Over the Top Rope!
Rock Riddle's Wrestling Revue #2
by Rock Riddle, the Original "Mr. Wonderful" of Professional Wrestling
I made the decision on my 16th birthday to become a professional wrestler!
After all, I had been President of a fan club for one of the world’s most famous villainous wrestlers (Rip Hawk) for nearly two years. And, having a fan club for one of the most hated ‘bad guy’ wrestlers alive was news. I had already been interviewed for magazine and newspaper stories and I had appeared a number of times on live television. Yes, at the age of 16, I was hooked. I had the wrestling business in my blood and I knew it would always be there. I wasn’t content running a fan club for someone else. No, I had to be in the ring. That’s where I belonged. The wrestling ring would become my home. I knew it with every fiber of my being. And, I set out to make it happen.
In my junior year of high school, I joined the wrestling team – are you ready for this? – wrestling in the 138-pound weight class! Yes, I weighed about 135 pounds dripping wet. No normal person would dare to even imagine such an impossible goal. Thankfully, I was not normal. Normal is boring. Normal is small-town limited thinking. Normal is living life in a strait jacket.
I knew that I could and would live my dreams. Everybody told me it was impossible. The wrestling coach hated me because of my ambition to turn pro. He made it very tough on me, and that’s just what I wanted!
I remember sitting in the only chair there was in a little barber shop attached to an older house on Main Street in Graham, North Carolina.
"Boy, you ain’t never gonna be big a-nough ta rassle pro," the old gray-haired barber said. "Ya otta jus git yerself a good job lak ya Daddy. He’s been a-working ere in a drugstore since he-uz 14."
I thanked the old man for his advice, and, as usual, I had the last word. "I’m going to do it," I told him. "You don’t have to take my word for it; I’ll show you."
I smiled as I walked out of the shop, knowing that I would be back for my "I told you so" appearance.
Fast forward five years. I had turned pro at the age of twenty. I had already wrestled some of the best in the world.
The main event was about to go on at a sold-out National Guard Armory in Burlington, North Carolina.
"In the corner to my right," the ring announcer touted, "weighing in at 218 pounds, the former Heavyweight Wrestling Champion of the World, North Carolina's own George Becker!" The announcement was met with thunderous applause.
"And, in the corner to my left," <the boos had already started> "weighing in at 236 1/2 pounds, claiming to be from Hollywood, California and disavowing any connection to the town of Burlington," <tremendous boos>, "Rock 'Mr. Wonderful' Riddle!"
Much to the dismay of the fans, I used a few ‘short cuts’ I had learned from my hero Rip Hawk.
Remember, my opponent, George Becker, was loved and adored. I was hated from the time I was a fan club president.
I defeated the former heavyweight champion in the middle of the ring, causing the local police to call for back-up (every cop in the county and surrounding counties!) to put down what they were sure was about to escalate into a full-scale riot.
A few of the fans pulled knives and one attempted to hit me with a cane. The poor, misguided soul.
The front page story in the local newspaper said that the guy went flying over eight rows of chairs. Gee, all I remember was that I gently placed my hand on his chest and gingerly guided him backward so he wouldn’t get hurt. I’ll share the entire story with you in a future column.
Two days after that historic main event, I was once again sitting in the barber chair in Graham, NC. I weighed a muscular 236 pounds, sporting 18 ½ inch arms, bleached blond hair, and a great tan.
The same old gentleman cut my hair as though he was in a daze, not saying a word, occasionally shaking his head in disbelief.
"Damn, boy," he finally muttered, "After what you done, I don’t thank nothin’s impossible no more."
He was absolutely right.