What a shock to hear from my coworkers today that the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes had died suddenly at age 69.
The first time I saw Rhodes in person was at a WWF show at the old Boston Garden in June 1989, when he substituted for Jake “The Snake” Roberts to wrestle “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. Rhodes rolled up DiBiase for the pin and then proceeded to take some of DiBiase’s money and throw it to the crowd at ringside, which resulted in a huge roar from fans. It was a great scene.
The thing about Rhodes is that no matter what gimmick he had — polka dots, anyone? — and no matter who his opponent was, the guy was able to talk his way into fans’ minds and hearts. His promos should be studied by anyone who hopes to succeed in wrestling, because Rhodes understood emotion, how to connect with the audience, and how to sell big matches.
Sure, Rhodes was goofy in his WWF days. I know many people remember one of his early vignettes where he pretended he was a plumber, and got called to a house to unclog a toilet with shit in. “Is it brown? You talkin’ about sshocolate brown?” Rhodes asked the hilariously bad skit.
Rhodes didn’t wrestle at the Boston Garden all that much — three times in the 1980s, to be exact (thanks to The History of WWE website’s archives for the stats). Ironically, the first of those trio of matches was for the debut card of the NWA in the Garden, which was a huge deal at that time in 1987. On that night, Rhodes defeated the Big Bossman (who at the time was called Big Bubba Rogers) in a steel cage match. I wasn’t at that show, but I can imagine what a bloodbath that must have been back in the NWA glory days.
Dusty’s prior appearances at the Boston Garden all occurred in 1978, and every one of those matches pitted him against the same opponent: Superstar Billy Graham. Neither man ever got a pinfall victory in any of the bouts.
From his wrestling days to his booking days, to his final years helping to train WWE developmental hopefuls, this guy’s entire career was wrestling. The last time I saw Rhodes on TV was watching the ESPN’s E:60 documentary about the WWE Performance Center, during which he was in a meeting with Triple H and about a dozen other people discussing which developmental starts had the most potential on the main roster.
Dusty’s sons, Dustin (Goldust) and Cody (Stardust) perform for WWE currently, and Cody’s wife, Brandi, is ring announcer Eden on Smackdown. It has to be a very tough time for the company right now.