“Ravishing” Rick Rude may be one of the most underrated stars in the history of professional wrestling. Sure, he’s a member of the WWE Hall of Fame and won titles in numerous promotions throughout his career but his name often isn’t mentioned in the majority of discussions involving the all-time greats, which it definitely should be.
Rude was easily one of the greatest heels in history and perhaps he’d be discussed as one of the all-time greats had his career not been cut short by injury. He was one that could truly do it all. While characters such as The Ultimate Warrior had charisma but no real wrestling ability, Rick Rude had everything. He could work the microphone and then follow it up with a five-star match. Not everyone has that ability.
When his in-ring career was cut short, Rude transitioned to being a manager and unsurprisingly excelled in that role as well. Tragically, while training for a comeback to the ring, he passed away at the young age of 40, leaving many to wonder what might have been.
Here’s a look back on the life, career, and tragic death of WWE Hall of Famer “Ravishing” Rick Rude.
The early days of Rick Rude
Born Richard Rood in Minnesota in 1958, the man who would come to be known as Rick Rude was one of numerous pro wrestlers to come out of Robbinsdale High School, a list that included his good friend, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig. Upon graduation, Rude obtained his degree in physical education at a small college in his home state but never used it. He began training with legendary wrestling teacher Eddie Sharkey in the early ’80s and never looked back.
Rude made his debut in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in 1982 and quickly became one of the hottest young stars in the business. Over the next few years, he spent time in promotions such as Georgia Championship Wrestling, the Continental Wrestling Association in Memphis, Jim Crockett Promotions, Championship Wrestling from Florida, and World Class Championship Wrestling, winning numerous titles before joining WWE in 1987.
‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude became a star in WWE
“Ravishing” Rick Rude made his WWE debut in the summer of 1987 and quickly became one of the company’s top heels. It certainly didn’t hurt that he was managed by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, considered by many to be the greatest manager in pro wrestling history.
Rude’s character was insanely arrogant and he played the part so perfectly. He was seen as a ladies man but, in reality, he was a dedicated family man. After marrying his wife, Michelle, in 1988, he wouldn’t even take off his wedding ring during matches and just covered it up with tape. But the character was just so freaking good and the fans hated him, which means he was doing something right.
During his first run in WWE, Rick Rude engaged in legendary feuds with Jake “The Snake” Roberts and The Ultimate Warrior and defeated the latter at WrestleMania 5 to win the Intercontinental Championship, the lone title he would win in WWE. He challenged for the WWE Championship a few different times but never won the belt. Rude left WWE for the first time in 1991.
He went back and forth between WCW and WWE in the 1990s
Rick Rude joined WCW in October 1991 and defeated Sting for the United States just a few weeks later. He held the belt for 378 days, still the second-longest reign in the title’s 45+-year history but was forced to vacate it after suffering a neck injury in December 1992. Two years later, he had to forfeit the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship, a title he won three times, due to a back injury that ultimately ended his in-ring career. Rude retired and stayed away from pro wrestling for years.
After collecting on an insurance policy, Rude returned to the business in 1997 and spent a short time in Paul Heyman’s ECW before returning to WWE. He aligned himself with Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Chyna, and was one of the founding members of DX. However, as he was with the company on a “pay-per-appearance” basis, he wasn’t locked into a contract and chose to jump ship to WCW following the events of the Montreal Screwjob.
On November 17, 1997, Rick Rude returned to WCW and appeared live on Monday Nitro. However, he also appeared on Monday Night Raw for WWE as that night’s show had been taped the week before when Rude was still with the company. Rude became a member of the nWo and remained with WCW until March 1999.
Rick Rude passed away in 1999 at the age of 40
Approximately a month after departing WCW, Rick Rude was found unconscious by his wife and was pronounced dead on April 20, 1999, at the age of 40 due to heart failure. An autopsy later revealed that he’d died due to an overdose of mixed medications. It was believed that he was training for an in-ring comeback at the time of his death.
Rick Rude was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2017 by Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. In yet another tragedy, the year before he was inducted, Rude’s youngest son, Cody, was killed in a motorcycle accident at the age of 19.