There are a handful of superstars that fans have spent years lobbying for inclusion in the WWE Hall of Fame. Superstars that seem like a lock for entry this year, or the next. And as year upon year upon year passes, with no inclusion, it seems like it’s never going to happen. However, in the case of “Ravishing” Rick Rude, this year – finally – is the year. 18 years after his death, Rick Rude takes his overdue place in history.
Training under Eddie Sharkey, Ricky Rood – his first wrestling name before the tweaks took place – debuted on an episode of NWA World Wide Wrestling in 1982. Brief stops in Georgia Championship Wrestling and the Continental Wrestling Association were followed by a debut on WCW Saturday Night in 1982, where he picked up a win in his debut. After a cup of coffee or two in Jim Crockett Promotions, he moved on to Championship Wrestling from Florida where, under the tutelage of Percy Pringle, he quickly won the NWA Florida Southern Heavyweight title. A three month reign with that belt was ended by Brian Blair, though it soon came back to Rude – now with tweaked name – three months later. After dropping it to territory booker Wahoo McDaniel, Rude soon moved on to World Class Championship Wrestling and added more gold to his resume, including the NWA American Heavyweight and WCWA Heavyweight championships. A short return to JCP saw an NWA World Tag-Team championship reign with Manny Fernandez, a reign that only ended when Rude accepted an offer from the WWF, and the belts were stripped from them.
Debuting in the WWF, Rude became associated with manager extraordinaire Bobby Heenan and his Family, and was quickly programmed with someone who would end up being one of his most famous opponents; Jake “The Snake” Roberts. The two battled for over a year, with Rude’s continued focus on Roberts’ wife Cheryl angering “The Snake” more and more. The two finally brought things to a head at the 1988 Survivor Series, with Roberts eliminating Rude from a 5-on-5 elimination match.
Heading into 1989, Rude moved on to the then-Intercontinental champion The Ultimate Warrior. A Super Posedown at the Royal Rumble kicked off the physicality, culminating in Rude shocking many observers by defeating Warrior to win the title at WrestleMania V. He held the title until SummerSlam later that year, dropping it back to Warrior, following interference from Roddy Piper. This segued Rude into a feud with Piper, though Rude soon moved back to Warrior once he won the WWF championship from Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI. SummerSlam 1990 saw Rude challenge for the title in a steel cage match, however Warrior retained. Two months later, Rude left the company and spent the last year wrestling on independent shows and touring Japan. Returning to WCW at Halloween Havoc 1991, Rude headed up the legendary Dangerous Alliance stable. The association helped Rude defeat Sting for the United States championship the following month, a title he would go on to hold for 14 months, which also included a superb rivalry and series of matches with Ricky Steamboat. A divorce from the Alliance led to a rivalry with Nikita Koloff, while later unsuccessful challenges to WCW World champion Ron Simmons kept Rude busy. Unfortunately, the 14-month US Title reign was brought to an end when a neck injury meant he had to forfeit the title. He was out of action until 1993, when a returning challenge to US champion Dustin Rhodes fell flat. However, disappointment was soon followed by a promotion up the card, with Rude setting his sights on NWA World champion Ric Flair. A quality match between the two – would there be any doubt? – saw Rude defeat Flair for the title at Fall Brawl 1993, though later changes between WCW and the NWA meant that Rude would now become the WCW International champion. An eight-day title switch with Hiroshi Hase was followed by Sting beating Rude to become the champion, before dropping it back to the “Ravishing” one in May 1994. It was not all good news, however, as a back injury suffered during the match led to Rude relinquishing the title and being forced to retire.
Like many stars of that era, Rude had taken out an insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London, and spend the next four years collecting on that, until the wrestling urge finally pulled him back…with Extreme Championship Wrestling, of all destinations, being the place of his return. A stint as a colour commentator led to him joining Shane Douglas’ Triple Threat faction for a brief spell, before he made his long-awaited in-ring return in a six-man tag-team match.
The following month, Rude made a shocking return to the WWF, as the “insurance policy” for the newly-formed D-Generation X. Sharing screen time with Shawn Michaels and Triple H, Rude was reportedly in intense training with an eye to a full-time in-ring return. That never materialised, as Rude left the WWF following the infamous Montreal Screwjob. So angered by Vince McMahon’s actions, Rude took advantage of the ‘pay-per-appearance’ deal he had with the WWF and negotiated a deal with WCW. Rather famously, Rude also took advantage of the WWF’s practice taping episodes of Monday Night Raw; knowing he would be appearing on the pre-taped Raw later that night, a clean-shaven Rude appeared, unannounced, on Monday Nitro and cut a promo on Vince and the WWF’s actions as it related to Montreal. An hour or so after his live Nitro appearance, Rude appeared – with a full beard – on Raw.
Jumping into WCW’s landscape, Rude joined the New World Order, specifically managing Curt Hennig, before the two went nWo Wolfpac following the Order split. Another defection, this time to nWo Hollywood, failed to improve fortunes for either, and by the end of 1998, Rude was removed from WCW TV due to an injury. In early 1999, he departed the company. Several months later on April 20, Rude suffered a heart attack and passed away. Autopsy results showed that Rude died from an overdose of mixed medications. His wife revealed that Rude was once again training for an in-ring return at the time of his death.
One of the great technical wrestlers, exuding charisma and possessing a natural ring presence, widely regarded by wrestlers and fans alike, Rick Rude was a star wherever he went. His rivalry with Jake Roberts was one of the highlights of the WWF, while his encounters with Ric Flair in WCW were unsurprisingly excellent. His presence during the early days of D-Generation X gave Shawn Michaels and Triple H legitimacy due to his name and past successes, and multiple reports since his death say that he truly believed he could return to the ring at his previous high standard. Unfortunately, we never got to see if that would have been the case.
While it is a shame that Rude is not alive today to personally accept his rightful place, at least – at long last – Rick Rude will have his place a WWE Hall of Fame.