Rick Rude is set to take his rightful place among WWE's greats. The Ravishing One is the latest official inductee in the 2017 Hall of Fame class, Bleacher Report has confirmed.
The hip-gyrating, audience-incensing former intercontinental champion was one of WWE's top heels in the late '80s. Rude was a master of manipulating the audience. He made women swoon and left their boyfriends fuming.
Rude (born Richard Erwin Rood) co-founded D-Generation X, played a key role in the Monday Night War and challenged for both WWE and WCW's world titles en route to becoming one of the most enduring characters in squared-circle history.
Now, the late Minnesota native will be posthumously recognized by the WWE Hall of Fame. Rude is the latest addition to a stacked class that also includes Kurt Angle, Diamond Dallas Page, Beth Phoenix and The Rock 'N' Roll Express.
Although he never won WWE's top prize, Rude was a top-tier talent, as Hall of Famer Ricky Steamboat can attest.
"If you looked at all the boxes you would check to make a main event guy that would go down in history as one of the best, Rude checked all the boxes," Steamboat told Bleacher Report. "He was an all-around package. He looked good, he could play the part, he knew what to do. He could take great bumps, feed the babyface when it was time to feed, and he would never run out of gas."
The Dragon would know. He feuded with Rude over the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship in 1992, and the two grapplers flourished against each other in a memorable Iron Man match at the Beach Blast pay-per-view that year.
Steamboat will induct Rude into the Hall during a March 31 ceremony at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, ahead of WrestleMania 33, WWE confirmed to Bleacher Report.
For now, Steamboat is in the process of preparing his address for Hall of Fame night. He is still working on the details of his speech, but he noted "it will be heartfelt, with a lot of truisms."
Even though Rude's in-ring days ended early and abruptly due to a back injury, there will be plenty of ground to cover.
Rude first showed off his athletic prowess and toughness as a hockey player at Robbinsdale High School in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, the same institution that pro wrestling legends Verne Gagne, Curt Hennig and Nikita Koloff attended. According to Greg Oliver and Steven Johnson's The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels, Koloff remembered a postgame brawl in the state playoffs where Rude "ended up on top of the opponent's starting goalie."
After stints as a bouncer and an arm wrestler, Rude found his calling in the squared circle in the early '80s.
Rude wrestled for various promotions early in his career before coming into his own while competing for Mid-South Wrestling. That's where he feuded with Austin Idol, won the AWA southern tag team titles alongside King Kong Bundy and began to develop his showmanship skills.
Rude rose to national prominence in 1987 when he signed with WWE and joined Bobby "The Brain" Heenan's stable of villains.
The mustached bruiser with abs worthy of a Greek statue would famously slip off his robe after he degraded the men in the audience. He often called them sweat hogs and invited women to gawk at his physique. The routine often maddened the men in the crowd and tantalized the women. It was all part of Rude's role as puppet master.
"Even as arrogant and womanizing as he was, the women thought to themselves, 'Oh, this guy's a real hunk," Steamboat recalled. "But Rude could diminish all that with what he'd say or a gesture. There were just a few guys in the business who had that ability and knew how to do it."
In WWE, Rude used that ability in feuds with Paul Orndorff, Jake "The Snake" Roberts and the Ultimate Warrior. During his rivalry with The Snake, he attempted to kiss Roberts' wife, Cheryl, at ringside, and he later donned a pair of tights with her likeness airbrushed on them. Against Warrior, Rude's technical skills were on display as he led the powerhouse to some of the best matches of his career.
Rude seized the Intercontinental Championship from The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania V. The two enemies resumed their rivalry in 1990 with the WWF World Heavyweight Championship on the line, leading to a classic inside a steel cage at SummerSlam that year.
After moving to WCW, Rude joined Paul Heyman's Dangerous Alliance and found new rivals in Sting and Steamboat.
The Dragon remembered his battles with Roberts fondly. "I would consider him one of the top guys I worked with throughout my career," Steamboat said. He noted Rude was "extremely good at ring psychology."
"He would do things at the right time not just for the sake of doing stuff," Steamboat explained. "Everything he did had a rhythm and a reason to it."
Unfortunately, Rude wasn't able to showcase his ring acumen long enough. At just 35, Rude severely injured his back in a bout against Sting.
The Ravishing One moved into non-physical roles afterward—commentating for Extreme Championship Wrestling, serving as a bodyguard for D-Generation X, managing Hennig as part of the New World Order. Jumping ship from WWE to WCW in the heart of the companies' battle for ratings in 1997, Rude ended up appearing on both Raw (taped) and Nitro (live) on the same night.
Unable to compete in the ring, Rude relied on his verbal talents.
That wasn't a problem. Rude could deliver on the mic. "Not only could he work in the ring, but he could express himself very well when he was doing interviews," Steamboat said.
Rude pined to wrestle again, though. He was in the midst of training for a comeback when he died in April 1999 at the age of 40 due to heart failure, as Mike Johnson noted for PWInsider.com.
During the 2017 Hall of Fame ceremony set to air on the WWE Network, the company will look back on the memories Rude created, honoring his contributions to the business along the way. And Steamboat will get a chance to salute a fellow show-stealer.