Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Initial Publication Date:   May 31, 2007

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

Professional wrestling is an extraordinarily dangerous profession.  Most of the sport’s top stars have received multiple major injuries.  Broken necks, for example, happen much too frequently.   Wrestlers literally risk their lives every time they enter the ring.  Those who work in dangerous professions tend to utilize hard-hitting humor to help lessen the stress.  Professional wrestlers are well-known for taking humor to the extreme.  Pulling jokes (“ribs”) on “the boys” is a big part of the wrestling way of life.  I have shared ribs with you in previous columns.  Some were absolutely hilarious and some were only funny to the people who initiated them.  I’m going to share a few funny ones with you today; all are credited to one of wrestling’s greatest practitioners.

Harley Race, Bret Hart, Ross Hart and Nick Bockwinkle
The Owen Hart Award -- April 21, 2007

It was Saturday, April 21, 2007.  We were in a grand ballroom at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.  The prestigious CAC Annual Professional Wrestlers Reunion and Awards Banquet had been underway for three days.  Tonight was the culmination, the “main event.”  This was the long-anticipated CAC Awards Banquet Event.  This was the event that attracted international press.  The CAC had announced that they would be honoring eleven legends in the amazing world of professional wrestling.  I was delighted that I was to be one of the eleven.  Unbeknownst to all but the elite board members, a twelfth unannounced award was to be presented.  Apparently, not even the person who would accept the award had any advance notice of the honor.

About halfway through the awards presentation, Bret ‘The Hitman” Hart was asked to take the stage along with his brother Ross.  Bret knew the award would not be for him; he had received his award the night before.  The surprise award would be for the late and great Owen Hart, Bret and Ross’ brother.  If you are a fan of professional wrestling, you probably know the tragic way in which Owen lost his life.  Rather than rehash that morbid tale now, I want to take you to the awards ceremony.

Picture the moment:  Bret Hart is at the podium with microphone in hand.  Over four hundred of the best the wrestling profession has ever known are in the audience anticipating what words Bret will share with them, the fans, and the media.  The room is totally silent until Bret Hart speaks.

“My first memories of Owen,” Bret shared, “were when we were younger.  He used to have this stuffed monkey.  It was like a teddy bear.  It had these hard paws on it.  He would take this monkey and make it wrestle the Siamese cat.  He would put on matches.  The stuffed monkey had long enough arms that it could put headlocks and stuff on the cat.  I’m not kidding.  He had this cat trained, trying to kick out of headlocks.  I can think back to when Owen was about thirteen.  He would put on these great matches with this cat and the monkey.  They would last for thirty or forty minutes.”  Bret had to pause often to allow the laughter to die down.  “The cat would have this look on its face like it was a ‘shoot.’” (A ‘shoot’ means a real match where the participants hold back nothing and each is out to win at all costs.)  “This is probably,” Bret continued, “where Owen got all of his ring psychology.”  Again, he paused for the laughter before he continued.

“Owen loved to pull ribs on the guys,” Bret continued.  ”He would call one of the boys in their hotel room at three in the morning, pretending to be an irate fan.  He would call the guy a coward and challenge him to come down to the lobby to fight.  He would get the guy so worked up and so angry that the guy would show up in the lobby looking for a fight.  Owen would be peeping around the corner, watching and laughing.  Once, my dad got a call in his hotel room at 3:00 a.m.  Owen pretended to be the desk clerk.  He insisted that there was a problem with the bill, that my dad’s credit card was declined, and that my dad must come down to the lobby and straighten this out, right that minute, or he was going to call the police.  Well, my dad was really angry.  He was ready to tear that desk clerk’s head off.  After a few minutes of strange looks from the desk clerk and staff, my dad realized that it must have been Owen pulling another rib on him.”

“He was good at it.  He got us all.  Once, he called all of the guys before 6 o’clock in the morning.  He told us we had to be out of our rooms by 8:00 a.m.  He was insistent that we had to check out of our rooms early.  So, there we were, all sitting in the lobby of the hotel at 8 o’clock in the morning – when we really had a 12:00 noon checkout.  But, that’s the way Owen was.  He was always pulling jokes.  And you really never knew that it was him.  You can probably sit back now, those of you who knew him, and think back and say, ‘Maybe that was Owen who did that to me.’”

Bret concluded with the following words:  “Owen was a one of a kind.  Contrary to what anyone thinks, I know that Owen was very proud of everything that wrestling gave to him and the people that he met in it.  And, I know that everyone in the wrestling business who knew him, knew what kind of a special guy he was.  He would be honored to know that me and Ross are here and all of you are here today to recognize his contribution.  So, on behalf of him and the rest of our family, thank you all very much.”

A great deal of applause followed Bret’s words.  It was wonderful to see how much laughter Owen could still bring to us simply from memories of that very special person.  Not only was Owen a proud member of the Hart family, he was also an important member of another family – the professional wrestling family.  He continues to live in our memories and always will.

As the applause was dying down, a CAC official motioned to me to approach the side of the stage and “stand by.”  I thought that I would receive my award towards the latter portion of the event, but I did not know that I would be following Bret Hart.  “What an honor,” I thought, “to be on after Bret Hart and the tribute to Owen.”  Ex-professional wrestler and Hollywood actor Pepper Martin was the Master of Ceremonies.  I knew that he would be introducing wrestling legend and WWE Vice President Pat Patterson, who would, in turn, introduce me.  Earlier in the day, Pat had approached me.  “Now, don’t you get mad at me for what I say about you up there tonight,” Pat said.  “You know, I may do a joke or two,” he continued, “but don’t worry.  I’ll say some good things, too.”  “Oh, great,” I thought.  “Pat’s going to pull a rib on me.”  I smiled.  “This should be interesting.”  I didn’t think there was anything that Pat could say that would cause me to be upset in the least, but I was still quite surprised with the manner in which he actually introduced me.  I’ll share the story with you 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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