Sometimes, shitty things happen. Things that come like a bolt from the blue. June 11th 2015 was one of those days. Dusty Rhodes passed away. It’s an emotional time, but all of us need to keep the Dream alive.
It’s funny. Very few of us ever speak to, let alone know, wrestlers. When we do it’s a polite “hey man, I’m a huge fan. Can I get an autograph or a picture?” So why when one of them sadly passes away, like the Dream, does it affect so many people?
I messaged Duckman last night about doing a “tribute” post of sorts to Dusty, but I couldn’t do it then.
At 32 years old, I was virtually in pieces when I heard about Dusty’s death. A grown man crying about the death of someone he didn’t even know, and judging by the outpouring of grief on Twitter/Facebook/the media, I wasn’t the only one. I’ll bet that every single one of us has done at least one Dusty Rhodes impression with tears in our eyes over the last day or so.
You’ll read plenty of tributes to Dusty over the next few days, so this won’t be a blow-by-blow “Dusty’s greatest matches were….” or “Dusty’s greatest promo’s were…”. Google those, or search for them on the WWE Network.
To me, there’s not an adjective that accurately describes just how incredible Dusty Rhodes was.
His WWF theme talked about him being “a common man”. Dusty Rhodes was anything BUT a common man. He was an outstanding performer with a shit-ton of charisma and a kick-ass attitude. It takes an extraordinary man to leave the legacy that Dusty has for the wrestling business.
People cared about Dusty, and were drawn to him, because they believed he was one of them. They could go to a wrestling show and live vicariously through Dusty because they saw themselves in him. Think Stone Cold Steve Austin before Stone Cold Steve Austin.
When Rhodes was at his peak, the territories were still doing a HUGE amount of business. OK, so Dusty wasn’t a WWWF, or even really a WWF, guy. But Dusty was in there with the greats of the NWA – Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, the Von Erichs and countless others. All TRUE legends, icons, superstars of wrestling. Well, that was before Vince McMahon decided to label anyone in a pair of tights at the gym a “superstar”.
The match quality was outstanding, the promos were out of this world and people believed Rhodes was genuine. They hung on his every word. Whether his interviews were pre-taped, or live in an arena, Dusty Rhodes had “it”. He got “it”. He understood every nook, cranny and facet of the wrestling business, and how to get the best reaction out of every situation.
All you have to do is read/watch what his colleagues said about him before, and after, his passing. He influenced so many people, and was such a gracious man to boot, that while he may be gone, his legacy will never die.
Before CM Punk was even a twinkle in Punk Snr’s eye, Dusty Rhodes was dropping pipebombs for fun. Dusty did it before pipebombs were “cool”.
The epic “Hard Times” promo. Rhodes in his pomp. He’s spell-binding. Captivating. Entrancing. Just majestic. It’s pure gold. Everything a wrestling promo should be – based in reality, drawing on pure emotion. People WANTED Dusty to win, and they WANTED Flair to lose. They weren’t indifferent. They cared about both guys, and it felt authentic.
It tells you everything you need to know about the world when you consider that that promo is almost 30 years old, yet it’s still as relevant today.
“I might not look like the athlete of today. My belly’s just a little too big. My heiney’s just a little too big. But I’m bad brother, and they know… I’m bad”
Simple stuff. But the key, the key was in the execution. The cadence. His tone. Everything about the way that interview was recorded and especially the content – drawing on REAL things happening to REAL people – put Rhodes SO far ahead of the pack that it was untrue. And very few people – if any – have got to that level since.
Dusty’s legacy in the business isn’t just down to two of his kids – Dustin and Cody – but it’s also down to the wrestlers he’s helped to develop – whether that be in TNA or down in NXT. He called them “his” kids. Like a big ol’ Papa Bear taking care of the young ones before they go out on their own.
Everyone who’s gone through the doors of NXT will be a richer man/woman for having spent just a little time with the Dream. His knowledge and expertise were second-to-none, and if they weren’t picking his brain whenever they could, they missed out.
Dusty Rhodes was a remarkable man. Whenever you think about him, you think of that dazzling smile. Every time you watched him, it looked like he was having an absolute fucking ball. He loved the wrestling business. And the wrestling business loved him.
The only way for the wrestling industry – fans, staff, wrestlers, executives etc – to pay even a small tribute to Dusty would be to use what he left behind to shape the future. It’s OUR responsibility to keep the Dream alive.