e combined a new school body with old school heat to become one of the top heels in the business until injuries forced him out of the ring.
“Ravishing” Rick Rude
Real Name: Richard Rood
Stats: 6′ 4″ 260 lbs.
Hometown: Robbinsdale, MN.
By Steve Slagle
Wrestling history has proven that with each new generation of performer comes a few special men who, in their own individual way, alter the “sport” and change it from what it was to what it would become. Certainly, the talented and trend-setting wrestler known worldwide as “Ravishing” Rick Rude falls into that elite catagory which is reserved for those who have truly reshaped the wrestling business and influenced others to come.
From “The Heart Break Kid” Shawn Michaels to Val Venis, “The Franchise” Shane Douglas to Scott Steiner and many more in between, Rick Rude’s longterm influence and impact on wrestling is more than apparent to the trained eye. “The Ravishing One” was truly a revolutionary force in pro wrestling…not neccesarily so much in his ringwork, solid as it may have been. Instead, Rude left his indelible mark on wrestling through his look, his attitude, and most importantly, his unique style of delivering a promo. While it is now commonplace for a wrestler to stroll down to the ring while using the microphone to insult (or excite) the audience, or to start each of his wrestling matches by cutting an in-ring promo first, neither was the case when Rude began his career. Indeed, these traits, common in so many of today’s performers, did not exist until the muscular, aggressive and arrogant “Smooth Operator” introduced them (as well as other nuances, including air-brushed wrestling gear) to sports entertainment during the early and mid-eighties and, at the same time, helped to fundementally change the look, and sound, of the “sport” altogether…
“Ravishing” Rick Rude was born Richard Rood on December 7, 1959 and grew up just outside of Minneapolis, in Robbinsdale, MN. Following high school, he attended Anoka Ramsey Junior College and graduated with a degree in physical education. After finishing college, he still had not found his calling and was working as a bouncer when fate intervened and he was approached about pursuing a career in pro wrestling.
Having been a fan of the “sport” while growing up, Rood quickly decided to give wrestling a shot and he was soon being trained in Minneapolis by Eddie Sharkey. In an interesting sidenote, Rude’s class of young hopefuls also included Barry Darsow (aka Demolition Smash) and The Road Warriors (pictured, wrestling Rude in the Georgia territory during 1983, not long after their respective pro wrestling debuts). After his training was complete, Rood (a former arm-wrestling champion) began his wrestling career in 1983, performing at a card held in Vancouver, British Columbia. Following a short stay in the territory, he then moved on to other bookings in smaller promotions across the south before landing some work on the most-watched wrestling program of the day, TBS’s NWA Georgia Championship Wrestling. Being seen across the nation via cable on Ted Turner’s ‘Superstation’ was a major break for a young wrestler in the early eighties, and even though he did not win every match (and it was clear that he needed some work on his limited repertoire) the impressive looking rookie’s raw potential was evident to all who saw these early matches in his career.
After a handful of matches in Georgia, the next major move of his young career came when Rood traveled to the historic Memphis territory. However, unlike his stay in Georgia, the youthful bodybuilder was portrayed as an arrogant heel, a defining character trait that would follow Rood throughout the following sixteen years. While in Memphis, the young heel was seconded by the region’s top manager, “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart. Of course, as Hart’s top protégé, Rood couldn’t help but get involved in a feud with Memphis legend, and the arch rival of Hart, Jerry “The King” Lawler. In a truly impressive victory for someone with just a year of experience to his credit, Rood defeated Lawler for the prestigious AWA Southern Heavyweight title on June 11, 1984 before a raucus, packed crowd at the Mid-South Coliseum. A month later, however, Rood would lose his championship to former NWA World champion, and Jerry Lawler ally, “Wildfire” Tommy Rich.
