EDITOR’s NOTE: Today WWE announced that the legendary Rick Rude would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on March 31st. This is a long overdue induction. What follows is a column I wrote, the 88th edition of “A View from the Rafters,” back in 2009 around the 10th anniversary of Rick Rude’s passing. Rick Rude was long a favorite of mine, along with his good Mr. Perfect. I could not be happier to see him finally get the recognition he deserves with this Hall of Fame induction. Again, this piece was written in April 2009 and is being published here for the first time.
Ten years and four days ago, the world of professional wrestling lost one of its most gifted and entertaining performers. Since his death ten years ago, many of his peers have also passed, and with each passing year, the memory of him fades just a little bit more. I’m talking about a guy named Richard Rood, known better to us wrestling fans as “Ravishing” Rick Rude. This ain’t a history piece per se, you can look the man up on Wikipedia yourself. Instead, this is a reflection of my thoughts about one of my all time favorite wrestlers and the impact I feel he permanently left on the world of wrestling.
I’m going to address Rude’s death first, simply because of last weeks edition. Last week, I wrote a column titled “Stupidity Killed The Wrestling Star” about how wrestlers who die young because of drugs have no one to blame but themselves and their own stupidity. Rick Rude was forty-years-old when he died of heart failure. Forty-years-old ladies and gentlemen, in the real world Rick Rude was still pretty young, far too young to die of heart failure. Of course his autopsy reveals his heart failure was because of a drug overdose, most likely a combination of GHB and steroids. Indeed, stupidity killed the wrestling star known as Rick Rude. The hows and whys of his death are really irrelevant though; a wife lost her husband, three kids lost their father, many folks the world over lost a friend, and the wrestling fans lost a great performer.
As I look around the wrestling community on the Internet today, I see little mention of Rick Rude. Among the deceased individuals discussed relatively often is Owen Hart, who died just a little over a month after Rick Rude. I reckon part of the reason for this is the manner in which Owen died being unique in wrestling and a real tragedy. But then I also wonder if part of the reason is simply some of the fans are products of the “Attitude Era” and only remember Rick Rude the manager, and not necessarily Rick Rude the wrestler. I could be totally off base in that assumption, but it just seems to me like Rude is under-appreciated and over-looked. Though I guess if you’re not someone like Hulk Hogan or Ultimate Warrior, time works against you in the being remembered department.
Rick Rude had a pretty good run in the then WWF in the late 80’s through 1990. Being born in 1986, I wasn’t able to appreciate this run until later thanks to the ancient VHS tapes of WWF television shows and pay-per-views. It was in WWF that Rude had a great feud with another legendary performer, Jack “the Snake” Roberts. In classic Rude fashion, Rick got under the skin of the Snake by coming to the ring with Jake Roberts’ real wife Cheryl’s face air-brushed on the front of his tights. While maybe undervalued today, it remains one of the most classic and memorable WWF moments of the late 80’s. Hell, you just don’t paint another mans wife’s face on your crotch, that’s downright rude right? That’s why Rick Rude was so awesome, or ravishing as he proclaimed.
Most folks would probably tend to remember Rude in WWF for his feud with the Ultimate Warrior. I never liked the Warrior, he was just never my type of wrestler. I believe Randy Savage got the absolute best that could have ever been gotten out of Warrior, but Rude was able to get some good matches out of the Warrior as well, the two most notable being WrestleMania V (where Rude won the Intercontinental Championship) and Summer Slam 1989 (where Rude lost the Intercontinental Championship). Despite being one of, if not the most over heels of the time, Rude was never allowed to win the WWF Championship. He wrestled the Warrior for it on Summer Slam 1990, but he didn’t win it. That’s one of the things WWF really got wrong in the course of history, not giving Rick Rude the opportunity to run with the ball. Another would be not giving Mr. Perfect that same opportunity, but that’s for another column, aye?
It was when Rick Rude left the WWF and went to WCW that I really remember becoming a big fan of the guy, simply because being a little bit older at that time, I can actually remember things from that time period, whereas before I was just too young. This was in late 1991 when Rude came into WCW, Halloween Havoc I believe is when he debuted. Immediately, he was paired with Paul E. Dangerously (more commonly known as Paul Heyman) and the two formed a stable that, like Rude himself, is severely underrated. That stable was of course the Dangerous Alliance, which also consisted of Steve Austin, Arn Anderson, Larry Zbyszko, Bobby Eaton and Madusa.
