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The Price of Being a Wrestling Fan Just Got Higher
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By Christopher G. Palacios

It was September of 1993. I couldn't talk any of my friends into making a three hour road trip to Houston for the WCW Fall Brawl Pay-Per-View, and considering how bad WCW was at the time, I can certainly understand why I ended up making the trip alone.

I arrived at the Astroarena in Houston about 2 hours before bell time. I didn't have a ticket upon arriving, and by sheer luck, I was able to purchase a second row ringside ticket for the show from a scalper at face value.

The card was unspectacular, headlined by a War Games match with Vader, Sid Vicious, and a young Harlem Heat facing Sting, Davey Boy Smith, Dustin Rhodes and the Shockmaster. I was convinced that a War Games match could still be solid despite the suspect talent, but I was wrong.

Still, I remember that night for one reason, and that reason was the World title match between Ric Flair and Rick Rude.

The insider sheets had spilled the beans about Rude winning the belt, and I was pretty confident that Rude would win the belt in Houston. At the time, WCW's roster was awfully thin, but even with a strong roster, it would be hard not to justify Rude was a World titleholder. Rude had the chiseled body, the ability to draw boos almost at will, and was a pretty decent worker on top of that.

The match between Flair and Rude was solid, and as Flair started to pick up steam, the guy sitting next to me was convinced that Flair would retain the belt. I confidently bet him the last five dollars in my wallet that Rude would win the belt, and he accepted.

Sure enough, Rude broke out of Flair's figure four leglock with a chain-wrapped fist to Flair's head, and we had a new World champion. Not only that, but I had an extra $5 for the three hour drive home.

Looking back on that moment, I realized just how good Rude was as a heel. The crowd was dead for most of the night, but Rude's presence brought a chorus of boos from the Houston fans. Rude was a true master at working the crowd, as his trademark hip swivel is something Val Venis has made a part of his gimmick.

Rude's presence was unique in the wrestling business, with a physique and a voice that demanded attention. Unfortunately, it may have been his attempts to perfect his physique that may have led to his early demise.

The death of Brian Pillman floored me. The passing of Louie Spicolli saddened me. The death of Rick Rude has finally made me think twice about supporting a business that is turning a blind eye to a scary trend.

You don't have to be a "smart fan" or an "insider" to hear about the early deaths of pro wrestlers. The deaths of Pillman and Spicolli were prominently covered on ESPN in its Outside The Lines special on professional wrestling.

Once a casual wrestling fan starts reading a sheet or an Internet wrestling rumor site, the fan becomes privy to information on the seedy side of the business. As the deaths of wrestlers begin to rise at a disturbing rate, how can smart fans justify supporting a business that they know is killing the people they enjoy watching?

I appreciate the efforts of the people organizing the Brian Pillman Memorial shows, but why should these have to happen? Melanie Pillman produced evidence of Brian taking human growth hormone on a daily basis, not to mention the description of Brian's method for sending prescriptions for painkillers to multiple pharmacies in the Cincinnati area. If he realized that he might be perceived as an addict, why wouldn't he take a hard look at himself and determine if that was indeed the case?

With the WWF turning wrestling into a T&A show, it was hard enough to explain my Monday night viewing habits to friends. Now, after the death of Rick Rude, I may have a hard time explaining it to my own conscience.

And that $5 bet is starting to pain me with each passing moment.Monday.

Christopher G. Palacios is a reporter for "The Wrestling Lariat" newsletter and 1wrestling.com. Chris has also written for the "Chairshots" newsletter. Questions or comments for Christopher can be sent via e-mail to chrispalacios@webtv.net.

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