Rick Rude was a special, once-in-a-lifetime kind of wrestler. He went by the nickname "Ravishing" — and rightfully so. He had a solid moveset, great looks (pan to mesmerized woman licking her lips from the crowd), flashy attire, and unbridled arrogance with the in-ring skill to back it all up. He played hard in the ring but even harder out of it. This is his story.
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Professional wrestling used to use a very simple formula. Good versus evil, liked against hated, hero battling villain. In more modern times, these lines can be somewhat blurred. With the emergence in 1996 of the nWo, primarily a group of villains yet cheered in some circles as fan favorites, a whole new grey area emerged in the simplistic world of light and dark wrestling personas.
Potentially a knock-on from this is some modern-day heroes struggling to garner real fan adoration as a Hulk Hogan or a Sting had managed before them. A select few heroes from yesteryear, such as the aforementioned "Hulkster," was charismatic enough to gain a large following of enthusiastic (and dollar spending) supporters. In contrast, many others were more reliant on being cheered just by opposing the hated evil adversary. It is far easier to support a competitor to vanquish the villain than it is to cheer on Mr. Nice when his obstacle is seen as being "cool." Working to be truly hated seems to be a dying art form in present-day wrestling, yet one that has shown to be successful for many past decades.
One of the true greats of garnering a real heated response from the paying public was Ravishing Rick Rude.
Rick Rude – Early Life and Wrestling Beginnings
Born Richard Erwin Rood on December 7th, 1958, Rude attended Robbinsdale High School in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. This area became somewhat of a hotbed for athletes turned professional wrestlers as "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig, Tom Zenk, Nikita Koloff, and the WWF’s Berzerker emerged from this region at a similar time. He was especially close friends with Curt Hennig. Being trained with some of these names by Eddie Sharkey after leaving college, Rude began working matches in 1982 as Ricky Rood, a babyface jobber. Like many of his counterparts, he bounced around the territories before finding a more regular home in CWF (Championship Wrestling from Florida) in December 1984.
In CWF, Rude was managed by Percy Pringle III (who later played the role of Paul Bearer in the WWF). Over the span of three years and feuding with the likes of Pez Whatley, Brian Blair, and Wahoo McDaniel, Rude captured the NWA Florida Southern Heavyweight Championship twice and the NWA Florida United States Tag Championship belts alongside Jesse Barr. Here in Florida is where he honed his craft before moving on to the Texas-based promotion World Class Championship Wrestling.
While working for Fritz Von Erich in WCCW, Pringle came along as his manager as Rude had high profile contests with the hugely popular Von Erich brothers. Title runs (including an NWA American title reign) added more to Rude’s stock before he ventured back to Jim Crockett Promotions, where he had worked sporadically throughout the decade. However, like many stars of the regional promotions, Rick Rude soon found his way to the expanding WWF promotion and Vince McMahon.
Rick Rude in the WWF
Debuting on a 1987 episode of WWF Superstars, Rick Rude was aligned with one of the biggest villains of the era in manager Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. It really is hard to overstate how important Heenan was at this time. His "Heenan Family" stable was regularly clashing with top babyface star Hulk Hogan with new charges, often finding themselves in programs with "The Hulkster" as Heenan tried everything to bring down the yellow and red-clad hero. King Kong Bundy at WrestleMania 2 and a turning Andre the Giant at the following year’s Showcase of the Immortals are prime examples of this. Rick Rude, however, was different. He soon entered into a series of matches with Paul Orndorff, a former Heenan Family member himself, before settling into a heated rivalry with Jake Roberts.
By this stage in his career, Rude had developed a little side act to his performance. Referred to as "The Rude Awakening," Ravishing Rick would invite ladies from the audience into the ring for a kiss. These women would normally comply, as Rude would declare himself better than every other male in attendance. Naturally, this gained Rude much hatred. This, added to his alliance with the despised Heenan, solidified Rude as a classic wrestling villain.
During one of these crowd participation moments, Rude approached a young lady in the audience to only be rebutted. After further conversation commenced between the two, it emerged that this lady was, in fact, Jake "The Snake" Roberts’s wife. The moment escalated further when Rude started to verbally run Mrs. Roberts down, resulting in The Snake’s wife slapping Rude. Eventually, Jake himself ran from the dressing room and ended the confrontation.
