Over the Top Rope!
Rock Riddle's Wrestling Revue #6
by Rock Riddle, the Original "Mr. Wonderful" of Professional Wrestling
I was warming up in the dressing room at the world-famous Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles.
Start time for the live televised wrestling event was about an hour away when I received an unexpected visitor -- ex-professional wrestling star Leo Garibaldi. Now the booker and matchmaker for Southern California, Leo always seemed to have a grin on his face.
He pulled up a folding chair, straddled it backwards facing me, and leaned forward.
“Rock Riddle, today’s your lucky day,” he began.
“Oh, no,” I thought, “What ridiculously dangerous stunt does he wants me to do this time.”
“We brought in this Middle Eastern type, Java Ruuk,” Leo explained. “He’s really good – well, he’s really good in the ring, but he’s no good on the microphone. We need someone to manage him. You’re a great ‘stick man,’ Rock. You are amazing on the microphone! No, really, you are. You’re a natural, one of the best.”
When Leo Garibaldi compliments you like that, you know you’re in trouble.
“Rock, we had a meeting today,” he continued, “and we decided you should manage Java Ruuk. Congratulations. You’ve just moved from mid-card to main event status – and main event money!”
“Okay, Leo,” I cautiously responded, “Let me see if I understand. You want me to speak for this guy on television, make him a top star, and draw tons of money for the wrestling promotion, right?”
“Absolutely,” Leo grinned, “And, lots of money for you, too, Rock!”
I wasn’t convinced.
“You want me to wear a suit and tie," I added, "shouting instructions to this hated villain to help him destroy the crowd favorites – all while sitting at ringside with my back toward a hostile crowd?”
Leo wanted to explain, but I continued. “Leo, you have only four cops in the entire arena. Three stay up at the snack bars, and all four are afraid of the fans. That’s why I work mid-card – so I can wrestle my match and get out of the building before the idiots leave. Thank you, but I’ll pass.”
“But, Rock,” Leo pleaded, “We’ve got a live TV show about to go on the air, and nobody else is good enough to do it.”
I reluctantly responded, “Okay, Leo. You’re a friend and you need a solution. Let me see what I can do.”
I went to the dressing room down the hall and talked to one of the newer wrestlers, a likable and talented guy named Roddy. I had wrestled him several times, and I thought he had tremendous potential. All he needed was a break. I told him what had just been offered. He congratulated me.
“No,” I said, “Congratulations are not in order. I turned them down.”
“Oh, wow, why?” Roddy said in disbelief, “I would have done anything for an opportunity like that!”
“Really?” I asked with a very serious look on my face. “Are you sure?”
Roddy enthusiastically replied, "Absolutely!"
I looked him directly in the eyes and said, “Roddy, I’m going to get you that break”
“Wow! Thank you, thank you,” he responded.
“Hold on,” I said sternly, “Don’t thank me. The first time you get stabbed by some idiot fan, you may actually hate me for this.”
I spent some time coaching Roddy on his upcoming interview. There was news of an Arab oil embargo then, so I suggested that he say something like this:
“Mr. Announcer, I represent the greatest professional wrestler of all time, Java Ruuk. People here want to persecute this man. But, you, Mr. Announcer, are different. I have just spoken to Java Ruuk's father, the Sheik, who has a personal message for you. He says he appreciates your friendship with his son, and for having Java Ruuk as your regular dinner guest – (see, Roddy, this will be great because the announcer doesn't like the guy either. He won’t know what to say; he will not want the fans to associate him with this villainous anti-American Java Ruuk character) – And, so, Mr. Announcer, out of friendship, Java Ruuk’s father, the sheik, has sent you a gift. It is a barrel of Arabian oil. And, he wants you and the miserable people of your country to know that it is the last barrel of Arabian oil your country will ever see!”
Roddy was a natural. He did it beautifully. The promotion loved it and complimented him on his “original idea.”
That was the beginning. He would go on to become one of the very best in the world. The name “Rowdy Roddy Piper” would become a household name. He would become an icon of professional wrestling and be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Unfortunately, Roddy Piper would also be attacked by fans on many occasions. The first time he was stabbed by a fan took place – you guessed it – at the Olympic Auditorium. It happened within a matter of months after our original conversation.
Roddy Piper, I'm proud to say, became a friend -- and never again thanked me for initiating his “big break.”
About the author: Rock Riddle wrestled professionally full-time (5 to 10 matches per week) for nearly ten years.* He 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, Rock 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 biographies, complete with 100+ photos and lots of additional information, will be shared on this site soon.
* After the first 10-years, Rock switched to a much easier "part time" schedule for a few decades and still manages to wrestle at least a couple of times per year. He also coaches, headlines seminars and training sessions, and currently does color commentary for Empire Wrestling Federation.
"I never met a camera or microphone that I didn't like." - Rock Riddle