March 27, 2010
JAKE ROBERTS VS. RICK RUDE
“Danger lies in playing in another man’s garden”
In 1988, Jake Roberts lived up to his moniker of “The Snake”, as he slithered his way into the acceptance of fans worldwide. Once a vile villain with creepy intentions, Roberts had performed a 180, and was now using his pet python Damian as a tormentor toward the rulebreakers of the WWF, namely against the likes of Intercontinental Champion Honky Tonk Man, as well as Ron Bass, evil referee Danny Davis, among others. The unpleasant combination of a deadly DDT, followed by the draping of Damian across one’s prone body was enough to make Roberts a feared opponent.
Going from serpents to sensuality, Ravishing Rick Rude had made quite a splash as a Bobby Heenan signing in late summer 1987. Heenan had made no bones about ridding the WWF of the likes of former charges Ken Patera and Paul Orndorff, both of whom had intended to do the same to “The Brain”. Rude worked his way through both men with relative ease, and had established himself as a legitimate challenge for any title within the Federation. Rude even challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWF World Title in January 1988, but fell just short in a valiant effort. Despite this, Rick Rude remained at the top of the card.
ACT I: A Chance Encounter
After Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant engaged in a controversial match in February 1988, the WWF World Title was declared vacant. To remedy this vacancy, President Jack Tunney instituted a fourteen man, one night tournament for Wrestlemania IV. The tournament would feature the top contenders at the time, which included both Roberts and Rude. Coincidentally enough, the two men were paired together in the first round.
Whereas the previous matches in the round were mostly short affairs, Roberts and Rude gruelingly waged war back and forth, trading slams and holds with the not-so-distant dream of becoming champion dancing through their minds. With the One Man Gang looming large as the prospective round two opponent, “The Snake” and Ravishing Rick were unable to land their finishers, much less eke out a victory, as the bell sounded to signal that the fifteen minute time limit had been reached. With the hopes of becoming champion dashed, Roberts and Rude could only lament to themselves as Gang received a bye into the semi finals.
ACT II: Defend Thy Honor
Life continued as normal for both men, as they waded their way through the various enhancement talents that were thrown their way. Rude, however, took a typical outing one night and turned it into a deeply personal feud.
After dispatching of preliminary wrestler Jake Milliman on an edition of WWF Superstars, Rick Rude took to ringside to continue what was becoming a post-match tradition for him. Rude would select a comely female from the audience to plant a “Ravishing” kiss upon, which was a move designed to prove beyond a doubt that Rick Rude was the manly man that he claimed he was.
This routine began as it always did, and on this night, Rude selected a rather sultry brunette in a white jacket. However, she seemed uninterested in his advances. In fact, this woman rather flatly turned him down. Losing his cool in front of thousands of fans, Rude demanded an explanation. This unknown observer said that she was married and that her husband happened to be a wrestler. Then she spilled the beans further, admitting that her husband was, in fact, Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
Rude’s blood pressure boiled at the very idea that he had selected Roberts’ wife, her name Cheryl, and that she was perfectly satisfied with her man. Before things could get ugly, Jake hit the ring and brawled with Rude up the aisleway, where it took a host of officials and lower tier wrestlers to separate.
ACT III: Salt in the Wound
On the June 11, 1988 edition of WWF Superstars, interviewer Craig DeGeorge spoke at length with Jake and Cheryl concerning the recent issue. In a quote that was certain to only torment the inflated psyche of Ravishing Rick, Cheryl said that the chiseled Minnesota native was not man enough for her and that, in terms of action inside the ring, he wasn’t man enough for Jake either.
As the summer began to kick into high gear, Rude continued his act of kissing women in the crowd, no doubt designed to reassemble his damaged ego. With the rejection of Cheryl Roberts still weighing heavily on his mind, it’s clear that Jake the Snake remained his target.
On the July 10, 1998 episode of WWF Challenge, Rick Rude appeared on the Brother Love Show, commenting further on Cheryl Roberts, proving that his mind was still obsessing over this subject. This was nearly three months after the initial incident, and here was Rude, still unable to let it go. But, of course, after Cheryl stomped his suave factor flat on two occasions, it’s clear why a self-proclaimed man’s man like Rude wouldn’t let this go without conflict.
ACT IV: Object of Desire
In Aesop’s Fable of ‘The Fox and the Grapes’, the fox is unable to reach the grapes that he desires so much, and then he rationalizes in the end that they’d probably just be rotten and sour anyway. Hence the phrase “sour grapes”.
