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Rude was born in St. Peter, Minnesota to Richard Clyde Rood and Sally Jean Thompson. He attended Robbinsdale High School in Robbinsdale, Minnesota with Tom Zenk, Brady Boone, Nikita Koloff, Curt Hennig, John Nord, Road Warrior Animal, and Barry Darsow, all of whom later became professional wrestlers. He was especially close with his childhood friend Curt Hennig.
After graduating from Anoka-Ramsey Community College with a degree in physical education, Rude trained as a wrestler under Eddie Sharkey. He began wrestling in 1982 as Ricky Rood, a babyface jobber. Rude lost his TV debut against Mid-Atlantic Champion Paul Jones on the November 20, 1982 episode of NWA World Wide Wrestling. He started with Vancouver's NWA: All-Star Wrestling before moving on to compete for Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) and later the Memphis-based Continental Wrestling Association (CWA). Rude debuted on the May 28, 1983 episode of World Championship Wrestling, defeating Pat Rose with a dropkick. Gordon Solie interviewed Rude the following week, with Rude discussing transitioning from arm wrestling to pro wrestling and dropping weight to increase speed. He later left and joined the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) affiliate Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) where he and a variety of tag team partners feuded with The Road Warriors. He returned to Memphis in 1984, this time as "Ravishing" Rick Rude, an overconfident, arrogant heel managed by Jimmy Hart. Rude feuded with Jerry Lawler and later his former partner, King Kong Bundy.
Rude was hired by Championship Wrestling from Florida (CWF) in December 1984, where he was managed by Percy Pringle. He defeated Pez Whatley for the NWA Florida Southern Heavyweight Championship on January 16, 1985 and lost it to Brian Blair on April 10, 1985. He captured the championship again on July 20, 1985, when he defeated Mike Graham in the finals of a Southern title tournament. He held the belt until October 2 of that year when he dropped it to Wahoo McDaniel, who was booking Florida during this time. While teaming with Jesse Barr, he won the NWA Florida United States Tag Team Championship on April 16, 1985, and feuded with Billy Jack Haynes and Wahoo McDaniel over the belts, losing the straps to McDaniel and Haynes on July 9, 1985.
In late 1985, Rude jumped to World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) along with Pringle, where he feuded with Kevin Von Erich and Chris Adams. During his time in WCCW, Rude captured the NWA American Heavyweight Championship on November 4, 1985. However, WCCW withdrew from the NWA on February 20, 1986, and changed its name to the World Class Wrestling Association. The NWA American Championship was renamed the WCWA World Heavyweight Championship while Rude was still holding the title. As a result, Rude became the promotion's first world champion. After losing the title to Chris Adams in July 1986, he fired Pringle and briefly replaced him with his sister, Raven. He formed a short-lived tag team with The Dingo Warrior, but the Warrior turned on him and became a face.
In September 1986, Rude returned to JCP and joined Manny Fernandez and his manager Paul Jones in their rivalry with Wahoo McDaniel. Rude and Fernandez, known collectively as the "Awesome Twosome", won the NWA World Tag Team Championship on December 6, 1986 from The Rock 'n' Roll Express, and they began a feud that ended only when Rude left the promotion for the World Wrestling Federation in April 1987. To explain the sudden departure, Jim Crockett, Jr. aired a pre-taped non-title match where the Express defeated Rude and Fernandez and claimed that Rude had been injured as a result.
Rude made his World Wrestling Federation (WWF) debut in July 1987 as the newest addition to the Bobby Heenan Family. His first feud in the WWF was with Heenan's former muscle bound charge "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff (who Heenan had dropped after Rude joined the Family), before starting one of his most famous feuds with Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Rude had a routine where, before the match, he would make a show of removing his robe while insulting the males in the crowd (usually calling them "Fat", "out of shape" or "sweathogs") and, after his victories, he would kiss a woman that Heenan picked from the fans. One of Rude's trademarks was his specially airbrushed tights that he wore during matches. In one storyline, he tried to get Roberts' real-life wife, Cheryl, to comply (though not knowing when Heenan chose her that she was in fact the wife of Jake "The Snake"). After Mrs Roberts rejected him and revealed who she was there to see, Rude got angry (after she slapped him) and grabbed her wrist, berating her on the microphone when Roberts ran from the dressing room to make the save. On another occasion during the Roberts/Rude feud, Rude came to the ring with a picture of Cheryl stenciled on the front of his tights. A furious Roberts charged the ring and stripped Rude, appearing to television viewers to leave him naked, although the live audience saw him stripped to a g-string instead.
