When I got the news on Thursday, my heart sank. I was at work, and the moment I read the news, I just slumped back in my chair. Like the air knocked out of me. I couldn’t believe it. Only earlier in the day my friends and I were on an email train talking about the passing of Christopher Lee. We were saddened, then cracked a few jokes about his death metal career, and then the emails stopped. Just hours later, Bill sent me the news right from WWE.com, Dusty Rhodes had passed away. All due respect to Christopher Lee, a masterful artist in his field, reading about Dusty stunned the hell out of me.
The son of a plumber. A common man.
He was the American Dream.
Famous for his promos during his days chasing the NWA World Championship, Dusty Rhodes, born Virgil Runnels Jr., he started from the bottom of barrel. He was not a buffed out weightlifter, he did not have the chiseled features of many muscular athletes. He was just… a common man. Well-known throughout the territories, Dusty competed as a wild Texan, main eventing with the likes of Terry Funk, Ric Flair, Harley Race, “Superstar” Billy Graham, and helped usher in popularity with feuding stables against the Four Horsemen. His popularity soared, and his famous “Hard Times” promo put him front-and-center of the wrestling world. Having brought to light the plight of blue collar workers all over, Dusty Rhodes was the epitome of the American Dream.
He was already on top of the world, earning three NWA Championships along the way.
Another interesting tidbit, which many longtime fans know, is the term “Dusty Finish.” This comes from the man himself, having scripted bouts to end with a confusing conclusion, the ref being knocked out, or a stipulation, double pin, some sort of scenario to keep the belt on the guy everyone assumed had just lost. His most famous feuds in the pre-WWE days, were with partner/valet Sapphire against The Macho King and Sensational Queen Sherri, and later on with his son Dustin against The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase and Virgil.
Staying out of the spotlight after a stint in WCW and in TNA, he worked the independents, helping young talent, he returned to WWE under a “Legends Contract” although by this point already a legend in the business. He made numerous appearances on RAW, mostly of the comedic sort, until a feud a couple years ago between his two sons, Dustin and Cody and The Authority brought him back into a serious role. Additionally, Dusty became a force behind the scenes at NXT, booking matches, storylines, and giving over his knowledge of the business to the next generation of talent.
The Dream might be gone, but won’t ever be forgotten.