Watch: Rick Rude hits on the wife of Jake "The Snake" Roberts
As a way of response or revenge, Rick Rude started coming to the ring with an image of Jake’s wife adorning his wrestling tights. Again Roberts came dashing from the dressing room to attack Rude to a massive ovation and stripped Rude of his attire. The two would also clash in several very good matches on larger shows in this period. Their contest at WrestleMania IV during the title tournament is somewhat overlooked, and their match on an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event is also worth a watch. The genuine hatred for Rude, coupled with Jake Roberts’s excellent in-ring psychology and interviews, made for some hot crowds as the two ’80s stars contested this series. Oddly, however, this feud just kind of petered out as Roberts pinned Rude at the 1988 Survivor Series, and Rick moved on to other things. Namely, the Intercontinental Title and its holder, The Ultimate Warrior.
Wrestling stories and rivalries in the present-day move at a great pace. In pre-internet 1989, however, this was not the case. With only four pay-per-views a yea,r storylines were more of a slow build. This often resulted in larger blow off contests down the road. The Warrior and Rude series is a fine example of this and displays just how talented Rick Rude was in the ring.
At the 1989 Royal Rumble, Rude faced the Warrior in a "Super Posedown" hosted by Jesse Ventura. It is worth going back to watch this to see how wrestling angles were constructed in this era. As Rude and Warrior flexed away, the crowd loudly booed "The Ravishing One" and cheered The Warrior’s every movement. Eventually, Rude lost his temper and attacked The Warrior, leading to a match at WrestleMania 5. In a decent contest, Rick picked up his first and only singles title in the WWF when Bobby Heenan held the Warrior’s legs after a suplex attempt allowing his charge to steal the win and the championship. While this was a good showing from the pair, the rematch that followed at SummerSlam ’89 displayed Rude at his best.
The Ultimate Warrior, as charismatic and popular as he was with fans at the time, is known for being somewhat limited in the ring. His matches with Hogan and Randy Savage at the next two WrestleManias after this are probably career highlights in a very average body of work. However, his mid-card battle here with Rude is just incredible. Due to Rick Rude’s work ethic and ability, the contest is an excellent watch even today, some three decades later. The Ultimate Warrior’s popularity at the time, coupled with Rude’s ability to be genuinely hated, this title contest was as hot with those in attendance as it was for the main event involving Hulk Hogan. It is truly a masterclass from Rude. He carries the limited Warrior to a mini-classic before dropping the title back to his face painted nemesis with assistance in the form of a distraction from Roddy Piper.
Watch: Rick Rude vs. The Ultimate Warrior for the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam ’89
This led to Rude and Roddy Piper leading two teams into that year’s Survivor Series. The wonderfully named "Rude’s Brood" triumphed over "Roddie’s Rowdies," despite both team captains getting counted out during the match. This contest also furthered the aura of fellow Minnesota native, "Mr. Perfect" Cur Henning, as he adopted an arrogant athletic persona not too dissimilar to Rude’s. Whereas the fairly new Perfect character raised through the card quickly, Rude seemed to tread water for a while. Curt Henning would be working on a house show loop with Hogan, while Rick was still in the upper mid-card, never really getting the big paydays of a main event run with "The Hulkster."
As WrestleMania season came around again in 1990, Rick Rude would be working with Jimmy Snuka. Defeating the "Superfly" relatively quickly was not, in hindsight, the most relevant moment that day for Rude’s career. Hulk Hogan dropped the WWF championship to Rude’s old adversary, The Ultimate Warrior, in the main event. The new champion needed a worthy rival to solidify his ascension to the top of the mountain. Enter Rick Rude.
With training videos airing in the build-up and the removal of his long locks, Rick Rude arrived at the main event scene with a slightly different and more serious look. While this match does not reach the heights of their match one year earlier, it is still a very enjoyable contest. Heenan bumps around for the crazed Warrior towards the end, and Rude, at one stage, plays the part of a rope in a tug-of-war between "The Brain" and the champion. Ultimately, after a relatively short title contest, the Warrior stood victorious again. Sadly, not long after this, Rude was gone from the WWF.
