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Stone Cold Rude

My opponent is defeated, lying motionless on the canvas as I revel in the adulation of the motley, boisterous crowd. Sucking in air, still thoroughly winded from the preceding battle, I place my feet on either side of my fallen adversary and place my hands on the back of my head. Smirking lasciviously, I gyrate my hips in a circle, rhythmically grinding over the damaged face of that unfortunate soul who had the gall to step into the ring with the likes of me.

            “Scott!—“My celebration is interrupted by my mother. “What are you doing?”

            My brothers came to my defense quickly and, we thought, justifiably. “He’s Rick Rude,” said Jeff.

            “I don’t care,” my mother retorted, “He shouldn’t be doing that. Now get off my bed.”

            I was around five years-old then, and I remember being thoroughly confused as to why I wasn’t supposed to emulate “Ravishing” Rick Rude, crassest of all wrestlers of his day. In my mind, this was no different from running around the house erratically in an attempt to play the Ultimate Warrior, or gutturally exhaling, “Whooooo” to be more like the “Nature Boy,” Ric Flair.

            Rick Rude was hated by all, except for it seemed, my brothers and I. He wore his curly hair long and had a stand-alone mustache that supplemented his trademark smirk and led one to believe that he was on a first-name basis with the folks at the free clinic. His tights usually depicted a woman (or women) situated so her mouth sat just on top of his concealed package, and he celebrated victories by pulling a random woman from the audience and making out with her sloppily in the middle of the ring. Best of all, though, were Rick Rude’s pre-match speeches. They were slightly tailored to any given city but the all had the same gist.

            “Cut the music,” he’d exclaim. “What I’d like to have right now is for all you (insert geographically based epithet)s to SHUT UP! While I take off my robe, and give your woman a good look at the SEXIEST MAN ALIVE! Hit the music.”

            Rude would then slither out of his robe as a few screaming women spangled the deafening boos that filled the arena.

            Such outlandish behavior was commonplace in my house. Wrestling probably peaked in 1990, with Wrestlemania VI, at which the “Immortal” Hulk Hogan was defeated by (as it turns out) bat-shit crazy Ultimate Warrior; after that, I watched and emulated professional wrestling with the unwavering focus of a fifty year-old accountant.

            Most of our wrestling took place in my parents bed, which was large enough and soft enough to provide a relatively safe ring, and my mother’s dresser drawer made a convincing turnbuckle. Despite our size, the sheer amount of grappling that took place in those years left our parent’s bed an unpredictable mine field of submissive padding and wayward springs, liable to jab you in the back at any time and seemingly from out of nowhere. We were routinely reprimanded for this during family dinners, but the living room couch was too thin to support even the most precise flying elbow drop; even if it did, its shape was ill-suited for any respectable match.

            Some time later, wrestling got me in trouble again. My prized possession at that age was a replica WWF championship belt, with a hard plastic plate connected with a flimsy, synthetic strap with notches of Velcro along the ends. My brother Jeff and I were dueling it out in what Jim Ross would call a ‘slobber-knocker.’ After a harrowing battle, I was defeated via sharpshooter, a submission move favored by my brother and Bret “The Hitman” Hart.

            As my brother raised his arms in victory, I walked, bitterly, to the outside of the ring and grabbed the belt, which was mine just moments ago. I wound up and hit Jeff in the face with the hard plastic of the belt. He rolled off the bed, letting out a yelp on his way down. I had just enough time to realize that I was potentially in a great deal of trouble before my mother walked in, confused and no doubt frustrated.

            I was stripped of my belt that day. Understand, this seemed to be a terribly harsh punishment; anytime I had seen such an incident on television, referees flooded the ring and the bell rang incessantly, but never had anyone been stripped of a title. This was, after all, fairly standard practice.[1] 

            My enthusiasm for calculated violence faded throughout my childhood until the emergence of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Steve Williams had spent time in the WWF, the WCW and ECW, under such monikers as “Stunning” Steve Austin and the Taskmaster. He finally found a home, and changed wrestling forever when, upon returning to the WWF in 1996, he donned plain black tights, and took the angle of pissed-off-redneck. When he won the ’96 King of the Ring tournament, beating an aging Jake “The Snake” Roberts in the final match, Stone Cold used his victory speech to taunt Roberts’ religion and very real, very public alcohol-problems. “Talk about your psalms,” he said, “Talk about John 3:16—Well Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass.” Just like that, a foul-mouthed Texan with a penchant for relentless physical assault expanded the public lexicon. His game was simple: No glitz, no glamour, pure ass-whipping.[2]

From a business standpoint, Stone Cold Steve Austin came like a great and obvious epiphany. Middle America had to root for him, because, in a sense, he was theirs, he was one of them, albeit a ripped, shiny version of them. Stone Cold hated communism and the color lavender. He might as well have been seated on a barstool in Funnyfuck, West Virginia, pounding beers after a long day in the mines. He wasn’t, of course; he was a professional wrestler. But he made it believable that this was merely a matter of chance, like the brother who happened to go to college or the cousin who happened to go to jail. Stone Cold Steve Austin just happened to be a pro wrestler.

