Over the Top Rope!
Rock Riddle's Wrestling Revue #5
by Rock Riddle, the Original "Mr. Wonderful" of Professional Wrestling
Over the past few years, I have attended some of the most prestigious wrestling reunions in the world. These yearly events are sponsored and produced by the Cauliflower Alley Club, an organization consisting of the best of the best in professional wrestling.
Every year, literally hundreds of wrestling’s greatest stars attend – stars who became famous as early as the 1940’s through stars who are just becoming famous now. These are amazing events for amazing people. Each takes place over three days, culminating in an awards dinner on the final night.
Several years ago, I ran into my friend Pat Patterson at one of the reunions. What wonderful memories! Pat was one of the best professional wrestlers in the world. He was United States Heavyweight Champion, and he was absolutely amazing in the ring. I wrestled him at least fifty times, and the "worst" match we ever had was amazing.
All of the wrestlers had "open contracts" then. Usually, we had no idea who our opponent would be before we saw him entering the ring. I got to the point that I looked for wrestling posters on my drive to the arenas. When I saw “Rock Riddle vs. Pat Patterson,” I smiled. The fans were definitely going to get their money’s worth that night. And, we brought the house down many, many times.
Pat and I talked about the “good old days,” about how the business has changed over the years; what it lost and what it gained. Pat was Senior Vice President of WWE – Vince McMahon's dominant monolithic wrestling promotion. Very few people alive have the insight that Pat Patterson has.
It was an enlightening conversation. “Pat,” I said seriously, “Let’s get back in the ring again.” The look in his eyes said he wanted to (every wrestler alive, no matter how many years past his prime, dreams of someday making a “comeback”).
“No, Rock,” he said sadly, “Maybe you, but not me. I’m too old.” I didn’t believe him. I still don’t. I think, somehow, some day, someway, we will face each other in the ring again – and I’ll have an amazing photo to publish in a future edition of this column.
Dozens of people had waited for quite some time to speak to the living legend himself, Pat Patterson. I had monopolized his time long enough, I thought, so I started to walk away.
“No, Rock,” Pat said, “Let me introduce you.” He looked towards a couple of his friends.
“Guys, this is Rock Riddle. This is the original 'Mr. Wonderful.' I had some of the best matches of my career with this man.”
For a moment, I found myself waiting to see if there were going to be a "punch line." But, Pat was totally sincere. When that realization hit me, it took some effort to hold back the tears. What a touching, wonderful, amazing compliment! It’s not often that I am speechless, but, at that moment, I definitely was.
Pat continued to introduce me during the course of the evening, using the same words, and with pride in his voice. I thanked him for the introductions, and I told him how much it meant to me.
“Look, Rock,” he said, “I don’t have to say anything unless I want to. I say it because it’s true.” His words left a life-long impression with me and made a difference in my life. Thank you, Pat Patterson!
It had been another wonderful event, but now it was getting late and things were winding down. It was a little sad, knowing that the event was almost over. I was about to leave. I hesitated, though.
I hesitated because I knew that one of the greatest performers of all time was in the room, I had not met him, and I wasn’t sure if I should. He was a genuine celebrity. Most people know him as the Undertaker’s manager, Paul Bearer. He was surrounded by people. “
This guy’s a major international star, Rock,” I said to myself. “You haven’t been on the wrestling scene for fifteen years. He won’t even know who you are. What do want, Rock, an autograph? Leave the guy alone.”
As I was turning to leave, I must have caught his eye. He abruptly stopped his conversation, stood up from his chair, walked towards me with his hand extended, and said, “Rock Riddle! Sir, it’s an honor to meet you. I’d like to shake your hand.”
About this time, I’m waiting for other wrestlers to come out from their hiding places and laugh. "This has to be a joke," I thought . . . but, it wasn’t. This major superstar who was watched by 500 million people every week – this man who was more recognizable than Presidents and heads of state – this brilliant performer I had personally watched for years on television – was honored to meet me?
“I was a fan, Rock,” he explained, “I sat at ringside at the matches in Mobile and watched you wrestle. Rock, you inspired me to get into this business. You paved the way for me and for so many of the guys. Thank you, Sir. Thank you.”
I was dumbfounded, delighted, absolutely amazed and flattered -- all at the same time. Once I regained my composure, we had a great conversation, and I now consider this man to be a friend.
What an amazing friend to have: Percy Pringle, aka Paul Bearer. A true gentleman and a testament to the wonderful world of professional wrestling. Thank you, Percy Pringle/Paul Bearer. Thank you.
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