Dusty Rhodes passed away today at the age of 69. We didn’t know him, but we were all fans. Joey and Tom wanted to share some of their memories of “The American Dream”.
Thanks for reading. Things like these are always difficult to write but I’ve realized in some of the past few wrestling deaths, that writing about it tends to help me personally get a little closure and it just feels good to put your thoughts out there during a tough day.
I don’t have a single “favorite” Dusty Rhodes match. I don’t have a specific “favorite” Dusty Rhodes promo. Dusty Rhodes was before my time as a wrestling fan. I never got to appreciate him in his prime yet the passing of him is one of the more difficult wrestling deaths I’ve felt.
The thing about Dusty that spoke to me was just his presence. Between the respect and love Rhodes has earned from the wrestling industry and wrestling community to the energy he would always showcase, it just felt like he was wrestling. Whatever we each view professional wrestling to be in our own minds, I would view Dusty as a figurehead or a spokesperson for the sport of wrestling. Death is obviously a part of life and you know it’s coming but of all the legendary wrestling ambassadors, Dusty was one of the few you just felt would live forever.
Over the years, I’ve been lucky as any wrestling fan is to see old footage of pro wrestling including some of Dusty’s best moments. It’s obvious he connected to many fan bases by literally and figuratively speaking in a way no one else could but like anything in wrestling, my fondest memories come from what happens in my “eras.”
My early connection to Dusty was watching WCW when he was a commentator. Rhodes wasn’t the greatest commentator by the books but he was so endearing and humorous that his words felt like you were listening to a real person speak rather than a professional broadcasters in robot mode. It was like listening to your wrestling uncle having a great time.
My fandom of his grew a few years ago when the Rhodes Family were a part of the story of The Authority abusing power against them. As great as Cody and Goldust were during that storyline, seeing the emotion Dusty would add whether in a segment being knocked out by Big Show or celebrating the tag match win, it was the secret ingredient to making those matches and segments some of the highlights of that year.
Dusty Rhodes made you feel. The point of wrestling is to make fans feel. Even in his 60’s, he was able to do it at a level most couldn’t “dream” of.
I’m nowhere near the top or even in the middle of the huge list of wrestling fans to articulately speak about Dusty but I’m grateful for his contributions to something that I love greatly and the memories he gave me. The response today from everyone shows what kind of a performer but more importantly – from those he worked with, what kind of a person he was.
I was watching a Kevin Owens interview recently. It’s a couple of years old and one I’ve seen before, but there’s a point in it where he’s discussing wrestling and how “moments matter more than matches”. Today, the truth of that really stood out. As much as I love the athleticism, what makes wrestling special to me are those unique instances where fantasy bleeds in with reality to create something special, to create a moment. Dusty Rhodes was a master of creating moments.
From the promos that still hold up from his ’80s run and the vignettes that ushered him in to the WWF to his incredible, insane WCW commentary and those last appearances on Raw where he visibly flustered Stephanie McMahon with his off-the-cuff promos, he was always capable of something special. As unpredictable as he could be, the one thing you could always count on from Dusty was that he’d deliver something worth watching.
On a personal level, rediscovering him when I got back into wrestling was one of the things that got me hooked again. There was no chance of being disappointed by any of his promos, so it was easy to lose hours on YouTube just watching him talk. I went to a pottery painting place around that time for a friend’s birthday, and while others struggled to come up with ideas of what to paint, it wasn’t hard for me – I decided almost immediately that I’d create a porcelain tribute to The American Dream himself:
The mug’s been back-and-forth across the Atlantic a couple of times and it’s pretty beaten up as a result – I’ve had to reglue the handle a couple of times and, honestly, the mug itself doesn’t really hold enough coffee to make most mornings manageable. However, I still use it regularly because thinking about Dusty cheers me up even when I’m really not in the mood for being awake.
As sad as today was, seeing how Kevin Owens spoke of him and reading Sami Zayn’s stories were wonderful. For all that he’s accomplished, he was still a guy who loved wrestling and loved helping new guys. He was unselfish and seemed to radiate postivity. He seemed like the best.