Stone Cold made it cool to be an ill-tempered Texan with borderline alcohol issues. Stone Cold also made it cool to habitually give the bird to anyone with whom you were in disagreement.

            Jeff and I had a disagreement while playing video games in our room during the height of Stone Cold’s influence and, being an ill-tempered Texan in training, I decided to let my digits do the talking. When my father opened our door, my extended middle finger was no more than three inches away from my brother’s face. My hand shook as I held it there for effect, and it seemed stuck when the door opened. With a sigh, my father said, “I don’t like to see that,” and closed our door. I still don’t know the reason he was there in the first place.

            A dream came true when I was twelve years old, as my parents got my brothers and I tickets to a live show of WWF at the now rat-infested Reunion Arena. I brought a large poster board in support of Val Venis, another of my favorite wrestlers. It was suggested that Val Venis was a porn star, and this was generally accepted among fans as just as normal as him being a plumber or a truck driver. His entrance video cut back and forth between Venis sitting in a hot tub or a convertible, surrounded by swooning women, and euphemistic images for intercourse; a screw being driven into a plank of wood, a train charging through a tunnel, a spurting oil well, etc. etc. [3]

More importantly though, Val Venis resurrected Rick Rude’s now infamous celebration shimmy. Venis’ version was built for the new millennium; he added a self-caress, and his hips more accurately depicted a sexual maneuver. Had it not been for the emergence of ‘the Big Valbowski’, I may have forgotten the ‘Rick Rude’ forever.

We took our seats and I folded my sign and tucked it under my seat. In purple and black lettering, it read: “VAL VENIS PENETRATES DALLAS.” Mind you, I was twelve and had no knowledge of penetration, at least not in practice. I sat between my brother, Blair, and a cute girl in her mid-twenties, on a date with a man that she probably never called back. Not because he was ugly or boring; she looked wholly confused by the spectacle of bloodthirsty fans, living and dying with each choreographed move. For most of the show, she looked like she had seen a gorilla reciting the Gettysburg Address in a gentrified accent. In retrospect, I feel bad for this poor girl.

Her confusion only became more pronounced as the show progressed. When Val Venis’ music began to play, I stood and did my dance. He took the microphone, and the crowd hushed. “They say everything is bigger in Texas,” he started, “And now that the BIG VALBOWSKI is here… I guess that’s entirely true.” We laughed and cheered wildly. A fat woman with frizzy hair and an ‘Undertaker’ shirt squealed in delight, “Wooooo.”

When the glass broke and Stone Cold emerged to battle Mankind in the main event, a father in the row before us instructed his toddler son to give the finger in a sort of salute, manipulating the child’s tiny fingers in obscenity. By this point the woman’s face was blank and colorless. She was visibly shocked when, responding to Mankind running backstage mid-match, I yelled, “You fucking pussy!” in a pubescent cry of injustice.

When Mankind did finally reemerge, he was carrying a plastic garbage can overhead. When he went to hit Stone Cold, however, he was met with a kick to the gut, a Stone Cold Stunner, and a deluge of gestures and curses. Everyone went home happy that night, except for the poor bastard next to us, jacking off and crying in his pillow as his date tells her girlfriends about the madness that is pro wrestling, stuttering in bewilderment. “And then… this kid next to me… he was maybe, eleven or twelve… He goes ‘you fucking pussy!’… It was terrible. I really liked Craig, but wow. If I never hear the words Austin 3:16 again, it’ll be too soon… Awful, just awful.”

Luckily, time forced me to mature, to some degree. You can’t, as my parents often told me, just flip your boss the bird when you disagree with what he has to say.[4] Luckily, my hips and fingers managed to stay dormant enough through high school for me to be accepted into a decent university. However, after several years of relatively acceptable social décor, I relapsed.

            Had I been a film-nut or a geologist, I would have stowed my enthusiasm for professional wrestling away like a little league trophy or a severed finger, on account of shame and lack of any necessity. But I wasn’t. I was a college baseball player, and baseball players treasure nothing more than some good ol’ inappropriate humor. The ‘Rick Rude’ it seems, was destined to return. And it did—en force.

