Yesterday, I lost a friend. Not just any friend, a hero. Someone I could turn to for laughs, excitement and just all put good feeling. Yesterday, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes passed away.
I used to watch Dusty do his thing on Championship Wrestling from Florida where he and Gordon Solie made magic at an announcers table. I loved watching the larger than life characters with my father as if they were my heroes.
I was in my car driving home when I heard the news on sports talk radio. Rhodes was widely known outside of wrestling circles. His loss was discussed for a good 15 minutes. Everyone seems to have their own favorite Dusty moment. Whether it was in Texas Bull Rope matches with Superstar Billy Graham or the feuds he would have with Kevin Sullivan in Florida or how he helped create the “Dusty Finish” or the “Bunkhouse Stampede” and “The Great American Bash.” Rhodes had what many of us described as a fertile mind in his heyday. His creations helped really launch the career of Ric Flair and helped to establish the Four Horsemen as the greatest stable of all time and Flair as the greatest champion of all time.
Rhodes worked as a backstage booker and producer in WWE’s NXT developmental territory. He had appeared on Raw several times over the course of the past year and was part of the program that pitted Cody, or Stardust, against his older brother Goldust. Neither of his sons ever achieved the height of success or popularity as their father, but both in their own right have had solid success in the ring. The Goldust character played by Dustin Rhodes is arguably one of the 10 best gimmicks every created by Vince McMahon and the WWF/E.
He was also credited with the idea of turning Nikita Koloff into a hero after Magnum TA almost died in a car crash and had his wrestling career come to an end. And how could forget the “Midnight Rider” and the gimmick that gave Rhodes another life in the mid-1980s?
Rhodes was a three-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, and during his time in Jim Crockett Promotions (the forerunner of WCW), he was a former United States Champion, and multi-time Television, World Tag Team, and Six-Man Tag Team Champion. He has also won many regional championships during his wrestling career.
Rhodes was one of six men inducted into each of the WWE, WCW, Professional Wrestling, and Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame.
Rhodes path took him to territory to territory and promotion to promotion. Still revered as a star even in his older age, the younger generation is well aware of his contributions to the business and the “sport” as it once was.
Ric Flair once said in his biography, “To Be the Man,” he had a great respect for Rhodes as he was coming up in the business. Both were in the AWA territory when Flair got his start under Verne Gagne, another great and pioneer we lost in the business this year.
RIP, Dusty. You will be missed but never forgotten. Never by your fans and certainly never by this writer.