In 1989, rock had no bigger rivalry than Vince Neil versus Axl Rose. Strangely enough, the conflict originated with two totally different people.

Less than two years prior, everything was good between the Motley Crue and Guns N’ Roses‘ camps. The groups toured together, the Crue were one of the biggest bands on the planet thanks to Girls, Girls, Girls and GNR were about to explode thanks to Appetite for Destruction.

Meanwhile, Neil had found love at the Hollywood Tropicana Club, an infamous Los Angeles nightspot known for its mud wrestling beauties. It was there that the singer met aspiring model Sharise Ruddell and the two soon began dating. Ruddell would appear in the music video for “Girls, Girls, “Girls” and in 1987 the couple were wed.

See Sharise Ruddell in the ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ Music Video

Izzy Stradlin Assaulted Vince Neil’s Wife

Then, in 1988, something happened. The Cathouse was one of the Sunset Strip’s most notorious nightclubs, with rock stars, celebrities and beautiful women constantly partying there. Guns N’ Roses were regulars, as were Ruddell and Nikki Sixx’s future wife, model Brandi Brandt.

Richi Rachtman, who later became famous by hosting MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball, was the owner of The Cathouse. He was close friends with many of the club’s regulars and was there the night Ruddell and Izzy Stradlin had an altercation.

READ MORE: How Motely Crue Nearly Imploded Making ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’

In a 2023 podcast, Rachtman described the Guns N’ Roses guitarist as “a little bit of an introvert,” then detailed how the night went down. “So we were hanging out in the [DJ] booth. In comes Brandi and Sharise,” Rachtman explained. “Izzy, who at the time was pretty fucked up, saw Sharise. And he just grabbed her boobs out of nowhere. I was shocked. Brandi and Cherisse were as well. From what I recall, Sharise smacked Izzy.”

Rachtman admitted that he should have intervened, but instead “just stood there bewildered.” He said that Stradlin “deserved” to be hit, but that he didn’t remember any other physical assault between the two parties. This stands in stark contrast to Ruddell’s memory of how things played out.

“I was at The Cathouse and Izzy was hitting on me,” the model explained. “He was all fucked up. I told him to get his hands off me because I was [Vince’s] wife. Then he grabbed my shirt and pulled it down. I slapped him across the face, and he karate kicked me as hard as he could in the stomach. He knocked the wind out of me. And everyone saw it.”

Things Came to a Head at the MTV Video Music Awards

Flash forward to the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards. Neil, who by this point had been seething for several months over the incident, confronted Stradlin after he stepped offstage following a performance with Tom Petty.

“When Izzy walked offstage, looking like a cross between Eric Stoltz in Mask and Neil Young, I was waiting for him,” Neil wrote in The Dirt. “‘You fucking hit my wife!’ ‘So fucking what?’ he spat. All my blood rushed into my fist, and I decked him. I decked him good, right in the face. He fell to the ground like a tipped cow.”

Guns N’ Roses manager and sound engineer pulled Neil away, but moments later he was confronted by Rose. “Axl came snarling after us like an overdressed Doberman,” Neil recalled. “‘Come on, motherfucker; I’m going to fucking kill you!’ he yelled at our backs.”

Though that particular situation was diffused, the battle between Neil and Rose was just starting.

Axl Rose and Vince Neil Traded Public Threats

Both men launched insults at the other through the media, and in a notorious interview with MTV’s Kurt Loder, Rose challenged Neil to a fight.

“Vince should be careful about what golf courses he’s mouthing off about Axl on and who he’s playing golf with. When he goes out playing golf and he mouths off about Axl and he happens to be playing golf with people that work for me, stories come back,” Rose declared, adding that the band didn’t pursue legal action because “it would be too much trouble.”

“Izzy laughs because he’s like, that guy had a full on free shot and hit like a powder puff,” the GNR frontman continued. “Anytime he wants [to fight], anywhere. Atlantic City, I don’t care. We’ll put some money on it. I don’t care. And then he tried to turn around and say the same thing. But the invitation is still there. I’m easy to find.”

READ MORE: Nastiest Rock Feuds

Roughly a year later, Neil responded with his own statement on MTV.

“He said a lot of bad things about me last few years and a lot of threats,” the Motley Crue singer declared. “He said, ‘Well, any time any place.’ And right now, I wanna put an end to this and what I want is, Axl if you are watching this, I want to challenge you to a fight. I’m gonna give you time and I’m gonna give you the place. There’s no backing out now buddy. It’s time to put up or shut up.”

Neil’s pro-wrestler-like challenge continued: “I’d like to do it at an arena where people can come and see. I’d like to have it televised. I want the whole world to see this fight. I think it’s gonna be great. I’m really psyched for it because I need to put an end to this. It’ll end it once and for all, any bad blood between us. So let’s do it.”

Watch Clips of Axl Rose and Vince Neil Threatening Each Other

The much ballyhooed bout between these legendary frontmen never came to fruition. Rose called Neil a “puppet” who was just looking for a “publicity stunt.” Stradlin was out of GNR by 1991, Neil and Ruddell divorced in 1993 and all parties involved seemed to go their separate ways.

Decades later, Neil wrote in The Dirt that Rose sent “little messengers” telling him to meet “in the parking lot of Tower Records on Sunset or the Boardwalk of Venice Beach.” The Crue frontman claimed accepted every challenge, but Rose “”chickened out about a half-dozen times.” Rose has never corroborated those claims.

Motley Crue Albums Ranked

We look back at everything from Too Fast for Love to Saints of Los Angeles to see which albums hold up best all these years later.

Gallery Credit: Ultimate Classic Rock Staff





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