            The dance was commonplace by my junior year, and expected of me the way people in the late 80s expected Gary Coleman to pout, “Whatchou talkin’ ‘bout Willis?” ad nauseum.

            At the end of the summer that year, I moved in with my friend from the team, Clay. Aside from the fact that I’m hopelessly messy and he’s shamelessly tidy, we were perfect roommates. We often spent our time deconstructing characters and classic matches, arguing pettily and decrying the fallen state of pro wrestling. When Clay bought Smackdown Vs. Raw on X Box, we sat in the dark, designing characters up until there were only a few waning hours before our environmental science class. Watching my character is the closest I’ll ever get to seeing myself in a video game. His name was Phineas Q. Rockefeller, designed to look like a turn of the century boxer; he wore black and white striped tights that went to his knees, and a red sash. His handlebar mustache was the piez de triumph. When Phineas emerged from backstage, he winked at the crowd and pointed in either direction, his hands like guns, just before doing the ‘Rick Rude.’ My character was me (albeit a turn-of-the-century me) and I was him.

In the training room after practice one day, with an ice-pack clad audience before me, I began, rhythmically cranking my hips with all the sexuality of my predecessors (Mr. Rude and Mr. Venis), and my contemporaries (Phineas Q. Rockefeller) when someone pointed behind me. Apparently, I had stopped in front of a girl on the lacrosse team, cut her off in her path to the locker room and held her captive behind my foul sense of humor. Normally I wouldn’t care so much, but this girl happened to be my girlfriend’s roommate, whom I had never previously met. I’ve always sucked at first impressions.

Rick Rude struck again on some depressingly empty highway around Texarkana later that year. Generally, a bus full of collegiate athletes at the mercy of confinement and testosterone equates to a traveling cage of wild animals only a few steps away from hurling feces at one another.[5] We had left the Lone Star State for one game against a small school in Arkansas, a game that we dominated thoroughly, like a gorilla fighting a toddler. We returned late that Saturday, and, desperately wanting to do some binge drinking, the bus was more raucous than usual.

Unfortunately for us though, the bus driver, a squatty man with grayish-black hair and a bulbous gut, had no such waiting engagements. We drove along the highway around 50 MPH, the driver adjusting his hat leisurely, like a grandmother on her way to church.

Our first baseman, a burly guy named Zack was laying across his seat half asleep, bumping along with the road, when I was on my way to the back of the bus. I stopped (my shirt was off for some reason at this point) and began to Rick Rude when the interior lights on the bus flickered on and off quickly. A moment later, a crackling, baritone voice came on the loud speaker. “I don’t really appreciate seeing that when I look in my mirror,” said the driver. In my defense, my friend Joe retorted, “I don’t really appreciate you driving 50 miles an hour!” from the back of the bus.

I was suddenly brought back to my childhood, shocked that I had progressed so little in maturity since the age of five. When we finally arrived back at school that night, I grabbed my bags and got off the bus as quickly as possible. I was told later that the driver cornered everyone in the back four rows or so of the bus, questioning them like a television detective. “Now which one of you boys had your shirts off back here,” he said. “Back here doing your little dance… I wouldn’t mind if it was a girl’s team, but it’s not.” He said this as though we were previously unaware of our lack of breasts.

When I was told of this late-night inquisition, I was a bit baffled. What would he have done if I was back there? He could have called me disgusting, or a pervert. I wouldn’t have minded if he did. I’m neither disgusting nor perverted; when it comes down to it, I guess I’m just plain old rude.

             

           

[1] A year or so before this, my set of toy golf clubs were confiscated in response to a similar incident.

[2] Despite this, Austin’s chest was curiously shiny and bereft of hair in every match he ever entered.

[3] My most vivid memory of Val Venis’ career is his feud with the stable of Japanese wrestlers called Kaientai. He slept with Kaientai’s manager’s wife, a woman named Yamaguchi-San and, being a porn star and all, he filmed it. Seeking revenge, Kaientai tied Venis up and attempted to castrate him with a samurai sword. He got away, supposedly due to shrinkage and help from John Wayne Bobbit.

[4] It took me some time to grasp this idea, as Stone Cold cursed and physically assaulted his boss, Vince McMahon on a weekly basis.

[5] At least, on the teams that I’ve been on there has been no feces hurling. I shouldn’t speak for every team in the country because, well, it wouldn’t be all that unbelievable.