Thursday, June 11, 2015

The death of a Dream

I started the day lamenting the death of Christopher Lee at the age of 93. An amazing acting talent that stayed relevant to the very end, Lee improved both The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Star Wars prequels with his presence. But despite the sadness of his loss, he was a man in his nineties. He lived a good long life and did many amazing things.

Then this popped into my feed.

Just a few months short of his seventieth birthday “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes is gone.

I didn't grow up with Dusty the way a lot of fans my age did. I was a northern guy in the 80s, entrenched in the celebrity superstars of WWF. NWA/WCW were the other guys, a pale comparison without the awesome production values and larger than life characters of WWF. But I was also missing a creative renaissance brought on by the mastermind of the promotion through much of that period, Dusty.

Dusty didn’t really fit the 80s WWF mold at all. He was overweight, dressed like a cowboy and spoke with a lisp. His talent in the ring or on the mike were never enough to make him ready for their cult of personality. But they made him perfect for the higher workrate, more grounded storytelling of the Southern brand. While I was watching Hogan perform four moves a match, Rhodes put on amazing matches against Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Harley Race and hundreds of others. Meanwhile, he booked the late 80s Jim Crockett Promotions with an eye for great storytelling (albeit sometimes marred by his favorite non-finishes that were used so often as to become called Dusty finishes).

Perhaps his finest moment as a booker came in the wake of the tragedy that cost Magnum T.A. his career. With months of stories thrown out the window by the injury, Dusty took Magnum’s arch nemesis, the evil Russian Nikita Koloff, and turned him face. With the softening Russian-US relations, fans accepted Koloff instantly and his team with Dusty against the Four Horsemen would be big bank for the NWA.

Of course much can be written about Dusty’s pathetic early 90s run in WWF or his less than stellar WCW commentary years later, but Dusty did so many great things, those things are barely worth mentioning. Instead, we can remember him for all his great work, personified no better than in his most famous promo.

While Dusty did have his share of “Hard Times” in professional wrestling, he also did so much to innovate and evolve it. His legacy will be felt for decades to come. And while he is gone, the Rhodes name will live on for many more years through the careers of Goldust and Stardust.

Dusty, you will be missed.

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