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Rick Rude: Remembering How He Impacted the Pro Wrestling Business

Lost in all the coverage of both Prince and Chyna passing away this week was the fact professional wrestling lost one of its most underrated stars of my generation 17 years ago last Wednesday when Rick Rude died.

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There is some irony in the fact he and fellow DX member passed on the same day. Both will be remembered for being bad ass wrestlers who were perfect for the Attitude Era. Both were trend setters in a company full of ego-driven superstars. And above it all, both are still awaiting induction into WWE’s Hall of Fame.

Something tells me Chyna will now leapfrog the brash Rude for that honor, however hollow it may be.

Once again, death has a way of changing perception and the way people are handled in this business. I touched on that in an article for another website. Rude is one of those indelible characters who stood out in any decade, any era and could still get over with professional wrestling fans today. Men wanted to be just like him, with a body of a Greek God and women wanted to be with him, for the sheer machismo and sex appeal he exuded in the ring.

When he signed with Vince McMahon from his days in WCW, he hit on something he had been selling for some time – sex appeal is important to women as much as it was to men. And the heel that thought he was wrestling gift to the masses, fit that bill perfectly.

Where Ricky Steamboat never played a heel role in wrestling, Rude never played a babyface. But it wasn’t hard to like him. He was a tactician and solid performer and a perfect storm for the 1990s.

Rude wrestled from 1982 until his 1994 retirement due to injury, with a final match following in 1997. Among other accolades, he was a four-time world champion (three-time WCW International World Heavyweight Champion and one-time WCWA World Heavyweight Champion), a one-time WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion, and a one-time WCW United States Heavyweight Champion. Rude also challenged for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship and the NWA World Heavyweight Championship on pay-per-view.

In 1997, he became the only person to appear on the WWF’s Raw Is War and WCW’s Monday Nitro on the same night, as the former was pre-recorded and Rude had left for WCW in the interim.

I remember him from his days in Memphis when Jerry Lawler was battling the likes of Randy Savage and Austin Idol. He also wrestled in Florida in Eddie Graham’s promotion and in Texas for Fritz Von Erich in World Class Championship Wrestling. Wherever he traveled, he was a top contender for promotional gold.

I have wondered out loud in columns in the past as to why Rude, with all the star power and heat he could generate, was not a world champion for McMahon or in Charlotte for Jim Crockett. Maybe it’s because his style of wrestling wasn’t conducive to what WWE was promoting. The fact Rude was a brawler and wrestler who was ring-war tested in a time when 10-minute matches meant something.

Being part of the baddest cliques in wrestling history – DX – further explains why he was one of the best ever. Maybe not as a champion, but one of the greatest heels of all time.

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For the past few days, Chyna’s death has taken us all by storm. Rude’s passing was shocking in its own right, but never received the same attention. Chyna was a ground breaking figure in this world of make believe. Rude was a tough, rugged SOB who could stand up to anyone. Why Chyna was a decorated world champion, Rude was an international star. Both have their place in the history of this business.

We just tend to forget how good Rude was and what he meant to a generation that he could have dominated if he had been given the chance.

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