As a key member of Jimmy Hart’s “First Family” (along with Randy Savage and King Kong Bundy) Rood, despite his inexperience in the business, became a main-event player in the territory and shortly after his loss to Rich, he was back in the title picture once more. With fellow First Family member, the young & massive King Kong Bundy, Rood captured the AWA Southern Tag Team on October 8, 1984, adding yet another impressive title to his growing championship resume. But, due to the nature of the territorial system, Rood’s successful tenure in Memphis only lasted for a year or so before it was time for him to move on to the next region…
Six months after losing the AWA Southern Heavyweight title, the talented young heel bounced back by traveling to Florida and capturing the NWA’s even more prestigious version of the title. On January 16, 1985 in Tampa, FL., Rood continued his steady drive to the top of his profession when he won the NWA Southern Heavyweight championship by defeating “Pistol” Pez Whatley (pictured).
A dominant Southern champion, Rood (led by his new manager, Percival Pringle III, who was later known in the WWF as Paul Bearer) held the territory’s primary title for three months, defending his Southern championship against several of Florida’s top fan favorites (including Whatley, Wahoo McDaniel, Billy Jack Haynes and Mike Graham, among others) before eventually dropping the belt to Brian Blair. However, Rood followed his loss with another title victory, this time in the form of the NWA U.S. Tag Team championship (Florida version), which he won with partner Jesse Barr on April 16, 1985 in Tampa, FL. by defeating the popular Native American team of Mark & Jay, The Youngbloods. Together, Rood & Barr held the U.S. Tag straps for a month before losing the belts to Wahoo McDaniel & Billy Jack Haynes.
Then, just a few months later, Rood was back in the driver’s seat, having regained the Southern title by defeating Mike Graham on July 21, 1985 in Orlando, FL. While his lengthy tour of Florida came at a time when the once-mighty promotion had fallen on some hard times, Rood was still a very good draw for the promotion, and his two reigns as the Southern champion generated both excitement and profit. Of course, he would eventually lose the title, this time to the legnedary Wahoo McDaniel, but not after another three months as on top as champion. But, with the end of his run with the Southern title also came the end of Rood’s time in the CWF. Once again, it was time to move on…
Dallas’ World Class Championship Wrestling was next up for Rood, who by this time had begun referring to himself as “The Smooth Operator.” As always, Rood quickly won title gold upon entering this latest territory…courtesy of his devestating variation of the Neck Breaker known as “The Rude Awakening.” With the annoying, agitating Percy Pringle still by his side, and the sophisticated strains of Sade’s Smooth Operator serving as his entrance theme, the arrogant, rulebreaking newcomer created quite a stir in Texas by coming in and winning the NWA American Heavyweight title almost immediately upon his arrival. Defeating “Iceman” King Parsons (pictured) for the championship on November 4, 1985 in Ft. Worth, TX., Rick Rood instantly became the top heel in Texas…a distinction he would enjoy for quite some time to come.
It was during this time that the young, powerful, and now fairly experienced champion truly began to master the art of antagonizing his audience via the microphone…a skill that he later honed to perfection. Not since the heyday of The Fabulous Freebirds had someone evoked the kind of hatred from his audience that Rood was able to produce during his stay in Texas. Simultaneously, much to the chagrin of the male WCCW fans in Texas, he also enjoyed a large following of loyal female admirers.
Then, several months into his reign as the NWA American Heavyweight champion, an unexpected announcement was made; World Class Championship Wrestling had seceded from the National Wrestling Alliance and the promotion would no longer be recognizing NWA championships. The World Class Wrestling Association was formed and Rood, the reigning NWA American Heavyweight champion, was crowned the innaugural WCWA World Heavyweight champion on February 20, 1986. From there he went on to face a number of challenges, including Kevin and Kerry Von Erich among others before finally losing his championship to “Gentleman” Chris Adams on July 4, 1986.
