(The one where Rick Rude earned his paycheck)
Much like yesterday, when I first put this list together in the spring, this entry was lower. I didn't remember much of this match or this feud, so when I saw someone had the temerity to book the Ultimate Warrior in a singles match that wasn't a two-minute squash against someone who wasn't an all-time great worker, I thought we were in trouble.
Then I bothered to watch the match.
I have a whole new appreciation for Rick Rude (and Bobby Heenan, but I already knew he was great). The Ultimate Warrior, even by the low standards of main-eventers in the WWF at the time, just couldn't work a match at all. The very fact that Rude dragged mediocrity out of him is a testament to Rude's abilities as a heel and as a worker.
We'd better backtrack: This feud started over a year prior, when Warrior, then the WWF Intercontinental Championship, was challenged by Rude to a match at the 1989 Royal Rumble.
No wait, my mistake, it wasn't a match. It was a posedown.
The two men posed at the Rumble and the fans would be the judge, cheering for the winner. Warrior, firmly in his Monster Face role, was winning every pose when that dastardly Rude attacked him with a metal weightlifting bar. Rude then beat Warrior at WrestleMania V when Heenan interfered. Rude dropped the title back to Warrior at SummerSlam '89 in a shockingly decent match.
The two went their separate ways until Warrior beat Hogan at the Skydome at WrestleMania VI. The WWF, in an attempt to keep the Warrior-Hogan feud on a slow boil until WrestleMania VII split Warrior and Hogan off to separate feuds, while keeping them both babyface. It was similar to how WWE booked John Cena vs. The Rock for WrestleMania XXVIII in 2012, except back in the early 1990s there were a lot less hours of TV – No Monday Night Raw, No Friday Night Smackdown – so stories could progress at a much more methodical pace. We never got our Hogan-Warrior rematch, but hey, at least they tried.
Rick Rude, the charismatic heel, was tabbed to feud with Warrior. He and Warrior faced off in an old-school blue steel cage as the main event of a pretty uneven SummerSlam 1990.
Before the match, we get the typical Mean Gene interview segment. This one was with the Warrior, who cut maybe the single greatest promo of all time. In his usual raspy, growling, guttural Warrior voice, he alluded to, in order, the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and John Kennedy's "New Frontier" speech, all the while pacing back and forth and flexing his muscles. He finished the promo yelling incoherently about beating Rude. I can't stress enough how incredible this promo was. Whether it was good or so bad that it became good I leave up to you, dear reader, to decide.
Moving on, we get our introductions. Rude came out to his cheesy porno music and he had green tights, with not only his own face airbrushed on the front, but Warrior's face and blue cage bars airbrushed on the back. Rude cut a promo about how he was going to win and the ladies should get a good look and blah blah blah. Then Warrior came out and ran around and did Warrior things. The two men enter the cage and the bell rings.
If you notice why I haven't talked about the match itself a whole lot, here's why: it wasn't very good. Rude tried his best and even gigged, but Warrior was just so unbelievably limited in the ring. He spent the entire time pumping his arms up and down calling for his gorilla press drop, to the point where Rowdy Piper, joining the overmatched Vince McMahon on commentary (if you haven't figured it out by now, Cagesiders, I hated Vince "What a maneuver!" McMahon on commentary. Thank God for Montreal and the end of that fiasco.) was questioning the arm motions on multiple occasions.
They brawl for a bit as the crowd comes and goes, both guys tease escapes. Rude does a double-axe handle from the top of the cage onto a dazed Warrior to get a good crowd pop. It wasn't Snuka leaping off the cage "fifteen feet high" but it was something, especially by the standards of the WWF main event at the time.
Rude tries the Rude Awakening a few times, finally hits it, but as he's climbing the cage Warrior hulks up (or whatever it's called), drags Rude back into the ring, hits the gorilla press drop and climbs out of the cage for the win.
Don't know what more needs to be said about this one. Only the presence of Rude (an underrated worker) and all-time legend Heenan prevented this match from being further down the list. As it is, it is still pretty far down. Thanks Warrior!
Curtain Jerker's Star Rating – 1.75 to 2 stars. This was just sort of there. It probably marks the high-water mark of Warrior's title run.
Up Next – Everything about this next match (and feud) was pretty good until the last 90 seconds.
Also in this series: