The wrestling world lost one of its greatest competitors and one of its most passionate people this week when Virgil Runnels, known to us as The American Dream, Dusty Rhodes passed away at the age of 69.
Throughout his career, Dusty stood as the everyman, someone so easy to get behind and every time he stepped into the ring or spoke on the mic, it felt like he was in there battling for us fans.
Rhodes was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007, honoring a man that by that point had dedicated nearly 40 years of his life to the wrestling business. A HOF induction didn't stop Rhodes from contributing, as Dream worked in WWE right up until his death. What else can you say about the passion oozing from one having spent nearly half a century dedicated to the entertainment of us fans?
Rhodes began his career as a heel in the late 60s, teaming up with Dick Murdoch and forming The Texas Outlaws in the AWA. Rhodes turned face in 1974, when he turned on his tag partner Pak Song and manager Gary Hart. From there, the man who never had the physique of stars we're used to seeing, became adored by fans for his charisma, personality and his heart. Rhodes began to build his name in the NWA's Florida and Georgia territories.
Rhodes wrestled Superstar Billy Graham a couple of times in Madison Square Garden for Vince McMahon Sr.'s WWWF for the title, but it was in the south that Dream built his legacy. He formed one of the all-time greatest rivalries with the Nature Boy, Ric Flair. The rivalry worked so perfectly, as the two were polar opposites. Flair stood for the lavish lifestyle, the rich, self absorbed, fast livin' jerk who acted above everybody. He had the athletic physique, rode in limousines and lived in luxury. Dusty Rhodes was the man fans related to, scraping by on the All-American fighting spirit. His legendary "hard times" promo is a testament to what he stood for in his career and why he was so beloved by fans. He stood for what the working class had to do every day of their lives to get by.
Their rivalry spanned many years, in several territories. While in Jim Crockett Promotions, Dream became a booker and gave us many of the events and concepts we know and love today, proving what a great mind he had for the business. Concepts like War Games and the famous "Dusty Finish", a common spot we now know where the referee is knocked unconscious, resulting in a controversial finish. Rhodes was a three-time NWA World Champion in total, winning the title twice from Harley Race and once from Flair.
Rhodes had a two-year stint in the WWE, engaging in a feud with the Macho King Randy Savage, and donning yellow polka dots, which many will choose not to remember from his entire body of work. Following his departure from the WWE in 1991, his full-time career as a wrestler was over, transferring to a role behind the scenes.
In WCW, Dusty worked as a commentator, booker and occasional wrestler, often alongside his son Dustin, known to us now as Goldust. Rhodes continued to wrestle even after the demise of WCW, wrestling on the independent scene, and spending two years with TNA as a booker and writer.
Rhodes returned to the WWE in 2005, signing a Legends contract, and joining the creative team as a consultant. Rhodes proved that even in his later days, his mind was still as sharp as ever for the business, as he became the head writer for NXT (and we've seen how amazing NXT has done under his direction).
Rhodes is survived by his wife Michelle, his four children, Dustin, Cody, Teil and Kristin, as well as three grandchildren.
I'm just a fan whose only seen some of Dream's old matches and can appreciate what he did behind the scenes for the product I've watched in my time. All I can say is Rhodes gave everything he had to the business. I can't do justice for what Dusty Rhodes deserves here, so I'm going to leave our last words for Dream to a much better wrestling mind than myself.
The legendary Jim Ross, a man who knew Dusty Rhodes as the competitor, human being and brains behind the scenes, spoke to the Chicago Tribune, echoing the legacy he feels Rhodes has left behind.
"He was arguably the most charismatic performer of all time," Ross said. "His amazing unique verbal styling will never be duplicated or exceeded. He was exactly what he portrayed on TV: A blue-collar, common man, who rose from being son of farmer to being a part of American pop culture, whose memory will live forever. Therefore, for many he was truly the American dream."
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