When everyone looks back on wrestlers of the late 1980s and early 90s, there are a handful of regular names that get brought up as the greats of that generation. Everyone talks about Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Sting, Ultimate Warrior, Jake Roberts and the like.
I’ve been watching some wrestling during this time frame in recent weeks, and there is one name that doesn’t get brought up enough in the discussion of great starts from that era.
That name is Ravishing Rick Rude.
Rick Rude’s career from his start in the WWF in 1987 to the end of his WCW run in 1994 doesn’t get the attention that it deserves. Of course a good amount of people night not even remember much of his WCW run. But if you ask me, Rude’s WCW run might even be better than his WWF run. Both lasted about the same length, but Rude’s body of work in WCW is better in my opinion.
Rude made a name for himself in the WWF after coming over from World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas. He was brought in as a member of the Heenan Family. Any time you have Bobby Heenan as your manager it is a good thing. But in reality, I don’t think Rude needed Heenan as his manager. There were stories that Rude thought Heenan took away some of the spotlight from him and to be honest, he might be right. Rude is actually one person who I don’t think needed someone like Bobby Heenan as his manager.
One of the main reasons I think that is because Rick Rude was just so great as a natural heel. He was so easy to hate. Rude made it really easy to want to boo him. Here is this guy that is good looking and lets you know it. He was good on the mic and didn’t need Heenan talking for him. He insulted the crowd while knowing all the women of the men who booed him liked him.
I would go as far as saying Rick Rude was the best heel during the years he was in the WWF. He was hated during his feud with Jake Roberts where he tried to go after Roberts wife Cheryl. Then he went and made the Ultimate Warrior look like a million bucks in their program for the Intercontinental title. Rude got the most out of Warrior in the ring and you could make an argument he got Warrior ready for his main event run.
Unfortunately for Rude, he had a ceiling in the WWF. He was never going to get a long run as WWF Champion with the likes of Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior running the place. So that, among a rumored factor of other things, lead to Rude’s departure.
And you know what? It all worked out for the best for Rude. Because I think he had a better run in WCW than he did in the WWF. Rude joined WCW as the “WCW Halloween Phantom” at Halloween Havoc 1991, though it was pretty obvious it was Rude the second he came out.
The best part about Rick Rude’s WCW run is that he was able to showcase his in ring ability. With how the WWF was presented at the time, Rude really wasn’t able to do that in his time there. But he went to WCW and was able to wrestle the likes of Rick Steamboat, Ric Flair, Sting and Dustin Rhodes. To this day, he has the second-longest United States Championship reign in history.
Rude was also able to win the ‘big gold belt’ in WCW. It went from being the NWA title to the WCW International title because of WCW’s breaking away from the NWA. Rude was able to transition away from the WWF and pick up right where he left off as far as his character was concerned. It was just so easy to hate him because his charisma was off the charts.
I often wonder what Rick Rude could have done in today’s world of pro wrestling. I think he would fit right in as the same heel he was during his prime. Imagine Rude debuting in AEW and starting a program with Jon Moxley and having a picture of Renee Young spray painted on his tights, teasing that he is the father of Renee’s baby? Or how about debuting in the WWE with Lana or Aaliyah (from NXT) as his manager?
With today being Rick Rude’s birthday, I wanted to write this for those of you that have never had the chance to go back and watch all of Rick Rude’s great career. Rude was one of the best natural heels of his time. Hell, I would make an argument that he was one of the best natural heels of all time.
And remember, it is important to look back on his WCW run as well. Everyone automatically thinks of Rick Rude as a WWF wrestler. In actuality, I think his WCW run was much better than his WWF run. As I said above, not only did he have better matches in WCW, but he had more career accomplishments in WCW than he did in the WWF.
To me Rick Rude is the perfect example of a wrestler that could work in any era. His natural ability to get over as a heel would have fans booing him whenever they had the chance. His in ring work would fit in today’s wrestling world or during the Monday Night Wars (and even without wrestling, he managed to make a historical impact then, as well). And his look wouldn’t need to change at all, as a great moustache is acceptable in any time period.
If you take away one thing from this article, I hope it is that Rick Rude’s career is one that needs to be appreciated. Rude’s pro wrestling career doesn’t get talked about enough. But if you go back and watch it you see a wrestler who might have been underrated for his time, and definitely underrated in the history of pro wrestling.
Rick Rude is one of the best heels in the history of pro wrestling. And more people need to know it.