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EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.

Friday, April 23, 1998

Rude's death ends sad week

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

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I think I speak for all of us when I say that Rick Rude was a great performer and will be missed by us all.

What with the bombings in Kosovo, the recent massacre in Littleton, Colorado, and another high-profile wrestling death in this decade, it has been a very sad week. I took some time out of my day, today, to reflect on the recent passings.

What's going on in the Balkans, well, I just have a hard time feeling the effects of something taking place half-way around the world. The senseless murders near Denver just boggles my mind to the point of me blocking them out. Rick Rude's passing, though, seems a lot closer to home.

Curt Hennig and the late Rick Rude.
It's almost like I knew him. I didn't, of course. I've never met the man. But I've seen him on television, I've read about him on these pages, and I've followed his career. He may not have been a high-profile character outside of the business, he may not have been a five-time world champion or a ratings king, but I guess he was one of those guys who just seem like they're always there. And they're the guys you miss most when they're gone.

I remember he beat the Ultimate Warrior (!) for the World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Title. I remember when he joined Degeneration-X and asked audiences everywhere to "shut their mouths, open their eyes, and welcome the most powerful force in wrestling today - Degeneration-X." I remember that infamous night when he appeared on two wrestling shows: a taped Raw and a live Nitro, without the beard on Nitro. I remember the dynamic duo that he and Curt Hennig made, and the constant references to their respective Dads. I remember his great feud with Jake "the Snake" Roberts and the time that Roberts pulled Rude's trunks down. I remember the Rude Awakening, the gyrations, and the cheap heel heat he'd get from trying to please the ladies. I remember Rick Rude, and I think we should all take a moment to do that.

That's not my point, though.

As Rude rode into the sunset this week, something occured to me. I guess it's lucky that things just happen to occur to me every week or my column would be less epiphanous. It struck me that - whoa - wrestling isn't real.

No, wait, don't laugh just yet. When you hear about something like this, something which transcends the industry in so many ways, it really makes you think about how the industry has gotten so caught up in itself. Without even delving too much into the more practical implications of yet another wrestling-related death, it makes me realize that all this, this whole wrestling sports entertainment writing internet thing is no more than a hobby for me and many, a job for some others. For Rick Rude, though, it was life. And in the end, I guess it was death, too.

Coverage in CNEWS

Colorado Massacre
I choose not to use his real name in this 'shoot' article for two reasons. First of all, all of my articles are shoots, as much as Bret Hart's exodus from the WWF was a shoot - read that as you will - and this is no different. Second of all, I never saw Rick Rude as anyone but Rick Rude. He was the man I knew, or felt I knew. Rick Rude. Ravishing Rick Rude.

I guess it could be argued that this isn't about wrestling, it's about the loss of a classy guy who happened to be a wrestler. That's good news for me, I guess, since I promised myself I'd never cry about wrestling.

Due to the incredulously tragic week this has been, no mail will be included this week, so as not to take away from the gravity of what's going on. I'd like to ask you a favor, though. Please do four things for me - no, for yourself - this week. First, take half an hour and go research what's going on in the former Yugoslavia right now. People are dying there and those deaths deserve to be understood and remembered. Second, take a moment and reflect on what happened in Colorado and promise yourself that you'll do what it takes to prevent that in the future, little as you may be able to do. Every bit helps. Third, draft me an email about how Rick's passing has affected you, whether it be not at all or tremendously. I'd really like to know, and next week's mailbag will be twice as big to make up for this week. Finally, say a little prayer for Rick Rude's soul and his family. Thank you. See you in seven.

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