When Dusty Rhodes got in the ring on Monday night with Stephanie McMahon and even before the “leggy” lady got into the ring (no, I don’t mind saying that), we heard Rhodes, or Virgil Runnels, give a great speech about “hard times.”
It may not have been the original speech in 1985 was one of the reasons wrestling back then, especially in the NWA, was the best it had ever been and I argue is the best it ever was and will be.
“Hard Times” is an icon piece of Americana – where everyone can relate to the state of our union.
It was the speech as much as it was the person delivering it, and for 14 year old boy watching and listening and cheering with his friends in Atlanta, it was a thing of beauty. As an adult now, I appreciate it for more than what it was back then, a wrestling promotion from a man that might have identified more with the common man than any other entertainer to call himself an athlete.
Rhodes is one of the greatest minds of wrestling period, using his intellect to help develop the NWA and JIm Crockett Promotions on such a way that it was the mecca of the business. While Harley Race and Bob Geigel built the Missouri area, Fritz Von Erich owned Dallas, Bill Watts owned Louisiana, Jerry Jarrett and Jerry Lawler had Memphis and Eddie Graham owned Florida, it was Rhodes and Crockett who stood above everyone else.
If it were not for these promotions, there would never have been the true drama of Kayfabe and the heroes of yesteryear like Jimmy Valiant, Manny Fernandez, Tully Blanchard and Jay Youngblood.
It’s those “Hard Times” that allowed the southern roots of westling to shine brightly at the Great American Bash, The Bunkhouse Stampede and the War Games.
When I saw a 67 year old man show some of the same guile and fervor that he displayed 28 years ago in Charlotte and brought fans to their feet in the arena and in front of televisions, it brought me back to my feet. Take away the crap with The Shield and Big Show, because the script is getting old already. But it really was a shade of the past.
This time, the bully wasn’t Ric Flair, it was Stephanie McMahon, which added a bit of better drama to the angle.
Ric Flair once wrote in “To Be The Man,” that he always thought he would be the lead villain in the NWA and Dusty Rhodes would always be the lead hero. For a portion of time, he was right.
And as Flair passed him by and Dusty was phased out by Sting and Lex Luger and others, the best thing Rhodes had going for him was his gift of gab, his “white man’s rap” and his Ali attitude. We all loved it and when we hear those words all over ago, we still react to it the same way.
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