One Of The All-Time Greats Hangs ‘Em Up

Scott Hudson


I have had it up to here with no-names announcing the end of their wrestling â<80><9c>careersâ<80> with ridiculously inflated backstories making them out to be superstars on par with Hogan, Flair and Andre. So, as a public service, I have written a newspaper article template that these schlubs can use. Just change some dates and names and you have your press release:

â<80><9c>Rock Hardâ<80> Calls It A Career

(Sheboygan, WI) – When 11-year-old Ron Kent first glimpsed the flickering black and white images of two behemoths in gym shorts pounding each other on a late night UHF channel, he knew he was hooked. â<80><9c>I looked at my father, who was watching with me after spending the day as a quarterback for one of the NFL teams, and said, â<80>~Dad, I wanna do that.â<80><99>â<80> That was in 1969, the year Kentâ<80><99>s uncle was the standby payload specialist for the Apollo 11 lunar landing and the year the sport of professional wrestling, knowingly or unknowingly, welcomed â<80><9c>Rock Hardâ<80> Ron Kent into its fraternity.

As the story goes, Kent was trained by local bartender â<80><9c>Elijahâ<80> Craig Romanoski. The truth, as Kent is loathe to reveal, was quite different. â<80><9c>Elijah and I concocted the training story as a cover. He was a heck of a worker but really did not want to train me. I contacted Verne Gagne and was accepted into his school,â<80> Kent recalled. â<80><9c>I enrolled as a 14-year-old with the likes of Ric Flair, Ken Patera, and a young man who would later be known as Dwayne â<80><9c>The Rockâ<80> Johnson.â<80>

â<80><9c>Mr. Gagne pulled me aside and told me, didnâ<80><99>t ask me, told me that I could never tell anyone that I was part of the class. He said I was the standout of the trainees and he wanted to keep me in his hip pocket, so to speak, until the right time. He would then unleash â<80><9c>Rocketâ<80> Ron Kent on the world!â<80> Kent laughed, â<80><9c>He said, if you tell anyone, I will deny I ever met you.â<80> While Flair, Patera and â<80><9c>The Rockâ<80> went on to immediate success, Kent patiently waited – keeping his secret.

Kent endured the sometime 16-hour days training all in the hope of his â<80><9c>unleashing.â<80> Then, the 1979 telephone call that changed his trajectory. â<80><9c>Dan Gable and Lee Allen called and said, based on the reports they had heard from Mr. Gagneâ<80><99>s camp, that I would be a perfect member of the 1980 U. S. Olympic Wrestling Team. â<80><9c>There was something of a tug-of-war,â<80> Kent reflected, â<80><9c>Coach Gable wanted me for freestyle and Coach Allen wanted me for Greco. So I respectfully said, â<80>~Sirs, canâ<80><99>t I do both?â<80><99> They agreed and I was on the team.â<80>

But there was a catch. â<80><9c>Out of respect for Mr. Gagne, my name would be left off the official roster until we got to Moscow. I understood because I had and still have a lot of respect for Mr. Gagne.â<80> Kent again endured a training regimen that brought gasps from team mates Brian Gust, Brad Rheinghans and Jeff Blatnick. That dedication is how he earned the name â<80><9c>Rock Hard.â<80> â<80><9c>When President Carter met with us at the White House and told us of the boycott, he spoke to each of us individually. When he got to me, he squeezed my bi and tri and said â<80>~Son, you are rock hard.â<80><99> The name stuck, I guess.â<80> But so did the heartbreak of not realizing his destiny of two Olympic gold medals.

His training complete and his Olympic dreams crushed, the newly christened â<80><9c>Rock Hardâ<80> Ron Kent entered the wild and wacky world of professional wrestling. He competed as â<80><9c>The Masked Superstarâ<80> in the NWA Georgia territory for several years before the promotion became one of the first casualties of the WWFâ<80><99>s national expansion. â<80><9c>Vince (McMahon) wanted me to come to the WWF and debut at the first Wrestlemania using my legitimate wrestling background as a gimmick. But, out of respect for my Olympic team mates, I said no,â<80> Kent remembers. He eventually did join the big leagues as a member of The Marauders, a masked tag-team he formed with Stone Cold Steve Austin. â<80><9c>Steve helped me so much,â<80> Kent stated, â<80><9c>and he went on to become one of the biggest stars in the world. I was very proud of him.â<80>

But the spotlights and huge crowds of the WWF were not enough for Kent and he left the comfort of a six-figure salary to wrestle independently and see the world. His travels took him to Japan, Australia, England and both Koreas where achieved his greatest success. His final overseas tour last May saw perhaps his highest exposure. â<80><9c>Honkytonk Man and I headlined an outdoor show in Agra, India, at the Sikandra. The local paper estimated the crowd at over 150,000. I was really overwhelmed that the fans remembered me. I had not been to Agra since 2002,â<80> Kent harkened back.

Since 2007, Kent has owned and operated Dairy State Wrestling (DSW) which produces live wrestling every Sunday afternoon at Willieâ<80><99>s Irish Pub where the bartender is, ironically, â<80><9c>Elijahâ<80> Craig Romanoski. â<80><9c>Yeah it seems to have come full circle,â<80> Kent laughs, â<80><9c>but we still have a few secrets we will take to the grave.â<80> It is this weekendâ<80><99>s DSW show where â<80><9c>Rock Hardâ<80> Ron Kent will make his swan song to the sport that has occupied the last 39 years of his life. He will face former WWE superstar Barry Horowitz in what he says is his final match.

â<80><9c>Iâ<80><99>ve seen the world and made a nice living for my family,â<80> Kent noted, â<80><9c>and I am ready to give back to the community here in Sheboygan that gave so much to me over the years.â<80> After his farewell, Kent will open the doors of his newest adventure Monday morning, Rock Hard Landscaping. Kent will also continue to serve as interim pastor at the Oostburg Second Baptist Church. â<80><9c>I really just want to go where God leads me, and I feel now he is leading me from the bright lights of international superstardom to mowing grass on the shores of Lake Michigan.â<80>

Tickets for the DSW show are $10 and available at the Holistic Health Center and Thompson Marine and Boat Storage.

There. Your mom, the rat youâ<80><99>ve been living off of for 2 years and the supporting-rat-to-be can brag to everyone about how great you thought you were.

Look, not to sound so angry, but if you are a wrestler – Congratulations! Itâ<80><99>s a harder than hell job that calls only the most dedicated to its ranks. Any wrestler has the absolute highest degree of respect from me for merely trying much less succeeding to any degree. Take pride in what you accomplished (even you never made a dime). Just keep the lies to yourself (and your rat).

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