After his brief flirtation with the WWF main event picture, Rude found himself battling the Big Boss Man. The reason for this rivalry was Heenan and Rude insulting the Bossman’s mother, and this same reason was given for Rude’s "suspension" just before Survivor Series 1990. Again, this garnered much heat from the audience as Rude’s comments drew much opposition. However, in reality, Rude was at loggerheads with WWF owner Vince McMahon over money. According to Bret Hart in his autobiography Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, Rude was furious after finding out how much Warrior was paid for SummerSlam compared to what he got for carrying their entire match. He was soon no longer employed by the Connecticut outfit.
Rick Rude Signs with WCW after WWF Departure
After parting ways with Vince McMahon, Rick Rude went back to working various independent dates and appeared briefly for All-Japan Pro Wrestling before signing with Ted Turner’s WCW promotion. Being familiar with the company back from its Jim Crockett Promotion days years earlier, Rude’s return would take place under a mask at Halloween Havoc ’91. Here he beat Tom "Z-Man" Zenk before unmasking and joining with Paul Heyman in the "Dangerous Alliance" stable.
Recommended read: Dangerous Alliance | Their Short Yet Impactful Influence on WCW
As part of the Alliance, Rude would defeat Sting in controversial circumstances to claim the WCW United States title. Cheating the hugely popular Sting out of his championship again served to add more bad feelings towards Rude’s character, as did battling his next opponent, perennial good guy, Ricky Steamboat.
What early 1990s WCW lacked in direction and production values, it more than made up for in match quality. Rude’s contest with the popular Steamboat at SuperBrawl II is another example of this. His character built upon nasty behavior could back up his actions between the ropes, and the WCW faithful prayed for the day Rude would lose his U.S. Championship. Regularly battling the equally talented Steamboat and the powerful Nikita Koloff, Rude would escape with his championship time after time. During this period in 1992, Rick Rude was arguably at his peak as an in-ring competitor. WCW also used Rude against their world champion on occasions, as the southern outfit tried as best they could to get Ron Simmons to be viewed as a legitimate main eventer. However, two pay-per-view contests in 1992 really stood out.
Firstly, Rude’s role in the incredible WarGames match at WrestleWar of that year cannot be understated. This was a multi-man match, though, and the following month Rude surpassed this in a 30-minute Iron Man match with regular challenger Ricky Steamboat. If you have not seen this match, which took place at Beach Blast ’92, I recommend you seek it out. The half-hour timeframe seems to fly by, and the final exchanges are incredible.
Watch: Rick Rude vs. Ricky Steamboat (Iron Man Match at WCW Beach Blast ’92)
Sadly, Rick Rude would pick up a neck injury towards the end of this year and have to forfeit the title. This did lead to more examples of Rude’s excellence upon his return. However, as he battled the new champion, Dustin Rhodes, to attempt to regain the championship he never lost. At Beach Blast ’93, Rude faced Rhodes in another 30-minute Iron Man match. While this was not quite the standard of the Steamboat classic twelve months before, it is still a very good contest. Further matches between the pair happened in a best-of-three series on WCW Saturday Night in late August ’93, with Rhodes eventually coming out on top and more popular than ever after his program with the hated Rude.
Rick Rude then set his sights upon the NWA title (later known as the WCW International Title). In an unusual twist, this was being held by another top-class hate-magnet in Ric Flair. Flair, at this point in his career, was, in fact, a fan favorite, yet seeing two of the greatest wrestling villains of all time square off at Fall Brawl in the September of 1993 is very enjoyable. Rude would win the title in yet another good contest before trading title wins with Hiroshi Hase in Japan.
This then led to Rick Rude’s final series of matches as a full-time performer, defending his "International" Championship against Sting. At Spring Stampede ’94, Sting was victorious in yet another fine showing from Rude, before Rude won the former NWA Championship back in another contest in Japan.
Sadly, this would mark the end for "Ravishing" Rick Rude’s in-ring career.
Rick Rude Sustains a Career-Ending Injury
During his title win over Sting at WCW Spring Stampede ’94, Rude caught his back on the edge of the raised entrance ramp WCW and Japanese promotions (and AEW at this year’s Full Gear pay-per-view) were using at the time. Rick finished the contest but was also finished as an in-ring performer. This back injury would force Rick Rude into retirement at just 35 years of age. As a result of the injury, Rude had no choice but to forfeit his title. In the storyline, Rude was found to be cheating by using his championship as a weapon.
No longer able to wrestle, Rude was able to collect on a Lloyd’s of London insurance policy to pay for his expenses.
