I have thought a lot about what to write in this article, and in fact every subsequent article I write for Wrestling 101. I’ve decided that everytime I write anything, I want it to be something I know a lot about, something I find interesting, and most of all, I want it to be from the heart.
Yesterday I started a nostalgia thread at Talk Wrestling Online, and my own personal choice was something that makes me smile everytime I think about it;
“Cut The Music!!
What I’d like right now is for all the fat, sweaty, outta shape losers to pipe down while I take my robe off, and show the ladies what a real man looks like
Hit The Music”
There’s your typical Ravishing Rick Rude promo, and it’s something I’ll always fondly remember. And I can think of no more fitting a subject for my first Wrestling 101 article than a tribute to one of my favourite workers of all time.
Known for having a body chiselled out of stone, and gyrating for appreciative female fans in the ring, Ravishing Rick Rude had it all as a heel until a serious injury put him on the sidelines. Portrayed as the ultimate ladies man, Rude did a striptease in the ring as part of his entrance and belittled the male fans as fat and out-of-shape wherever he wrestled. His ring attire, long hair and incredibly toned body made him one of the most recognizable superstars of the era.
He really was a man you loved to hate, a true heel in the classic tradition of wrestling heels. He was loud; he was arrogant; he was cocky. He would strut to the ring in his outlandish costumes, flicking his hair and showing pure contempt for the fans. Showered with boos from the crowd, he would sneer and taunt us. As if that weren’t enough, then he’d get in the ring and get a mic in his hand for one of his legendary pre-match speeches, and by then our blood would be boiling with hatred. He could make the crowd hate him like nobody else at the time, and very few in the history of the game.
At the same time, his athletic prowess in the ring was unmatched. And I truly appreciated him for that. When I first saw him (mid to late eighties), I was just a kid and as such I genuinely hated the character he played, but I never missed one of his matches. In his prime, he was one of the best workers I’ve ever seen in the business. His dedication to wrestling was evident in his chiselled physique and astounding skill. He could switch between pure technical wrestling, showmanship and outright brawling seamlessly several times in the course of one match. During his four years with the WWF, there was none better. Why he never wore the Heavyweight belt is not a mystery, he wrestled in the era of Hogan, when the WWF only wanted face champs, so unfortunately he never won the big one. He had to settle for second best, the Intercontinental Championship.
In retrospect, probably my fondest memory of the “Ravishing One” was his epic feud with Jake Roberts. Rick’s thing was that he would pull a young lady from the crowd and plant a kiss on her prior to each match. One night, Jake’s wife was sitting in the front row, and Rick selected her for the “thrill of her life”. As per the script, she of course took great offence to this. She explained that she couldn’t kiss him because her husband wouldn’t like that. When Rick asked her who her husband was she proudly said, “Jake ‘the Snake’ Roberts”. Of course, Rick was unimpressed by this fact and kissed her anyway. She slapped him and Rude pushed her to the floor, and one of the greatest feuds in WWF history was on. Rude was able to carry the technically less-talented Roberts for months, giving fans outstanding match after outstanding match. A truly classic wrestling feud that will be remembered by many fans for a long long time.
Already a former two-time Florida World Heavyweight Champion, Rude’s popularity certainly skyrocketed when he was hired by Vince McMahon during the eighties wrestling boom to be managed by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan as part of his stable of wrestlers. A “pose down” at the 1989 Royal Rumble brought about a memorable feud with The Ultimate Warrior, in which Rude proved himself to be a world-class carrier and ring-general against his clueless opponent. WrestleMania 5 was no doubt the highlight of his WWF career. Bobby Heenan tripped up the Warrior and held down his legs so Rude could get the pin fall, kicking off his successful run as the WWF’s Intercontinental Champion, while also becoming the first man to beat Warrior on TV. Their series of bouts culminated in the rather superb World Title/Steel Cage match at SummerSlam in 1990, where Rude carried the Warrior to one of his best ever matches.
Rude eventually left the WWF and joined the rival up and coming WCW promotion. He met with success in the WCW, continuing his track record of phenomenal matches. Rude captured the NWA World Heavyweight Title from Ric Flair on September 19, 1993. WCW withdrew from the NWA shortly after Rude won the belt, and the title was renamed the WCW International World Heavyweight Title. Hiroshi Hase beat Rude for the belt on March 16, 1994, but Rude triumphantly regained the title back on March 24, 1994. Rude again dropped the belt in a truly great contest to WCW’s franchise player Sting on April 17, 1994.
