Over the Top Rope!
Rock Riddle's Wrestling Revue #7
by Rock Riddle, the Original "Mr. Wonderful" of Professional Wrestling
I was working out at the old Holiday Health Club, about a block west of Hollywood’s famous Chinese Theater. From somewhere behind me, I heard a voice.
“Mind if I work in with you?”
I looked around to see a guy in his late 20’s wearing boxing trunks. I tried not to smile.
I said, “Sure, be my guest.”
“Hey, you’re the wrestler on TV,” my new workout buddy offered.
“Yes,” I responded, “and you are a boxer?”
“Ah, yeah, a boxer,” he replied, “The name’s Stallone.”
It took all of my willpower to keep from smiling when he told me his first name was “Sylvester.” He would prove to be one very interesting guy.
Through our numerous discussions over the weeks and months that followed, I developed a great respect and an admiration for this man. He possessed a great wit and a sense of humor even more extreme than my own. And, he was a huge wrestling fan.
Sly, of course, would go on to complete “Rocky”, win the coveted Academy Award, and become one of the best-known actors of all time.
Yes, I was able to witness the birth of a major international superstar. ”It couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy,” I thought. I was happy for him; I still am.
Not too many months passed before Sly presented me with a business proposal.
“Rock,” he said, “I’m going to do a movie about wrestling called ‘Hell’s Kitchen’. I’d like you to do the choreography for the matches.”
“Sure,” I said, “Give me a decent role, and I’ll be happy to do it.” He told me he already had a good role in mind for me.
“Cool,” I thought, “I’m going to be co-starring in a wrestling movie with Sly Stallone. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Ah . . . yes . . . but things would change when Sly discovered how it would be to climb into the ring with real professional wrestlers.
We were in the gym again. Sly had a concerned look on his face, one I had not seen before.
“Rock,” he said, “Some things have happened. I had to change the script. I told you you’re going to be in the movie, and you still are. Only, it’s not going to be the big part.”
“Okay,” I said. I was a little disappointed, but it wasn’t a big deal. “After all,” I thought, “Sly is the writer and the director. It’s his baby. If he says it needs to change, that’s okay. I’m fine with whatever’s best for the project.” That’s always been my attitude in business.
Sly said, “You see, Rock, I met with Gene LeBell.”
“Okay, that explains it,” I interrupted, “What did he do to you?”
"Well, he told me to choke him,” Sly replied, “So I did. Then he said, ‘No, I mean really choke me.’ I gave it all I had, and the guy just stared at me with a sneer on his face. Then he showed me . . . a few moves.”
“Okay, I understand,” I said, “Gene didn’t hurt you, but he made it obvious that he could, very easily, right?”
“Yeah,” Sly admitted, “You see, Rock. I was going to have to work with real wrestlers, and I simply can’t take the chance of getting hurt. So, I changed the script. Now, I’m going to be the brother to the wrestler. I got this guy, Lee Canalito, to play the wrestler part. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s gonna be great. And, I changed the title to ‘Paradise Alley.’ So, now it turns out that Terry Funk will probably be doing a big role.”
"So, Terry Funk got my role," I thought. Well, that was okay. Terry was (and is) a great, deserving guy. He’s a true living legend and a friend. Terry accepted the starring role of ‘Frankie the Thumper,’ and he did it brilliantly. Nobody else could have come close to what Terry Funk brought to that role.
Our conversation continued to center around my friend Terry Funk.
“Rock,” Sly began with a questioning look on his face, “I’m on the cover of every magazine, I’ve won an Academy Award, you know?”
“Yes,” I responded, “Everybody in the world knows who you are.”
“Yeah,” Sly continued, “I guess so. So, I’m in Texas with Terry Funk. We’re in public, people see us, they get excited, rush towards us, and they basically push me out of the way to get to Terry.”
“And, you want to know why that is?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Sly admitted.
“Well, Sly,” I explained, “you see; you are ‘only’ a movie star. Terry Funk is real.”
Sly had the strangest look on his face, but he “got it.” He totally understood. I think Sly always wanted to be a professional wrestler. He’s actually done the next best thing; he’s been accepted by the professional wrestling world as one of their own, and he was publicly honored by wrestling’s premiere fraternity, The Cauliflower Alley Club.
Next week, in PART TWO, you’ll be taken onto the set of “Paradise Alley” with many of the greats of the wrestling business: Bob Roop, Red Bastien, Ted DiBiase, Dory Funk Jr., Don Leo Jonathan, Jay “The Alaskan” York, Ray Stevens, Dick Murdoch, Gene Kiniski, Terry Funk, and yours truly, Rock Riddle.
You’ll read a never-before-divulged true story about Sly Stallone, his elbow, a TV show, professional wrestling, how they all fit together... and much more.
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
A Flying Rock
The Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase