Dusty Rhodes the American Dream, born Virgil Runnels, died today at the age of sixty nine. And that, quite honestly, was way too soon. I was not ready. As a fan of professional wrestling, I can tell you that my heart breaks at his passing. Legend barely scratches the surface of what Dusty has meant to the professional wrestling world. His influence can be seen on every wrestling show around the world and will continue to be seen for the foreseeable future. (Just two weeks ago the finish of the Dean Ambrose/Seth Ambrose WWE Championship match was a “Dusty” finish)
Dusty was and did many things in the wrestling business. NXT was run largely under his direction to great success. He was booker for numerous companies including WCW and TNA. He was a multi-time World champion, Television champion, Tag Team champion, and regional champion. He was a mentor, a creator, and a teacher. But mostly what Dusty was, and why I loved him, was a common man. Dusty was a guy with a bad body, questionable hair at the best of times, a speech impediment (a lisp he never bothered to correct), and more natural charisma than damn near anyone to step in the ring before or since. I believed in Dusty Rhodes. I believed that he was in that ring fighting for me. His promos (and oh what promos they were) were honest, passionate, and delivered with such flair that it was hard not to believe in Dusty Rhodes. He was charming and funny sure but deadly serious when he needed to be. He connected with people on an honest, organic level. (His most iconic promo, Hard Times, is down below)
His matches were not technical masterpieces. Dusty was a brawler through and through. His finisher, the Bionic Elbow, was as brutal as it was beautiful. (Dusty would do a little dance before laying someone out, it was amazing) Dusty’s matches were often bloody, a fact showcased proudly on his scarred forehead. He bled like no other, often wearing the “crimson mask” after matches. His blonde hair was the perfect canvas for the literal blood, sweat, and tears and made me respect the man that much more. Here was a guy that would go all out. Here was a guy that did not quit. Here was a guy who looked like people I knew, not the freakish body-builder types so common to professional wrestling but just a guy, going out night after night and putting on a show for the common man. Even as a kid, I knew I was watching someone special. Even as a kid, I knew Dusty was one of us and would never let us down.
In the days, weeks, and years to come there will be thousands upon thousands of words written about Dusty Rhodes and his impact on the business. There will be tribute shows, documentaries, network specials, and many, many interviews with those impacted by the American Dream. My favorite story, and I believe it to be true, was told by William (Steven) Regal. The story goes that on one of Regal’s first nights in WCW he was told to go have a meeting with Dusty in his office. (Dusty was a performer and head booker at the time, around the early 90’s) Regal showed up, entered the room, and found a naked Dusty Rhodes wearing a pair of cowboy boots and talking with his personal body guard. Regal, being a professional, introduced himself and said, “Hello my name is Steven Regal.” Dusty’s reply was, “Thethven, I’m like Whitney Houston babee, I got mah own bodyguard dadeeh.” And that was the end of the meeting.
If you have never seen a Dusty Rhodes promo or match you are in for a treat. He was a rare and special talent. His legacy will be carried on by his sons, Dustin (Goldust) and Cody (Stardust). For the joy he brought not just to the millions of fans but to me personally I want to say thank you. The Dream is dead… Long live the dream.