Ring of Honor is at Stage AE Saturday. One of the featured performers is CODY RHODES, son of the late "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes. I worked with Dusty in WCW. I consider that an honor and privilege. I feel the same about interviewing Cody today. He joins my program at 4:30 p.m.
Cody is a great performer, good enough that ROH and Impact Wrestling let him bounce back and forth without demanding exclusivity. He’s become a star in New Japan Pro Wrestling as part of their Bullet Club faction.
He has to go by, simply, "Cody," because WWE claims copyright on the Rhodes name, a name Cody’s father used throughout his entire star-studded career. Typical nickel-dime McMahon family bull***t.
But that’s OK. Everybody knows who Cody Rhodes is. And his father will never be forgotten.
Here’s my obit for Dusty, which first ran at Wrestlezone.com on 6.15.15. Below that, Cody Rhodes’ introduction to the Bullet Club, and the single greatest babyface promo in wrestling history: Dusty Rhodes’ "Hard Times."
DREAM BIG, DREAM ON
As an ex-wrestler said not long after Dusty Rhodes shuffled off this mortal coil, "You can tell who the real stars are. When Ultimate Warrior died, it was a big story on WWE TV, and that was it. Dusty died, and it’s a story EVERYWHERE."
With all due respect to the late Jim Hellwig and his family, you got that right.
Dusty Rhodes was an international superstar and celebrity. He lit up territory after territory, and then made his mark when the business went national.
Dusty had his ups and downs: Wrestling Observer Newsletter readers voted him best babyface, best booker and most charismatic. They also voted him most overrated, worst gimmick and most embarrassing. When Dusty finally got to WWE in 1989, Vince McMahon revenge-dressed him in unflattering polka dots, made an unattractive black woman his valet and had him snake his hand down a toilet.
But that didn’t matter. None of the bad mattered. Dusty Rhodes was a STAR.
Dusty had the white-guy jive-rap down to a science, he was cool, and he really was everyman: "If that guy can do it, so can I." Same principle as C.M. Punk and Daniel Bryan, only much bigger, much badder and much longer.
Dusty was so much larger than life. He was the American Dream 24/7. He was a perfect foil for Ric Flair, who never dials back being the Nature Boy.
I worked with Dusty in WCW. It was an honor. My main memories of Dusty involve listening. When Dusty talked, I listened.
Before I worked for WCW, I wrote for Pro Wrestling Torch. I could be tough on Dusty, and not without reason. When he booked, he mostly trusted himself. He gave his son a mighty shove not long after Dustin’s entry into the business. Dusty’s on-camera martyrdom often went a bit far for my liking, and I said so.
So, I find myself sharing a ride to San Francisco’s Cow Palace with the Dream not long after gaining employment. "Baby, you were a little hard on me in that dirt sheet. You beat me up pretty good." Uh-oh. But, then… "That’s OK, daddy. We on the same team now." Exhale. Dusty always treated me great. So did Dustin.
It’s great that Dusty worked so much with NXT. He loved the business, so he loved that. Some NXT prospects that worked with Dusty for just a very short time were incredibly grief-stricken by his death. Legit, I’m sure. Dusty had that effect on people. He was the Dream 24/7, and a babyface 24/7.
"Hard Times" is the best babyface promo of all time. That’s fact, not opinion. It’s a blueprint. 1985. Jim Crockett Promotions. Dusty doesn’t just rally the fans to his side, he rallies America to its feet. Watch it on YouTube. When Dusty reaches toward the camera, I defy you to not reach back. I do. Every time. It’s impossible not to. It sucks you in. It delivers. It’s real. Dusty Rhodes was real.
Dusty won titles. He drew money. He electrified crowds. He main-evented WWE and the NWA at the same time. As I type that, it seems a bit blah, blah, blah.
The best thing to say about Dusty is that he was special. Unique. You couldn’t imitate him. No one tries. Following that act would be impossible. Dusty wanted those he taught to find their own personality. He found his. It served him well.
WWE would be well served to remember that if Dusty Rhodes came along today, WWE wouldn’t give him a chance. He didn’t look like the athlete of the day is supposed to look. His belly was a little too big. His hiney was a little too big.
But he was bad, and we all knew he was bad.
I remember, vividly, Dusty talking about how he would repel the Four Horsemen when they hit the ring, knocking each down with a chorus line of bionic elbows: "Pow, pow, pow, pow and then pow, and you leave J.J. [Dillon] lying on the ring apron doing the hully-gully."
I’m in tears right now. I’d give anything to see that one more time.
Dusty Rhodes, R.I.P.
To his NXT protégés: Dream big, and dream on.