Monday, April 20, 2015

16 Years Gone

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On this date, 16 years ago, the wrestling world lost Ravishing Rick Rude to heart failure brought upon by an overdose on mixed medications. He was only 40 years old, which is way too young to die. He is the man to whom every sleazeball character dedicates existence, and he generated some of the most visceral, heated hatred in any arena into which he walked. The Magnum PI moustache, hypnotic hip gyrations, and airbrushed tights signaled that ladies were gonna swoon and the men were gonna brood.

For someone whose career was as short as it was, Rude made a lot of headway. He was the Ultimate Warrior's most notable feud partner, culminating in a SummerSlam cage match main event in which Rude helped make Warrior look better than he normally did in the average match. His feud with Jake "the Snake" Roberts helped give the noted psychologically dark character sympathy and fan support. He held the Intercontinental Championship at a time when it was a prestige title, and he was a main event rock for both World Class Championship Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling. It was in the latter promotion where he suffered his career-ending injury when he took a bump on a suicide dive badly against a raised platform in Japan.

But even after his in-ring career was over, Rude continued to make headlines. He was an important non-wrestler character in ECW, contributing to the essential WWE vs. ECW feud among others. He then went back to WWE as Degeneration-X's insurance policy until he left in the wake of the Montreal Screwjob. He went to WCW for a short time as a managerial type in the nWo. His run here is notable because he was the only person during that time to appear on both RAW and Nitro on the same night, thanks to RAW's bulk taping schedule.

The shame part in the wake of Rude's death was firstly that he died so young, but secondly that he was in training to make a comeback. I don't know which company would have picked up on him, but he would have made either post-Russo WCW or transition-period WWE a more interesting place by his presence. Rude had that effect wherever he went. It didn't matter what he said or did; he was always able to keep eyes glued to the TV set whenever he was on it. Whatever faults he had as a performer were erased by his animal charisma, and I'm not sure anyone who has come after him, especially if they imitated him, has been able to replicate it.

Rude is still missed by fans today, and he remains an iconic figure even in the wake of his short career. Now, hit his music, one more time.