Thursday, June 11, 2015

Dusty Rhodes - RIP

To further ruin this day, Dusty Rhodes has died. He was 69 years old.

Rhodes was both one of the most legendary pro wrestlers and one of the smartest minds in the entire industry. He was the son of a plumber, spoke in a lisp that famously made him sound black, and had a big girth and he was proud of it.

Starting off his promising career as a heel and later breaking out when he tag-teamed with Dick Murdoch, his natural charisma and draw with his blue-collar audiences eventually lead to a face turn. He quickly exploded in popularity and would win the NWA Heavyweight Championship several times, often doing battle with his constant rival Ric Flair.

Though he was above adequate in the ring, shucking and jiving with his Bionic Elbows, it was his promo skills that made him a legend. He would constantly back up his nickname as "The American Dream", waxing on about how, "he wined and dined with kings and queens, and lived off pork and beans." His most famous moment on the mic of course has to be his "Hard Times" promo, where he compared Flair's evil actions to the ills that plagued the American working class and how he and the viewers at home would come together and take the Heavyweight belt off of the Dirtiest Player in the Game.

Behind the scenes during the last stretch of the NWA era, Dusty was hired on as the head booker for Jim Crockett Promotions. Though he made some brilliantly creative decisions, including the famed War Games match, he was also mocked for his frequent preference for dirty endings to big money matches. The most infamous of these, now dubbed "the dusty finish", consisted of the heel champion taking out the referee or throwing their opponent over the top rope, the face getting their second wind and pinning the champion, only for a second referee to come out and reverse the clean decision and title change.

When he was fired after booking a violent angle where he was viciously bloodied by the Road Warriors on TV, he went up north to the WWF. Despite being forced by Vince McMahon to don attire littered with bright yellow polka dots (though Dusty later said he came up with the crazy idea), Rhodes found a way to make it work and become one of the most popular upper-mid-carders in the promotion. Having a killer theme song also helped.

The rest of his career saw "The Dream" jumping in and out of every wrestling promotion, from WCW to ECW to TNA to ROH. Though his main work often laid in the booking department, he would sporadically pop up on shows, wrestle, or do commentary. He eventually was re-hired by the WWE, where he served as a backstage advisor and creative consultant. His most famous appearance during this era of his life was when he came out to support his two sons, Cody and Dustin "Goldust" Rhodes, during their red hot feud with The Authority. In recent years, he was operating in the WWE's developmental area, grooming future superstars in the art of the promo.

He will sorely be missed.

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