s just a K-Mart tie I bought.  I actually like yours a lot better.”  I had a habit of intimidating him on camera.  We had just begun a live TV interview.  I kept getting closer, and he kept trying to back up while still staying “in frame.”  During the interview, at what I thought was the most opportune time, I pulled a pair of scissors from my tights and cut his tie off about three inches below the knot.  Other than his eyes getting very large, neither of us acknowledged what was taking place.  Afterwards, he wasn’t sure whether he should speak to me or not.  I said, “Wait here.”  I went to my dressing room, grabbed my blue silk tie, and presented it to him.  “This is a gift,” I said with a hint of a smile.  As I was leaving, I heard a shallow, reserved, “Thank you.”  Months later, I told him how lucky he was that I liked him.  I’m still not sure whether he ever understood my humor.

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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