He held the United States title there beating a mid-card wrestler known as Dustin Runnels (who of course, would go on to become Goldust in the WWF). Then came the unforeseen climax to Rude’s stellar career. While still under WCW contract Rick, who was besieged with a variety of injuries over his career, met a casualty he could not overcome. Rick suffered a serious back injury in Japan that Paul Heyman later called the most serious he had ever witnessed. The injury led to Rude’s early retirement from the ring. Although he would never again be the in-ring force that he had been in the past, his charisma and attitude kept him as one of the best known personalities within the sports-entertainment industry.
Rude was relegated to a role of manager/commentator in ECW, and as a bodyguard to D-Generation X in the WWF. In an astonishing turn of events, Rude went back to the WCW. A member of the New World Order managing hometown bud Curt Hennig, Rude’s jump had him on the live Nitro broadcast and the taped Raw show on the same night. This unique twist embarrassed the WWF. He was said to have left the Federation in support of his good friend Bret Hart after Survivor Series ’97. That move, more than any other I can bring up, show’s Rude’s true character – a man of devotion and loyalty. So it was back to WCW where Rick would finish out his final wrestling days as part of the NWO and an ally of long-time friend Curt Henning. This kept him in the business he loved so much. Shortly before his death, he was working on a deal to become a broadcaster.
Tragically, Rick Rude died on April 20, 1999, in his Georgia home at the age of 41. The cause was ruled as heart failure. Fans were shocked by his sudden death. Rick Rude was a specimen of physical health; in shape, muscular and cut like no one else, how could he have died of heart failure? Some attributed his heart failure to steroid abuse, some to the hormone GHB, a drug which speeds up the production of growth hormone, and increases metabolism, thus burning more fat while a person is sleeping. In any case, Rick suffered a massive heart attack at home and died en route to the hospital. He was survived by wife Michelle, daughter Merissa, and sons Ryan and Colton.
Rude was a trailblazer in the industry. From the customized costuming and tendency to address the audience over the house microphone, to the in-ring promo that became synonymous with his character, Rick Rude is someone fans will never forget. His constant belittlement of the “fat, out of shape, sweat-hog” fans always managed to get a huge reaction. Rude’s persona was a definite forerunner to the entrance speeches of the likes of Val Venis, Road Dogg, The Rock, Scott Steiner and countless other superstars.
Rick dazzled us with his skills and charisma in the ring. It is amazing the impact he left on the wrestling world in only 11 years as an active wrestler. He was one of those rare wrestlers that could make a mediocre opponent look great in the ring. Most notably, Roberts and the Ultimate Warrior, which was no small feat in and of itself.
These are things that fans know about Rude; but what about the man behing the character? Rick Rude’s in-ring persona was that of a muscle-bound, egocentric ladies’ man. But to his friends, family, and those fans who had an opportunity to meet him, Rick is remembered for being a good person, a devoted friend and husband, and an honourable man. Fans who had the opportunity to meet Rude explain how he was nice and kind outside of the squared circle, always willing to take the time to converse and sign autographs before leaving the arena he performed in that night.
From what I’ve read, Rude seemed to make an intense impact on almost all those who he worked with, individuals who eventually became his friends. With that in mind I would like to quote Bret Hart’s comments about Rick, someone who knew not just “Ravishing Rick”, but also Rick the father, husband and friend;
“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”.
Rick Rude was undoubtedly a driving force in bringing wrestling to where it is today and his style set the standard that many have emulated. He left behind a legacy of professionalism, unmatched athleticism, great matches and unforgettable promos. Personally I will never forget him. As far as I’m concerned he, along with all the other greats of the 80’s and early 90’s helped raise me on wrestling, as I sat in front of the television cheering for my favourite superstars every Saturday morning on Sky One. With the death of Rick Rude, the business lost a fine talent, but more importantly, from all accounts, a terrific person.
Rick you’re still missed. You left an empty space in this mark’s heart that will never be filled. Thanks for the memories.
One more time: “Cut The Music . . . . . .”