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  April 24, 1999

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Heaven gains a champ
By BRET "THE HITMAN" HART -- For The Calgary Sun
  Mr. Richard Erwin Rood, aka (Ravishing Rick Rude), age 40, of Alpharetta Ga., died (of a heart attack) on April 20, 1999. He is survived by wife Michelle, daughter Merissa, and sons Richard Ryan Rood and Colton Rood.

 -- Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 'I can't believe the news today.

 I'd like to close my eyes and make it go away

 How long, how long must we sing this song?'

 -- U2

 Sunday Bloody Sunday

 I am a year his senior. We travelled the same roads.

 Now he walks with angels.

 There but for the grace of God go I.

 Rick Rude was anything but ... rude.

 In any circle of friends and phonies, you take the good with the bad.

 And the bad makes you appreciate the good even more.

 At the height of my road days, when 300 fights in 300 towns a year was normal, strangers became family and family became strangers. You can't pick your family but you can pick your friends. Rick Rude was one of the best picks I ever made.

 He was a smile on my face and everybody else's. He got a big kick out of my drawings so this one's for him, because I think he'd like it.

 He was a great family man. He loved his wife. He was one of those kind of guys who never took his wedding ring off. He put a white piece of tape around it when he went into the ring. He was the kind of guy that when you needed someone to back you up, he wouldn't flinch at all. Not for money. Not for anything.

 When McMahon and his sidemen barged into my dressing room in Montreal, Rick was there. He was one of the guys who refused to budge. Refused to allow me to be put in a compromising position.

 Rick Rude stayed there to make sure my back was watched.

 There were -- and are -- some people who think the whole thing that happened between McMahon and I was a hoax.

 Rick was the one who called Eric Bischoff and said 'I was there. I was in the room and this is what happened.'

 When I was forming new business relationships in WCW, Rude's call protected me and saved me from a lot of doubt because even Eric Bischoff had to question whether this was a set-up or not. I was always grateful to Rick for making that call and for being with me in the room that day.

 You statisticians, be sure to note that Rick Rude is the only guy who managed to appear on both Raw and Nitro at the same time -- because Raw was taped in advance on the night Rick showed up for a live Nitro and told the world that what McMahon did to me was real and wrong.

 I'd like to think Rick was defending me -- and he was -- but what he was really defending was 'time-honoured tradition.'

 The irony is that at the height of his popularity, Rick's Ravishing character, the sexy playboy with the gyrating hips, caused a stir with some conservative viewers, which Rick actually found amusing and took as a compliment because it was sort of like being compared to Elvis on Ed Sullivan. With overt sexuality accepted (by some, but not by me) in wrestling today, it's hard to believe that Ravishing Rick was a controversial cutting edge character only a few years ago.

 The difference is that Rick did it with class. With taste. Your kids could watch him.

 Mine did. They looked up to Rick Rude as a great wrestler and when he came to visit our house, they found out he was also a great man. When my oldest son, Dallas, was a little kid, his mean imitation of Ravishing Rick couldn't be beat.

 I don't know if there's any great cosmic reasoning that can help a kid understand why dad is in another place.

 I only know that while he was here, Rick Rude was a great role model to his kids, to kids around the world, and to those who forgot that how you play the game is more important than winning it. But make no mistake about it, Rick Rude was a winner.

 Rick was world class heavyweight champion in the southern U.S. when McMahon signed him at the height of the '80s wrestling boom. He was a successful intercontinental champion during a hot feud with the Ultimate Warrior, which culminated in a world title cage match at SummerSlam '90. Rude lost. He went to WCW and held the U.S. title, beating a feisty, up and coming guy then known as 'Stunning' Steve Austin.

 No doubt Stone Cold learned a lot wrestling against Ravishing Rick that day.

 And ... Rick Rude beat The Hitman the only time I ever fought him. (Italy, 1989). I was making the transition from tags to singles and I don't know if it was that Rick wanted to see what I had or show me what I needed.

 I always knew he was tough but that's the day I found out that he always gave 110%, no matter how the small the town or if the cameras weren't rolling.

 Ravishing Rick vs. The Hitman is one of those rare lost classics.

 The 'lost classics'. Brian. Kerry. Bravo. Adrian. JYD. Studd. Andre ... the list goes on so long it's scary. So many. So young. So talented. So needed. So missed.

 I was going to say I'd give anything to be at the strategy meeting I know they're having but ... I'll stay here and be a 'fat, out of shape, sweathog' just trying to do what's right. And what's right is not to let what they lived for -- and died for -- decay any further, until there's no respect left for wrestling's fallen heroes.

 'I don't believe it's all for nothing

 It's not just written in the sand

 Fallen Angel

 Casts a shadow up against the Sun

 If my eyes could see

 The Spirit of the chosen one

 In my dream the pipes were playin'

 In my dream I lost a friend

 Come down Gabriel and blow your horn

 'Cause some day we will meet again.'

 -- Robbie Robertson,

 Fallen Angel

April 21, 1999: Fellow wrestlers remember Rude

More on Bret Hart

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