While in the WCWA, Rood also captured the World Class TV title by defeating the “cousin” of WCWA’s famous Von Erich brothers, Lance Von Erich, and he held the belt until being defeated by Bruiser Brody via World Class’s controversial ruling that their championships would change hands if the titleholder was disqualified. Rood protested vehemently, but the “fluke” loss stood and Brody was awarded the championship belt.
By the end of 1986, having conquered Texas and the World Class territory, it was time for “The Smooth Operator” to make his next career move by leaving the WCWA and moving up to Jim Crockett’s successful NWA promotion, seen nationally via syndication and on TBS. Soon after his NWA debut, “The Ravishing One” (who now spelled his name Rude instead of Rood) debuted as a member of “Number One” Paul Jones’ army.
After a short run as a singles competitor, Rude was paired with “The Ragin’ Bull” Manny Fernandez and together they pulled off a major upset by winning the NWA World Tag Team title (defeating multi-time NWA tag champs The Rock `N Roll Express) within weeks of forming their team. While, at first, their pairing seemed a bit awkward, Rude and Fernandez soon gelled into a very formidable team and capable World champions. Together, Jones’ seemingly make-shift team carried the World Tag Team title belts for more than a half-year. Still, despite his lengthy run as a co-holder of the tag team championship, Rude felt, perhaps rightly so, that he was not reaching his full potential in the NWA. So, when the opportunity arose in mid-1987, Rude, still one-half of the NWA World Tag Team champions, gave his notice and made the jump from the NWA to the WWF. Fernandez was allowed to replace the “injured” Rude with fellow Paul Jones stablemate Ivan Koloff, while “Ravishing” Rick Rude made his WWF debut soon thereafter.
As was often the case with wrestlers who coming into the WWF for the first time, once he entered the Federation, “Ravishing” Rick — despite the name he had built up for himself in the WCWA and NWA — was forced to prove himself all over again by starting at the bottom of the card and working his way up. Still, it didn’t take long for the impressive heel to catch on with both the WWF’s fans and management. Rude’s antagonistic, yet brilliant, pre-match ritual of getting on the microphone, insulting the audience, telling the sound man to “hit my music” and then slowly disrobing while gyrating his hips as his unique, identifiable music played over the house speakers was a spectacle indeed. Designed to incite a negative reaction, the gimmick more than ellicited the desired response and, before he knew it, Rude found himself amongst the most ‘hated’ men in the WWF…and definitely on his way up the card towards the main event.
Later, the man who called himself “Simply Ravishing” accentuated his controversial pre-match ritual by incorporating a simular post-match gimmick in which he would have his manager, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, pick an attractive lady from the audience and bring her into the ring. Rude would then celebrate his victory by kissing the female audience member passionately before softly laying her down on the mat. As though this was not enough of an ego-stroke, Rude would then proceed to stand over the fallen female and gyrate his hips while flexing his muscular body & posing for the fans in a display that could be described as nothing but exploitative. Of course, that was the intention of the gimmick, and it worked to perfection…especially when Rude tried it on the wife of none other than Jake “The Snake” Roberts, who just ‘happened’ to be sitting in the audience that night and was unknowningly selected by Heenan. The ensuing feud between Roberts and Rude was among the most heated and emotional in WWF history, and their matches never failed to create a great deal of excitement. Additionally, by engaging in such a successful feud against a opponent the caliber of Jake Roberts, who at that point was in his WWF prime, Rude was finally elevated to the upper echelon of the promotion’s talent-rich roster. After paying his dues for the better part of a year and having proven himself during his feud with Roberts, Rude’s rise up the WWF’s crowded ranks was complete and his patience & talent were finally rewarded.
Following an angle in which the egocentric Rude challenged any WWF superstar to a pose-down contest, the call was answered by none other than the superhuman-looking Ultimate Warrior. The two bodybuilders then began a very successful program that culminated in Rude defeating The Warrior for the WWF’s second most prestigious title, the Inter-Continental championship on April 2, 1989 at WrestleMania in Atlantic City, NJ.