Unfortunately for Rude, he could never get to the bitter rationalization phase. This was only made worse by Roberts bringing Cheryl to ringside with him, to serve as his encouragement in a valet role. For Rude, to have to see this woman, this ungrateful and unwinnable woman, at the arena for every show had to be demoralizing. With his obsession being made clear during his interviews, he did himself no favors by spouting off about Jake and Cheryl on a regular basis.
With Cheryl still not wavering from her loyalty to her husband, and with her now accompanying him to his matches, Rude reached a personal boiling point. Now it was time to spill over and scald “The Snake” as best he could.
ACT V: Sinful Effigy
On August 7, 1988, Rick Rude was making light work of a no name on WWF Challenge, except this was no ordinary exhibition. Rude’s tights for this match were emblazoned with the face of Cheryl Roberts, a goading gesture meant to stir the pot between Roberts and himself even further. After all, to go to the trouble to have ring attire made that depicts somebody else’s wife isn’t going to go over all too well with the husband in question.
At Summerslam weeks later, Rude was in control over his opponent, The Junkyard Dog. Before executing a strike off of the top rope, Rude yanked his tights down to reveal a second pair underneath, once again with the image of Cheryl. Jake Roberts had seen enough, and hit the ring with metaphorical guns blazing. He lividly attacked Rude and clotheslined him to the floor, which gave Rude two things: a disqualification win over Dog, and the satisfaction of knowing that he’d gotten Roberts to snap.
Rude’s deadly game of cat and mouse came to a head less than two weeks later, when he again disposed of a prelim bum. After the match, Rude performed the now familiar routine of revealing a second pair of tights that displayed an airbrushed version of Cheryl Roberts. This time, Jake hit the ring and did more than just inflict harm upon Rude: he yanked both pairs off, leaving a near-nude Rude to scramble to cover his naughty bits in front of an amused and bewildered audience.
ACT VI: The Finisher Must Finish
On October 16, 1988, Jake Roberts made it clear that he would bring Cheryl with him to any match in which he faced Rick Rude, just so she could slap him afterward. An interesting premise, except the fact was that the issue was soon to be resolved anyway.
On October 24, 1988, from the hallowed Madison Square Garden came the figurative conclusion to this long brewing saga: a “finisher” match. The only way in which to win this contest was to hit your finishing move before the pinfall. So it would be Rude’s Rude Awakening neckbreaker squaring off with Roberts’ patented DDT.
Cheryl stood ringside and watched Roberts and Rude tear into each other, see-sawing back and forth, but it would be Rude’s ego that would be his undoing. After avoiding a DDT by sweeping out Jake’s leg, Rude elected not to follow up with a possible Rude Awakening, but to instead pursue Cheryl. Cheryl threw a slap, but Rude blocked it. When Rude returned to Roberts, Jake had regained his faculties and planted the backdoor Romeo with the DDT for the win.
Afterward, the happy couple got their aggressions out, as Cheryl slapped Rick Rude twice before Roberts laid Damian across his battered body. In the end, it was Jake Roberts, with his wife at his side, who stood tall.
The two would have one last match days later on Saturday Night’s Main Event, where Roberts won again, this time by DQ. After DDTing Rude and fending off an interfering Bobby Heenan, Roberts was attacked by Heenan’s greatest client, Andre the Giant. This would lead to the 1988 Survivor Series, where Andre choked Roberts into oblivion, earning himself a disqualification, but leaving Roberts prone for elimination himself.
While Roberts would move onto Andre, using Andre’s fear of Damian as an equalizer, Rude jumped in line to contend for the Intercontinental Title, drawing champion Ultimate Warrior’s ire during a posing challenge at the 1989 Royal Rumble, before going onto beat him for the title at Wrestlemania V. Rude’s reign would end five months later, as Warrior regained the title that year at Summerslam.
It wouldn’t be the last love triangle in wrestling history, even if it wasn’t a classic “triangle”. But there’s no doubt that the rivalry between Rick Rude and Jake Roberts certainly set a standard in a time period where little was made of wrestler’s personal lives, as well as breaking new ground in terms of outright raunchiness and deplorability.
Justin Henry is an aspiring wrestling writer that is fascinated by the history of the business, as well as they ways in which it evolves. Henry writes event reviews, historical accounts, and editorials on professional wrestling for both The Camel Clutch Blog (http://www.camelclutchblog.com), as well as his Facebook fanpage, The Cynical Examination ( http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Cynical-Examination/257452252539).