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The news of Dusty Rhodes’ passing on Thursday was a huge shock within the wrestling world. He was only 69. Whenever I think of Dusty I smile. Almost every picture I’ve seen of him since his passing has that infectious smile beaming across his face.
What made Dusty stand out most was his “common man” gimmick and bucket load of charisma. He didn’t have the big muscles like Hulk Hogan, Bruno Sammartino or Billy Graham, so he became a lovable character that looked like an average guy. His whole gimmick of being the common man reflected who he really was and that made it easy for fans to relate to him because he was one of them. He may have had a belly on him but don’t let that fool you because Rhodes was a damn good wrestler.
Most of Dusty’s success came in the 1970s and through the 1980s in the NWA for Jim Crockett Promotions in the Florida area as well as the southern parts of the US. He signed for the WWE in the late 80s where he was famously dolled up in polka dots in an attempt to humiliate the guy as part of his contributions to the NWA. My introduction to Dusty came around this time, so the polka dots don’t bother me as much, but when you consider that he was a former World Heavyweight champion for the NWA, it’s pretty bad, but to Dusty’s credit, he didn’t let that hurt him. He turned it around and made it work for him. He returned to NWA, which became WCW, and worked there as a wrestler for a bit before settling in as an announcer and in creative.
His rivalry with Ric Flair was huge in the 80s. It worked so well because Dusty was the common man people’s champion, and Ric Flair was the arrogant, pompous World Heavyweight Champion. They were tailor made to feud. It also brings me the “Hard Times” promo which is often brought up in those greatest promos of all time debates. It was a response by Dusty who vowed to get his revenge on Flair. Dusty talked about the working men with regular nine to five jobs that were fighting through hard times to make ends meet. It touched so many people because it happened to be true, heck, it even applies to present times. To wrap things up, he said that Flair only cared about the title and he was going to take it away from him. That promo was 30 years ago and the staying power is strong with it. No wonder Dusty was a promo coach down in NXT.
In addition to his in-ring career, Dusty was very successful as a booker. The Dusty Finish is a tried and tested booking trick which still works today. The finish was used as recent as Elimination Chamber where Seth Rollins was able to keep the gold despite losing to Dean Ambrose. Let’s not forget about Wargames. What a way to end a grudge match than the Wargames. It’s a match that WWE fans want to see take place today so that says a lot about it. He also came up with show names in NWA/WCW such as Great American Bash and Starrcade.
After the closure of WCW in 2001, Dusty travelled around before returning to WWE in 2005 to work as a creative consultant and was eventually inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by his two sons Dustin (Goldust) and Cody Rhodes.
It’s pretty amazing to read about how much influence he had on the current crop of stars like Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt as part of their development. He’s also responsible for signing Steve Austin and William Regal in WCW and Tommy Dreamer chose that last name because he was inspired by Rhodes as the American Dream.
In death, Dusty’s legacy will be eternal. He may have been the common man but he was anything but. He’s an inspiration, a teacher, a role model and a father figure, but most important of them all, he is a legend.
RIP Dream, thank you for the memories.