Over the course of the following several months, Rude and The Warrior continued their intense, money-making feud, as, one way or another, Rude & Heenan maintained their grip on the prestigious I-C belt, despite the unrelenting challenge posed by The Ultimate Warrior. But on August 28, 1989 at SummerSlam in East Rutherford, NJ., The Warrior finally regained his I-C title from Rude after months of trying and, eventually, both went on to new challenges & opponents. Yet, after a lull of several months, the Rude-Warrior feud would be reignited again when The Ultimate Warrior became the WWF champion following his victory over Hulk Hogan. With the main event of SummerSlam once again the stage, Rude challenged The Warrior for his World Wrestling Federation championship…inside of a steel cage. The match itself was surprisingly dramatic and entertaining (as well as highly profitable in terms of the pay-per-view numbers) yet, in the end, Rude would fall short in his quest to become the WWF champion.
But, not long after his SummerSlam `90 PPV bout with The Warrior, several injuries forced Rude to the sidelines and he was slowly written out of the WWF storylines. Month after month passed, more than a year in all, yet nothing was heard from “Ravishing” Rick. However, this would change, drastically, in 1991…
Following a shocking surprise jump from the WWF to WCW, which resulted in his unexpected debut on an episode of TBS’s Clash of the Champions, “Ravishing” Rick Rude immediately became the key player in Paul E. Dangerously’s impressive collection of wrestlers known as The Dangerous Alliance. In the tradition of the Four Horsemen, Rude’s Dangerous Alliance partners (“Stunning” Steve Austin, Larry Zbyszko, “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton and Madusa) were always there to give him a bit of ‘back-up’ should the need arise…which it did, often.
Excluding his entry into the WWF, Rude had always made a habit of scoring a major championship almost immediately upon arriving in a new promotion, and his first tenure with WCW was no exception. On November 19, 1991, “Simply Ravishing” Rick Rude became the NWA United States champion by coming in and defeating the promotion’s franchise player, the reigning U.S. champion (and soon-to-be arch rival of Rude), the one-and-only man called Sting.
In WCW, Rude picked up right where he had left off in the WWF, showcasing his familiar entrance in which he would come out to the ring and tell all of the “fat, out of shape, cable-watching couch potatoes” who called themselves WCW fans to “sit down, shut up” and watch as he took his robe off and showed everyone “what a real man is supposed to look like.”
Following his WCW debut, it was very apparent that Rude’s ring skills had not diminished during his absense from wrestling, but rather, he was better in the ring than ever before. Indeed, Rude’s sense of timing, his believable selling & bumping, and an expanded arsenal of both offensive and defensive moves combined to make him one of the best wrestlers in the world, a distinction that he still had not earned while competing in the WWF. Following his title victory, Rude dominated the U.S. championship like few in WCW history, against top-level competition such as Sting, The British Bulldog (pictured, left) Dustin Rhodes and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (pictured, right). Not surprisingly, his solid ringwork, heat-generating mic skills and abrasive, arrogant personality (not to mention his controversial manager, Paul E. Dangerously) all added up to an incredibly entertaining performer and, without question, “Ravishing” Rick Rude was WCW’s top heel during this time period.
Another major feud that revolved around Rude’s United States championship was his lengthy war against “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes. Having been forced to relinquish his prized U.S. championship following an injury, by the time Rude returned to action, Dustin Rhodes had won a tournament and was the reigning WCW United States champion.
Upon his return, “The Ravishing One” made it clear that he did not consider Rhodes to be the true U.S. champion, since he himself, the previous champion, was never actually defeated for the title, but rather, was forced by the promotion to surrender his belt. Rhodes, eager to prove his worthiness, was more than willing to provide Rude a with an opportunity to regain his title. The two met, and following a very controversial match that aired on TBS’s WCW Saturday Night, the U.S. championship was held up. Rude & Rhodes then engaged in several rematches throughout the spring of 1993 in order to determine who would be crowned the new U.S. champion. Finally, on August 30, 1993, “The Natural” defeated Rude in the deciding match of their competitive series, and Rhodes became the undisputed United States champion.
