I refreshed my Hootsuite browser over and over for the next couple of minutes. I didn’t see anything. Okay…breathe a sigh of relief because it just can’t be real. Then I was floored…
I grew up in a part of Canada that didn’t get the NWA. I never got to watch Dusty Rhodes in his prime during his prime, facing off in matches against Ric Flair and trading the NWA World Title back and forth.
I did know about him, though. In fact, I was fascinated by the guy through the Apter mags (i.e. Pro Wrestling Illustrated, Inside Wrestling, The Wrestler). I mean, every photo that I saw had this fat dude with a blotch on his stomach. There’s no way he can be one of the best wrestlers in the world, can he?
Then I picked up a VHS copy of WarGames: The Match Beyond. It had three back-to-back matches of all of the NWA stars I had read about but was never able to watch on television. Here was Rhodes, absolutely out-wrestling the other guys in the ring. He was nimble and quick. In fact, he was moving around in a way that a man his size shouldn’t have been able to do.
Soon the focus shifted away from his appearance. At least, specifically when it came to his size. I was mesmerized by his in-ring charisma and the ability he showed, not only when selling but when making his fiery comebacks. This guy had it all…but why did people love him so much?
Dusty Rhodes was “The American Dream” for a reason. He was the very definition of the common man: a regular-looking dude with nothing handed to him. A blue-collar guy who fought tooth and nail to be the best at what he did. On top of the “gimmick” (which was true life with the guy, was the most charismatic personality and promo you’ve ever heard. I honestly think Rhodes was one of the top 3 promos of all time. You couldn’t help but just sit there and stare, listening intently.
I remember his polka-dot phase in WWE, rumoured to be an attempt by Vince to “get back” at the guy who was successful in another company, both as a performer and as a booker. But to his credit, even WITH the addition of Sapphire, Dusty continued to shine as he embraced the role and made an entire legion of new fans.
As YouTube became popular, I went back and watched some of the most famous matches of Dusty’s career. Matches against Harley Race, Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, the Road Warriors, Nikita Koloff, and countless others. If you have the time, do yourself a favour and watch a few of these and be entertained.
Over recent years, Dusty had become a vital part of the NXT organization. He helped train, shape, and mold most of the performers you see in WWE rings today. I can only imagine what it’s like for the NXT performers trying to put on a great show in Pittsburgh tonight. But as they say, the show must go on.
Generally regarded as one of the greatest all-around performers of a generation, Dusty Rhodes will NEVER be forgotten. He’ll continue to influence the world of professional wrestling forever.