Through mid-1988 Rude continued to wear a second pair of tights under the one he wore to the ring, including during his match against the Junkyard Dog at the inaugural SummerSlam at Madison Square Garden. During the match Rude had the JYD on his back and had climbed to the top turnbuckle. While up there he pulled down his tights to reveal a second with Cheryl Roberts printed on them. After hitting the Dog with a flying fist, he was attacked by Roberts who had seen the action from the dressing room. Roberts attack on Rude caused the JYD to be disqualified, giving Rude the win. Rude's feud with Roberts came to its conclusion when Roberts pinned Rude following a DDT during the 1988 Survivor Series.
Rude's next big feud was with The Ultimate Warrior and began in January at the 1989 Royal Rumble pay-per-view in a "Super Posedown" that ended with Rude attacking Warrior with a metal pose bar. With help from Heenan, Rude won the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship from The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania V, before dropping it back to Warrior at SummerSlam that same year, due in large part to interference from "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. Rude then feuded with Piper, before resuming his conflict with The Ultimate Warrior in the summer of 1990 after Warrior had won the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. The two battled in a steel cage at SummerSlam 1990; however, Rude failed to win the title and departed from WWF in October 1990. This departure came right before he was scheduled to feud with Big Boss Man, which had its potential start when Rude started to make degrading comments about Boss Man's mother.
After spending a year wrestling in select shows in the independent circuit, as well as a July 1991 tour for All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), Rude returned to WCW, which had originally been JCP prior to being sold to Ted Turner in late 1988; he returned under a mask as The WCW Phantom at Halloween Havoc on October 27, 1991, unmasking himself later that night. He led The Dangerous Alliance, consisting of himself, Paul E. Dangerously, Madusa, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton, Larry Zbyszko, and "Stunning" Steve Austin. On November 19, 1991, Rude defeated Sting for the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship and engaged in a number of high-profile feuds, including one with Ricky Steamboat. At one point during their feud, Steamboat suffered a kayfabe broken nose in a gang attack.
In 1992, Rude and Madusa left The Dangerous Alliance and feuded with Nikita Koloff. Rude challenged reigning WCW World Heavyweight Champion Ron Simmons on several occasions but did not defeat him. In December 1992, Rude suffered a legitimate neck injury and was forced to forfeit the United States Championship, thus ending his reign of nearly 14 months, a reign that still stands today as the second longest reign in the almost 40 year history of the title. Rude returned alone in April 1993 and tried to reclaim the title from Dustin Rhodes, who had won it while he was injured. The title was eventually held up after several controversial finishes to matches between the two. After a 30-minute Iron Man Match ended in a 1-1 draw at Beach Blast on July 18, a best-of-three series was set between the two on WCW Saturday Night; Rude won the first match on August 28, but lost to Rhodes twice on September 4 and 11, losing his chance at regaining the U.S. title.
Rude switched his sights to the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, making his intentions clear on August 28, 1993, when he was the guest on then-champion Ric Flair's "A Flair For the Gold" talk segment. Rude defeated Flair for the title in September 1993 at Fall Brawl. As WCW had recently withdrawn from the NWA, WCW lost the rights to continue using the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. WCW created their own championship, dubbing it the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship, which Rude lost to Hiroshi Hase on March 16, 1994 in Tokyo, Japan. Rude regained the title just eight days later in Kyoto, Japan. After dropping the title to Sting on April 17 at Spring Stampede, Rude pinned Sting on May 1 at Wrestling Dontaku in Fukuoka to become a three-time champion. Rude, however, injured his back during the match when, upon receiving a suicide dive at ringside, he landed on the corner of the raised platform surrounding the ring; unable to wrestle, he was stripped of the title (with the storyline excuse that he was found to have used the title belt as a weapon in the course of the match). Rude retired shortly thereafter.