Although he did not come out of his long-running feud with Dustin Rhodes with the U.S. championship in his possession, after their series concluded, Rude still moved on to an even more important feud against a genuine WCW-NWA icon, with the richest prize in wrestling on the line…
On paper, it would seem that a feud between the egomaniacal “Ravishing” Rick Rude and longtime WCW-NWA champion “Nature Boy” Ric Flair over both the World title and Flair’s valet would be a sure-fire success both artistically and monetarily. And, in practice, it most definitely was.
The two superstars, who actually shared more than a few similarities, began their exciting run against each other following an episode of Ric Flair’s WCW Saturday Night talk segment called “A Flair for the Gold.” During the segment, “The Ravishing One” seemed more than a bit jealous of the attention that Flair, the NWA World Heavyweight champion, was receiving from his beautiful young French valet, Fifi.
Considering himself to be the ultimate male specimen, “The Ravishing One’s” out of control ego could not handle the fact that Fifi (pictured, with Flair) was more attracted to “The Nature Boy” than to him. Furthermore, Rude’s ambition turned to professional jealousy as he prepared to face the 13-time NWA-WWF-WCW World champion, the man who was considered by nearly everone to be the greatest champion in wrestling history. Determined to prove that he was, indeed, better than the best, Rude focused on Flair’s valet in order to lure the champion into granting him a title match. Finally, after interupting several of Flair’s interviews, incessantly harrassing “The Nature Boy’s” valet with his unwanted advances and even going so far as to kiss Fifi against her will, an angered Flair readily granted Rude his title matches, which took place in arenas across the country. While “Slick” Ric was able to defend his title successfully against the younger, stronger Rude, “The Ravishing One” eventually got Flair’s number and on September 19, 1993 in Houston, TX., Rude used a pair of brass knuckles to K.O. the multi-time champion and won the NWA World Heavyweight title.
Following their lengthy & successful program, Flair moved on to challenge Vader for the WCW World title, while Rude, the new NWA World titleholder, set out to prove himself as champion by meeting & defeating as many different challengers as possible. While he was certainly not above bending a rule or two in order to keep the “fifteen pounds of gold” around his waist, Rude was also more than capable of besting his opponents without resorting to ‘cheating’ and within weeks of gaining the championship, it was clear that he deserved to be the NWA champion. However, it was also within a few weeks of his title win that WCW, the only viable member of the National Wrestling Alliance, withdrew its NWA membership and renamed Rude’s championship the WCW International World Heavyweight title.
As the WCW International champion, Rude continued to defend his easily-recognized “big gold belt” frequently, and “The Ravishing One” seemed intent on re-establishing his ‘new’ championship as a legitimate World title. In addition to wrestling all across North America, Rude also took his International title overseas and defended the belt on WCW tours in Europe, as well as defending his International World Heavyweight championship against top competition (such as Japanese superstar Kensuke Sasake, pictured) on some major NJPW cards (including a few Dome-shows, before audiences in excess of 50,000) in Tokyo. In fact, it was during one of his WCW-New Japan tours that Rude lost his prized International title in a match against the very capable NJPW competitor Hiro Hase on March 3, 1994. However, in true championship form, Rude regained the WCW International World title from Hase just eight days later in Kyoto, Japan.