To show how big the stable was at the time, they competed in the main event of WCW’s WrestleWar ’92 against Sting, Barry Windham, Dustin Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat and Nikita Koloff in a War Games match. Up until that point, the War Games was the Four Horsemen’s territory. War Games was a big deal in NWA/WCW, headlining it was major stuff and this ranks right near the best of them.
The United States Championship has had a pretty rich history since its creation in 1975. A lot of individuals have held the title MVP currently holds, among these are some of the biggest and most talented names in wrestling. Rick Rude won the United States Championship in November 1991 by defeating Sting. Rude didn’t lose the title, he had to forfeit the title due to a legitimate injury in January 1993. Rude enjoyed an almost fourteen month reign as the WCW United States Champion, and there’s no telling how long it would have lasted had he not gotten injured. This is the second longest reign for the championship, the longest reign being held by Lex Luger. That’s pretty damn impressive if you ask me. Rude would come back from injury and have even more success though, by capturing the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship three times.
I’ll never forget the classic match-up between Rick Rude and Ric Flair at Fall Brawl 1993, where Rude defeated the legendary Nature Boy to win the WCW International Heavyweight Championship in a bout that lasted just over thirty-minutes or their Halloween Havoc 1993 encounter. Likewise, I’ll never forget the classic matches that Rude and Sting had over that same championship. I know history seems to forget or simply discards the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship as a meaningless championship that was only around for a little over a year, but at the time it was quite important and was on the same level as the NWA or WCW World Championship. In its short existence, Rick Rude held this title more than anyone, so it’s kind of sad when you see folks kind of brush it aside and not treat it as a World Championship.
Rick Rude shined in WCW from 1991 through 1994. His work in WCW, as an in-ring competitor, blows away anything he did in the World Wrestling Federation before. He was a true superstar in WCW during that time period, and there’s simply no telling how bright his star would have shone had he not been injured. On May 1, 1994, Rick Rude won the WCW International Heavyweight Championship from Sting over in Japan for the very last time. This reign as champion ended on May 1st, not because Rude lost a match, but because he injured his neck winning the title. The storyline that was made out of it, was that Rude was stripped of the title because he hit Sting with the belt during the match. In reality, Rude’s neck and back was injured during the match and he would never wrestle again.
It’s hard to say what would have happened to Rude’s career had it not been cut short due to this injury that forced him to retire. He was a big thing in WCW, a tremendous heel, but a few months after his injury Hulk Hogan arrived in WCW and was quickly followed by Macho Man Randy Savage. Clearly, the landscape in World Championship Wrestling was changing, and it was becoming all about Hulk Hogan. Would Rick Rude have remained a major force in the company? Would he have feuded with Hogan and would he have won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship? I like to think the answer to all three would be a resounding yes, but then you could easily have thought the same about a number of WCW stars. It’s a shame that we as wrestling fans didn’t get to see what could have been though and that such a bright future was ended in a moments notice.
Eventhough Rick Rude couldn’t wrestle anymore, he showed that he could still be an asset to wrestling. He went to ECW in 1996 and managed and did color-commentary. In 1997, he made a return to the WWF as the manager, or “insurance policy” of Shawn Michaels and eventually Degeneration X. Rude didn’t like the way Vince McMahon handled the Bret Hart title situation, the Montreal Screwjob, so less than a week after that, he was gone from the Federation. He wasn’t under a real contract to WWF, he had a pay-per-appearance deal and he was still doing ECW work at the time. On November 17, 1997, Rick Rude made history and gave us fans one of the most memorable moments of the Monday Night War. He appeared on Monday Night RAW, which was taped six days earlier, with the beard he had had since coming back. Before that segment aired on RAW, Rick Rude walked out on Monday Nitro behind Hulk Hogan, as the newest member of the New World Order, with his beard shaved and only his trademark mustache remaining. He then proceeded to give a great promo about what was right and wrong with wrestling, specifically how Shawn Michaels won the title and how McMahon screwed Bret Hart. This was great television, and classic Rude. Rude of course managed the NWO, and more specifically Curt Hennig from that point on.