Rude collected on a Lloyd's of London insurance policy and did not appear in wrestling again until early 1997, when he joined Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) as a masked man who harassed Shane Douglas, at one point spanking Francine. He eventually unmasked and became a color commentator before later aligning himself, for a short time, with Douglas and his Triple Threat stable. In the main event of ECW Heat Wave 1997, Rude made a one-off return to the ring in a six-man tag team match, where he partnered with ECW mainstays Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman to face Jerry Lawler and ECW stars Rob Van Dam and Sabu. During the ECW versus USWA/WWF inter-company competition, Rude helped Lawler win matches against Dreamer and The Sandman.
On August 11, 1997, Rude returned to WWF as the "insurance policy" of the D-Generation X (DX) stable (Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Chyna). As a member of DX, Rude never wrestled, but stayed ringside during the group's matches. He once again left WWF after the Montreal Screwjob at Survivor Series. According to Bret Hart, Rude stayed in the locker room during Bret's confrontation with Vince McMahon, later calling Eric Bischoff and informing him what had happened was in fact real. As Rude was not signed to a full-time contract with WWF, and was instead performing on a "pay-per-appearance" basis, Rude was able to negotiate a deal with Bischoff and WCW, in part due to his anger over the Montreal Screwjob.
Rude appeared on both WWF's Raw Is War and WCW's Monday Nitro on November 17, 1997. A mustached Rude appeared on Nitro, which was live, and proceeded to criticize Shawn Michaels, DX, and the WWF, calling the company the "Titanic" (a reference to Titan Sports, as WWF's parent company was then known, as the "sinking ship"). An hour later on Raw Is War (which had been taped six days earlier), Rude then appeared with the full beard he had been sporting during his return to the WWF. Rude also appeared on ECW's Hardcore TV during that weekend (November 14–16 as the show was syndicated differently depending on the market). Rude was still making ECW appearances while in D-Generation X.
In WCW, Rude became a member of the New World Order (nWo), managing his friend Curt Hennig. Thus, Rude became the first wrestler to be part of both DX and nWo. When the nWo split, Hennig and Rude joined the nWo Wolfpac, and they tried to motivate Konnan to defeat Goldberg, who was undefeated at the time. When Konnan was defeated by Goldberg, Rude and Hennig attacked him, later joining nWo Hollywood, the rivals of the Wolfpac. By late 1998, both Rude and Hennig were off WCW TV due to injuries. Hennig had an ongoing leg injury that year, and Rude was thought to have had testicular cancer which later turned out to be a spermatocele. Hennig returned to the nWo from his injury at Starrcade without Rude, who was still unable to appear. Rude left the company in early 1999.
Rood married his wife Michelle in 1988 and the couple remained together until his death in 1999, having three children together. Bret Hart has stated that Rood was a devoted family man who never took his wedding ring off even during matches; covering it up with tape. Hart also stated that Rude, along with Curt Hennig, was one of the greatest technical wrestlers of his era.
Rude died on April 20, 1999, at the age of 40 when he suffered from heart failure. He was survived by his wife, Michelle, and their three children. An autopsy report showed he died from an overdose of "mixed medications". At the time of his death, Rude was in training for a return to the ring.
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Despite entering superstar status toward the end of the decade, "Ravishing" Rick Rude became one of the most successful heel superstars of the WWF 1980's boom. With his raunchy pre match entrance and opponent themed tights, Rude paved the way for male superstars adopting an adult film star type character. Managed by Bobby Heenan, Rude became a pivotal member of the infamous Heenan Family.
Rude was widely known as one of the toughest men in the business and legitimately feared. It is said that Hulk Hogan refused to wrestle Rude, who was known to knock men out with a single open handed slap to the face and had a brutally strong grip. In 1988, Macho Man Randy Savage who was WWF World Heavyweight Champion at the time, purposely and selectively chose Rick Rude and the Dynamite Kid to watch his back at a bar when they were in NWA territory. The bar was a well known hangout for NWA wrestlers and Savage knew someone in NWA could make a name for themselves by legitimately taking out the WWF World Heavyweight Champion. With Rude and Kid literally being Savage's bodyguards, there were no issues that night. Rude also was a noted arm wrestler, finishing sixth in the world championships in Las Vegas in the light heavyweight division in 1983.
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