After returning home to the U.S. with his prized championship belt in tow, Rude’s ongoing feud with Sting was rekindled and the two superstars resumed their exciting competition, with the WCW International World Heavyweight championship on the line. Being evenly matched opponents and with their individual ring strengths complimenting the other so well, Sting and Rude engaged in several highly memorable and entertaining bouts during this phase of their feud, which actually began some three years earlier. Eventually, Sting overcame Rude and defeated him for the championship on April 17, 1994 at the innaugural WCW Spring Stampede PPV, which was held at the Rosemont Horizon in suburban Chicago. Then, just a few weeks later on May 1, 1994, Rude’s career was forever altered when he met & defeated Sting in a rematch for the title in Fukuoka, Japan; not because he had regained the International World championship, but rather, because he suffered a severe neck injury during the match against Sting, one that effectively ended his in-ring career. The title was held up, and then eventually regained by Sting, while Rude disappeared from the wrestling scene as he tried to recover from the injury and subsequent surgery. Shockingly, it appeared that the talented Rude, who was in the middle of his prime as a wrestler, would never step into the ring and perform again.
Sadly, that turned out to be the case…fortunately, however, his premature retirement from the ring would not mark the end of “Ravishing” Rick Rude’s association with pro wrestling.
After several years away from the public eye, Rude finally made yet another shocking, unexpected return to the business when he entered Extreme Championship Wrestling as Joey Style’s part-time color commentator and ECW World Champion “The Franchise” Shane Douglas’ full-time antagonist. The recipient of the fans’ cheers for the first time in more than a decade, Rude did not actually wrestle Douglas, but he nevertheless drove the egotistical ECW champion nearly insane with jealousy and anger during their obscenity-laced exchanges. Eventually, though, the plotline developed to the point where Rude and Douglas (along with The Franchise’s insatiable valet Francine) actually joined forces, creating The Triple Threat, an elite Horsemen-esque faction led by Douglas that featured Rude serving as a manager/advisor/run-in man. Having proven his value as a performer despite his inability to wrestle, Rude (who was still in tremendous physical condition, aside from his vulnerable neck & back) attracted the eye of WWF management during his stay in ECW, and his former employer eventually offered Rude a new spot in the company, in which he would serve as a bodyguard for Shawn Michaels and D-Generation X.
Then, several months after his return to the WWF, Rude once again shocked the wrestling world when he appeared live on WCW’s Monday Nitro while being featured at nearly the exact same time on the WWF’s Monday Night Raw program. Joining forces with his longtime friend, nWo member Curt Hennig, Rude’s bold jump was completely unanticipated by both the public and the WWF, who was again embarrased by WCW President Eric Bischoff’s ability (at this time in history) to continually one-up the Federation. Yet, while his simultaneous WCW-WWF appearance was definitely an unexpected event that made a lot of waves initially, the impact of his return (as well as his overall job security) was undoubtedly lessened by Rude’s inability to wrestle.
Having not competed since his neck was injured nearly five years earlier, and without many career options left in wrestling, Rude decided that he was healthy enough to make a return to the ring as a wrestler. With his comeback decided upon, the former World champion began training intensely for his imminent return to action.
But then, tragically and totally unexpectedly, Rick Rude suffered a heart attack on April 20, 1999 that took his life; he was just 40 years old. Certainly, when a man as young and seemingly healthy (not to mention as incredibly muscular) as Rude passes away, it raises several questions as to why. While a heart attack was the official cause of his death, it has been speculated (rather fairly) that Rude’s prolonged use of muscle enhancing drugs may have been a major contributor to his early demise. Whatever the case, the fact remained that one of wrestling’s brightest stars was suddenly gone forever and no amount of speculation over his untimely death would bring him back.
Former WWF-WCW World champion Bret Hart remembered Rude as a man far different than the one he portrayed on television for so many years. Regarding his deceased friend, Hart had this to say;
“Rick was a great family man, and he loved his wife. He was one of those kind of guys who would never take his wedding ring off; he just put a white piece of tape around it when he went into the ring. He was also the kind of guy that, when you need someone to back you up, he wouldn’t flinch…at all. Not for money, not for anything.”
HistoryofWrestling.com posthumously inducts the influential, trend-setting & genuinely revolutionary performer known as “Ravishing” Rick Rude to his rightful place within the H.O.W. Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame……