Over the Top Rope

Rock Riddle's
Wrestling Revue

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

Original Publication Date:   October 19, 2006

Click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge

It was the perfect place and the perfect time to work out.  The sun would be rising shortly at Joe Gold’s legendary World Gym in Santa Monica, California.  By 7:00 am, there would be at least seven Mr. Universe, Mr. America, and Mr. Olympia champions present.  Rowdy Roddy Piper and I would be training alongside such living legends as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Lou “The Incredible Hulk” Ferrigno, Tom Platz, Frank Zane, Kalman Szkalak and Ms. Olympia, Rachel McLish.

It was “chest day.”  I was doing bench presses and Roddy Piper was “spotting” me.    The sixth rep was going up slowly.  “Good one, Rock,” Roddy acknowledged.  “Now, give me two more reps!”  I went for repetition number seven, and the weight seemed to stop halfway up.  “Push it, Riddle.  You can do it … I’m not going to help you.  You’ve got to do this one on your own.”  Roddy turned slightly.  He wanted me to think he was going to walk away, leaving me to either successfully complete the rep or die when the 275-pound bar came down across my throat.  I reached down deep inside for that extra inner strength, let out a 110+ decibel scream, and  with great difficulty but tremendous intensity, slowly pushed the weight to its top position.  I had nothing left.  I was glad Roddy was there to help me lower the bar onto the rack.  “One more rep!”  Roddy demanded.  “You’re out of your mind, Piper,” I whispered, not having the strength left to say it louder.  Roddy grinned and said, “One more rep!”  The bar went down to my chest.  I gave a major effort which lifted the bar nearly two inches before it came back down.  Roddy grabbed the bar.  “I’ll help you, Rock, but I’m not going to do all of the work.”  That last rep left me with a major muscle “burn.”  When I sat up, my hands were dangling by my side, and I needed some recovery time to regain control over them. 

Roddy approached the bench, ready for his set.  “Hold on,” I said.  “I need a minute before I spot you.”  “No, don’t worry,” Roddy said.  I don’t need a spot for my warm-up set.”  He sat down on the bench.  “He’s not going to warm up with the weight that just defeated me!” I said to myself in disbelief.  Roddy was on his back on the bench.  He measured the bar with his hands, slid back under the weight, and took a deep breath.  He looked at me and smiled.  “Just kidding,” he said as he got up off the bench.  “I’ll take a couple of quarters off so you won’t feel so bad.”  Quarters are 25-pound weights.  Roddy probably could have warmed up with 275 pounds, even though we usually did our warm-up sets with 225 or 235. 

After his set, Roddy motioned for me to take the bench again.  “Do you want the quarters back on?” he asked.  “No,” I responded.  “Just add a couple of dimes.  We do have to wrestle tonight, you know.”  “Okay,” Roddy acknowledged.  “Hey, Rock.  You know who Andy Kaufman is, right?”  “Sure,” I said.  “That guy has our sense of humor.  He’s really good.  I like his stuff.”  “Well, that’s good, Rock,” Roddy said, “because he has a message for you.”  I wasn’t sure what was coming.  Roddy didn’t seem to be setting me up for a joke.  He explained, “I had dinner with Andy yesterday.  You know he’s a huge wrestling fan.  Anyway, he saw you on ‘Fernwood 2Night’ and he wanted me to tell you that he thought you were great.”  “Really?  Seriously?” I asked.  “Yes, Rock, seriously.” 

“Fernwood 2Night” starred Martin Mull and Fred Willard and was a hit prime-time TV series.  I played a comedic version of myself as “Rock Mondo” on the show.  I sang (badly), broke boards with my hands, and beat up a dummy as a part of a “show business act” for the program.  Although the entire show was scripted, I had done an improvised videotaped audition in order to get the job – and the writing crew used my audition words for the script.  Isn’t it interesting how show business works?

I was sincerely flattered that Andy Kaufman liked my work.  I looked at Roddy Piper and said, sincerely, “Please tell Andy Kaufman that I love his work.  He is a comic genius who is so far ahead of everybody else.  Now, that’s humor!”  I watched Andy Kaufman every time I knew he was appearing on television.  I was blown away with his Elvis impersonation.  It was brilliant.  His routine with the Mighty Mouse theme was very funny.  For months, every time I talked with Roddy Piper, there was another complimentary message delivered from Andy Kaufman to me.  And, for months, every time I talked with Roddy Piper, I sent a sincere message of praise and admiration to Andy Kaufman.  We had a great mutual admiration society going. 

No wonder Andy Kaufman wanted to be a wrestler.  He had a wrestler’s extreme sense of humor.  Andy was “putting on” the world and having great fun doing it.  His movie “My Breakfast With Blassie” was a classic.  Now, there’s a team:  Classy Freddie Blassie and Andy Kaufman.  The film was a “put on” – and still, many people never got it.  The “Fridays” TV show was, from this professional wrestler’s point of view, a classic.  That’s right.  “Fridays” was a LIVE television show.  If you’re a regular reader of this column, you know how I, and many professional wrestlers, feel about that topic.  You’ve read my quote a number of times:  “Life doesn’t get any better than live television.”  Andy Kaufman certainly shared that truth.

I ran into my old friend Roddy Piper again at a Cauliflower Alley Club Annual Wrestling Reunion Banquet.  We talked about the good old days.  “Those were fun times,” Roddy reminisced.  “They sure were,” I added.  “Do you know the one thing I regret from those years?” I asked Roddy.  He shook his head.  “Andy Kaufman and I had that ‘mutual admiration’ thing going.  You would pass the ‘You’re wonderful, you’re great’ messages between us.  We knew we would meet each other eventually, but we never did.  I miss Andy Kaufman.  I felt as though I knew him well, and it’s so strange that we never met.  I miss not meeting him in person.”  Roddy looked down slightly, with a little sadness in his eyes.  “Yeah, Rock, Andy was an amazing guy.  We lost him way too soon.”

So, this column is a salute to Andy Kaufman, a comic genius who understood the wrestling business -- a man who lived his dreams, including working in the professional wrestling ring.  To understand Andy’s brand of comedy is to have greater insight into the wonderful world of professional wrestling.  To thoroughly understand professional wrestling is to gain much greater insight and appreciation of the wonderful person and the comic genius Andy Kaufman was.  Until next week, please 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."

© 2006 Rock Riddle & Hollywood Success.

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