Rude ultimately disappeared from WCW in 1998 due to injuries. Some say that in early 1999, Rick Rude was actively training to make a return as a professional wrestler for WCW, others say for WWF. That’s rumors, to the best of my knowledge, but I definitely think Rude could have made a comeback. It would explain why he was using GHB and steroids, he probably would have felt the need to use them to get back into wrestling as opposed to managing, then again it could have been because of his injuries. Who really knows right? Rick Rude knew what he was doing, I’m sure Curt Hennig knew as well, but you can’t ask them, they’re dead. Forty-years-old, the tragic ending of one of wrestlings most gifted and entertaining superstars lives, almost five years after the tragic end of his in-ring career.
When it starts getting close for WrestleMania season, there tends to be a lot of Hall of Fame discussion about who should get inducted or shouldn’t be inducted. You don’t see a lot of call for Rick Rude to go in the Hall though, and I don’t think it’s because people don’t believe he deserves it, rather he just gets overlooked. In that same regard, you don’t see many calls for a Rick Rude DVD either, but he definitely deserves both. I’d love to see Rude get a two-disc DVD like Brian Pillman and Curt Hennig did, I’d buy it the day it came out.
You know, Lex Luger may have had the nickname “The Total Package”, but Rick Rude was definitely the total package. Where it matters the most to me, in the ring, Rude was great at wrestling. He could wrestle extremely well, but he also got the psychology of it down pact as well. On the microphone, Rude could cut a good promo. His air-brushed tights were always unique and cool, in turn it helped make him stand out even more. His antics in the ring, his gyrating hips aimed at playing to the female fans and his arrogance, made him the guy male fans loved to hate and the female fans just loved. Sean Morely is a damn good wrestler and entertainer, but Val Venis never held a candle to Ravishing Rick Rude. And of course Rude had the toned, great body that wrestler promoters love. As you can see, he was indeed the total package.
The Rick Rude character pushed the envelope in wrestling long before the Attitude Era came about. In doing so, Rick Rude provided me and millions of other wrestling fans many great matches and memorable moments. It’s hard to be believe that one of my favorites growing up as been dead for ten years now.
In Wolfgang Petersen’s epic film Troy, the main motivation behind Brad Pitt’s character (Achilles), is immortality. He sought to be a great warrior, because he wanted his name to live on through the ages. He went with the Greeks to Troy, only because he was told that the war would never be forgotten, nor would the hero’s who fight in it. He wanted, in his own words, “what all men want, I just want it more”. Immortality, to live on after death, to never be forgotten. In the opening, we hear Odysseus giving us a voice over, and he says, “Men are haunted by the vastness of eternity. And so we ask ourselves: will our actions echo across the centuries? Will strangers hear our names long after we are gone, and wonder who we were, how bravely we fought, how fiercely we loved?”
Richard Rood has been dead for ten years, yet the memory and legacy of Rick Rude still lives on, and thanks to video and Internet and books, it will for a long time. Hell, ten years later, here I am writing a column about the man. His actions may not echo across the centuries, but they’ve echoed throughout the first decade of his passing. And for as long as I shall live, unless I develop Alzheimer’s, the actions of Rick Rude will forever echo in my memory.
In closing, I leave you with this quote from Bret Hart about his friend, Rick Rude:
“Rick Rude was anything but…rude. In any circle of friends and phonies, you take the good with the bad. And the bad makes you appreciate the good even more. At the height of my road days, when 300 flights in 300 towns a year was normal, strangers became family and family became strangers. You can’t pick your family but you can pick your friends. Rick Rude was one of the best picks I ever made. He was a great family man. He loved his wife. He was one of those kind of guys who never took his wedding ring off. He put a white piece of tape around it when he went into the ring. He was the kind of guy that when you needed someone to back you up, he wouldn’t flinch at all. Not for money. Not for anything. When McMahon and his sidearm barged into my dressing room in Montreal, Rick was there. He was one of the guys who refused to budge. Refused to allow me to be put in a compromising position. Rick Rude stayed there to make sure my back was watched. There were, and are, some people who think the whole thing that happened between McMahon and I was a hoax. Rick was the one who called Eric Bishoff to say he was there, and told him what had happened. When I was forming new business relationships in WCW, Rude’s call protected me and saved me from a lot of doubt, because even Eric Bishoff had to question whether this was a set-up or not. I was always grateful to Rick for making that call and for being with me in the room that day.”
In Memory Of:
December 7, 1958 – April 20, 1999