Over the Top Rope!
Rock Riddle's Wrestling Revue #3
by Rock Riddle, the Original "Mr. Wonderful" of Professional Wrestling
Walter M. Williams High School -- Burlington, North Carolina.
It was a very special day for me. I was seventeen years old and I was about to be graduated from high school. No, it wasn’t special because of the graduation. It was special because I was about to be liberated!
As soon as I had the diploma in my hands, I dumped my cap and gown and bolted for my car.
The white Cadillac convertible had been packed for over three weeks, and now, thankfully, I was finally heading out of the state. I was finally getting away from the small-town thinking. I was finally getting out of that strait jacket!
I drove for over 20 hours, ending up in West Palm Beach, Florida. Wow, an ocean! And, people who could speak English (“could you put it here, please” as opposed to “put er rat cheer”). A place that had professional bodybuilding gyms, judo and karate dojos, and even an ex-professional wrestler who was willing to coach me. This place was full of opportunity, and that was all I ever wanted.
I decided to go to college there. I completed my studies in three years, by going year-round, and received my degree in criminology and law enforcement.
I did some private detective, bodyguard and surveillance work to put myself through school, but my main focus was on wrestling -- professional wrestling.
I never studied in college. I didn’t need to; I could pass by simply paying attention in class.
Plus, I wasn’t willing to waste the time. I had to concentrate on bodybuilding, martial arts, and wrestling. In three years, I added a solid 75 pounds of muscle to my 5’10½” frame. I would wrestle my first ever professional match at a solid 222 pounds.
It was my senior year of college. I had contacted the wrestling promotion in Florida, and eventually made an appointment to meet with the promoters -- inside the terminal at Tampa's International Airport.
I showed them my ring attire – my velvet ‘Mr. Wonderful’ robes, sequined jackets, multi-colored tights and trunks, and my custom-designed orange and black wrestling boots. I knew they had already noticed my bleached blond hair and suntan. I was confident that I was ready, but they didn’t seem to be overly impressed.
There was a wrestler with them, Billy Blue River. He had a deep cut across his forehead with about eighteen stitches in it.
“You really want to get in this business, kid?” he asked. He pointed to his forehead. “You really willing to endure this kind of pain?”
I said, ‘of course.’
“You know how this happened?” he continued. “I got cut with a carpet knife. Lost a lot of blood. Referee never saw the knife. Cost me a lot. Wrestlers can’t buy insurance, you know.”
What he said didn’t faze me at all.
“Okay,” I thought, “so there’s pain in the wrestling business; if it gets a little extreme at times, so be it.”
Later I discovered that he and the promoters were all testing me to see how serious I was.
Apparently I was serious and passionate enough, because they offered me my first professional wrestling match! It would happen the day after I was graduated from college.
Now a college graduate at the advanced age of twenty, I drove for over six hours to accept my initiation into the world of professional wrestling. My first professional match would be a tag-team main event which would prove to be memorable.
I had never been in a wrestling ring before. When I was thrown into the ropes, I didn’t bounce off as expected. No, I went through the ropes, backwards, landing upside-down on my head on the concrete. Much to the amazement of the wide-eyed wrestlers and the fans, I quickly got up and climbed back into the ring.
The match went well, for my first ever appearance, and my partner and I were victorious.
Amazingly enough, my opponent was Billy Blue River, the wrestler I had met months earlier in the Tampa airport. My partner had beaten Blue River and simply tagged me in so I could cover him.
“No, too easy,” I thought. “I’ll give him a flying elbow drop before I pin him.” I was told that Blue River saw stars for quite a while after the match ended.
After I had showered and dressed, I received my "payoff" for the event -- in cash! All five dollars of it. I was elated.
Not only had I been initiated into the world of professional wrestling, but I was main event, I won, I was able to walk away under my own power, and I was even paid for it! And, I was only 20 years old. This could very well be the beginning, I surmised, of an amazing dream-come-true wrestling career.
I went on to wrestle most of the world’s top stars, including Lou Thez, Andre the Giant, Pat Patterson, Ray Stevens, Jerry Lawler, Haystacks Calhoun, Ric Flair, Harley Race, Vern Gagne, Red Bastien, Jack Brisco, Dory and Terry Funk, Ted DiBiase, John Tolos, The Iron Sheik, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, "Judo" Gene Lebell, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Gorgeous George Jr., Greg Valentine, Mando & Chavo Guerrero, Don Muraco, Pedro Morales, Superstar Billy Graham, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, Dusty Rhodes, and hundreds more. Many amazing stories concerning these veterans, along with the current wrestling stars, will be shared with you in this column.
I will help you step into the world of professional wrestling. Next week you’ll experience what it’s like to be in the dressing room and in the ring; and you’ll gain insight into the extreme humor of the "boys."
This column welcomes your wrestling-related questions.
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