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April 25, 2014

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Wrestling villain was not the real Rick Rude

In the world of professional wrestling, Ravishing Rick Rude was the quintessential villain, but in real life he would do anything for his own young children and others.

When Rude visited his mother and stepfather in Las Vegas, the neighborhood children would come to the front door and ask Rude to "rassle" with them and pose for pictures. He always obliged.

He took his young son on the road with him from arena to arena. He would show up at his daughter's preschool tea and cookie parties to the delight of her and her classmates.

Richard E. Rood, who as Ravishing Rick Rude held versions of the world individual and tag-team wrestling titles during a 12-year career that took him around the world and made him one of the grunt-and-groan game's most recognized stars, has died. He was 40.

Rude died of heart failure April 20 at North Fulton County Medical Center in Atlanta. He had been in failing health since suffering a career-ending back and neck injury in 1994 during a match in Japan.

Several luminaries from the world of professional wrestling turned out for his services last Saturday, including wrestler and boyhood friend Curt Hennig.

"My son played a bad guy on TV but he was the type of man who always took the time to do whatever he could for others, especially children," said Sally Chiaferi, a longtime Las Vegan. "He would want to be remembered as a devoted family man."

Rude was born Dec. 7, 1958, in St. Peter, Minn., the son of Chiaferi and Richard "Dick" Rood, a former college football star at Gustavas Adolphus College and the University of Minnesota.

In the early 1980s, Rude, a graduate of Robinsdale High School in Minnesota, enrolled in the Eddie Sharkey Wrestling School in Chicago. Upon graduation he changed the spelling of his last name and started wrestling as a good guy for a small company in North Carolina.

Soon after he became Ravishing Rick Rude, a bad guy, and by 1987 had worked his way up to the big leagues, the World Wrestling Federation.

Rude became the first wrestler to wear air-brush painted tights into the ring. A look-alike for actor Tom Selleck, Rude would wiggle his hips and kiss pretty women at ringside before his matches.

The hold he used to win many of his matches was "The Rude Awakening," in which he would put an opponent in a headlock and drive him head-first into the canvas.

Among his titles, Rude won the National Wrestling Alliance world championship belt in 1993, the World Championship Wrestling title in 1994 and the WWF intercontinental title in 1989. He teamed up with former pro football star Manny Fernandez to win the NWA world tag team title.

Rude fought against some of the sport's biggest names, including the late Andre The Giant, the late Junkyard Dog, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, The Ultimate Warrior, Hacksaw Jim Dugan, Ric Flair, Tito Santana, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, Sting and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.

In the late 1980s, Rude wrestled on a card at the Thomas & Mack Center. About that time, the WWF was rocked by a steroid-use scandal, but Rude was never accused of using the drug that builds muscle tissue but can cause serious health problems. "He had a muscular body like his father's," his mother said.

Rude later made wrestling history as the only wrestler to compete on the same day in the rival WWF and WCW for nationally televised events. He completed his contract with the WWF in one city then went to another and started a contract with the WCW.

Rude's sister, Nancy, served as his ring valet under the stage name Raven. Now Nancy Natysin of Minneapolis, Raven later was a showgirl in the Las Vegas Strip production of "Abracadabra." Another of Rude's sisters, Kathy Carder of Las Vegas, was a Las Vegas Strip showgirl in "Casino de Paris." They survive him.

In a 1994 match against wrestler Sting in Japan, Rude suffered serious injuries when Sting leaped off the top rope onto Rude outside the ring. Rude hit his head on the floor. A bleeding Rude got back in the ring and finished what would be his last match.

Rude spent his last years in the sport as Curt Hennig's manager and as a color commentator for a pay-per-view wrestling production.

Rude's other survivors include his wife, Michelle Rude of Alpharetta, Ga.; two sons, Richard Ryan Rude, 8, and Colton Rude, 1, both of Alpharetta; daughter, Merrissa Rude, 5, of Alpharetta; stepfather, Larry Chiaferi of Las Vegas; sister Marcia Wheeler of Las Vegas; and brother Michael Rood of Minneapolis.

The family says that donations can be made in the memory of Ravishing Rick Rude to the American Cancer Society.

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