This is truly a very sad day for me. It is even difficult writing this. We’ve lost one of our true legends: “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Aside from Sting, he was my all-time favorite wrestler, and one of the main reasons why I sat on the floor in front of the couch, glued to the television watching professional wrestling.
I remember first being inspired by Dusty in the early 1980s, when he was feuding with Tully Blanchard for the NWA Television Championship. Blanchard was a brash, cocky character who, along with Baby Doll, portrayed excellent heels because they were so easy to dislike. Rhodes was the consummate “common man”, attributing his achievements to the support of his fans, while frequently touting with great humility that he was a “son of a plumber.”
Watching this feud, I was hooked. What caused even greater suspense was the “Midnight Rider” alter-ego, who was more of a violent version of Rhodes, in an attempt to hide his identity. Although many of us knew that it was Dusty, the NWA demonstated storytelling at its best.
Then comes Starrcade, 1985. Rhodes is away from the NWA for a period of time, but comes back on a quest to remove Ric Flair from the championship throne. Bob Caudle introduces him on an episode of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, and we commence to hear arguably the greatest promo of all time. In a matter of just three and a half minutes, he was able to gain avid supporters of his “Dusty Rhodes Tour ’85” by telling us that he understands what it means to go through “Hard Times.”
The Dusty finish at Starrcade was quite a blow to me, but it did not stop me from officially being a lifetime fan of the “American Dream.” There are so many amazing moments that this legend has graced us with over the past four decades, and it is quite surprising that, comparatively speaking, he only held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship three times, and his last reign ended in 1986.
As crazy as it was compared to his championship career in the NWA, I was actually entertained by the polka dots. Although it was not my preference by any stretch, Dusty made the best out of what was given to him, and had some memorable moments with Sapphire along the way. At least this run gave us the “Common Man Boogie,” which is one of the most popular theme songs in pro wrestling history.
Personally speaking, I am glad to be able to grow up in the 1980s to witness such an amazing character. In an era where “larger than life” characters were the moneymakers of professional wrestling, an oversized cowboy with a variety of elbow smashes was all I needed to start watching wrestling and never look back. There will never be another one like him, and he embodied what a passionate professional wrestler who is immersed in his character looks like.
Thank you for the memories, Dusty. You will surely be missed.