After a few years away from the cameras, Rick Rude would resurface in ECW in 1997 before joining WWF to be a part of D-Generation X’s original incarnation.
It was an all-business kind of relationship between the DX members and Rick Rude. Rude didn’t like them, and Shawn Michaels and Triple H really didn’t get along with him. Things between them all would get severely strained on November 9th, 1997, at Survivor Series ’97 (a pay-per-view known famously for The Montreal Screwjob).
Rick Rude Appears on WWF, WCW, and ECW Television on the Very Same Night!
Rick Rude and Bret Hart were close friends off-camera, and Rude could be seen visibly upset after Vince McMahon "screwed" Bret out of the WWF title at Survivor Series. He was so upset that he ended up calling adversary Eric Bischoff, telling him everything that happened and how he wanted out of the WWF as soon as possible.
According to Bret Hart in his autobiography, many wrestlers were disgusted by what Vince had done in Montreal, but Rick Rude was one of the few who actually quit the WWF for good over it.
As Rick Rude didn’t have a guaranteed contract with the WWF at the time, nothing was keeping him from leaving the company. The very next night after Survivor Series, Rude showed up to the TV taping as nothing had happened. This was just the start of a big middle finger salute about to be delivered straight to Vince, DX, and the WWF.
Rude knew that Raw’s episode was going to air a week later, and that would be his final appearance for WWF.
A week later, on November 17th, 1997, on WCW Nitro, Rick Rude made his return to the company minus his beard while sporting his usual mustache. He cut a scathing promo against WWF, Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels, and the Montreal Screwjob in general. He talked about how the WWF was a sinking ship as fans watching across the United States were completely perplexed as he had been featured on a WWF pay-per-view just the night before.
That confusion would only be stimulated further. One hour later, Rick Rude appeared on Monday Night Raw, an episode taped the week before on November 10th, sporting a beard. One hour he was on WCW television with just a mustache and an hour later on WWF television with a beard. It was certainly something that had never happened before.
To make matters even more interesting, Rick Rude was seen on three different shows on the same night for many across the US. Rude was still obligated to do work with ECW, and an episode of Hardcore TV aired later that night, featuring Rude on commentary. It was a bizarre feat that may never be repeated.
Watch: Rick Rude Appears on WWF Monday Night Raw and WCW Nitro on the Very Same Night
Rude would leave WCW again in March of 1999 after recovering from a cancer scare.
The Death of Rick Rude
On April 20th, 1999, Richard Erwin Rood passed away. He was just 40 years old and left behind a wife and three young children. According to his autopsy report, he died in bed at his home in Fulton County, Georgia. A drug overdose medical officials said included valium and gamma-hydroxybutyrate (the so-called "date rape drug" used by athletes to quicken their recovery from weightlifting sessions). At the time of his death, Rude was training for a return to the ring.
For those who knew him, he is remembered for being the opposite of the arrogant womanizer seen on screen. He was a devout Christian, a family man, and refused to take off his wedding ring during matches. Instead, he would tape his finger.
After his death, several wrestlers spoke out about the kind of person Rick Rude was. His close friend Bret Hart spoke at length about him to the press in the days following his death and even wrote about how much Rude had meant to him in his autobiography. Hart wrote:
"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. He refused to allow me to be put in a compromising position. Rick Rude stayed there to make sure my back was watched."
Many others, including Rick Martel and Jacques Rougeau, sang the praises for Rick Rude, saying he was a wonderful and fun guy to have around in the locker room and someone you didn’t want to mess with because he could hand out a beating!
Sadly, Rick’s son, Colton Rood, passed away in 2016. He was killed in a horrific motorcycle accident on September 3rd in Armuchee, GA. He was only 19 years old.
"Ravishing" Rick Rude joins the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2017
"Ravishing Rick Rude" was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2017, with Ricky Steamboat as part of his induction ceremony.
Blessed with the personality to carry any angle or storyline and the in-ring ability to carry any match, Rick Rude was truly one of the greats of his time. The contests listed here display a performer capable of being included in any "Best of" conversation while his regular pre-match routine of asking for the "Fat, out of shape" people in attendance to keep the noise down. At the same time, he de-robed showed a heel charisma sadly lacking in many modern-day villains.
The character of "Ravishing" Rick Rude was easy to hate, just the way the genius of Richard Erwin Rood would have wanted.
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