(Mav's note: with the passing of Dusty Rhodes, I felt powerfully that LOP needed a tribute up here. Sadly, WCW/NWA is not my area of expertise, but luckily for us, site legend Your Ayatollah of main page, columns forum and LOP Radio fame, has stepped up and provided an awesome column for you all. RIP Dusty.)
AATG One Hitter: Hard Times
By Your Ayatollah
Jun 11, 2015 - 5:19:44 PM
[Ric Flair] put hard times on Dusty Rhodes and his family. You don’t know what hard times are daddy.
We learned today, just a few hours ago, that Dusty Rhodes has passed away. To say that it was a shock is something of an understatement.
Sure, the Dream was an older fellow who had a lot of miles on him, but guys like Big Dust seem somehow immortal, you know? It seems they'll live forever, in large part because they will. Some people in the wrestling business quite simply transcend generations and time and space. Some people really are evergreen, and Dusty Rhodes was one of those guys.
It doesn't matter how you were introduced to Dusty, the fact remains that you immediately took note of and remembered him. How could you not? A giant man in flamboyant clothes, spitting some hybrid jive/redneck spiel about who the hell knows what, somehow making all the sense in the world while taking us to places we never had been via the spoken word.
Hard times are when the textile workers around this country are out of work, they got 4 or 5 kids and can’t pay their wages, can’t buy their food. Hard times are when the auto workers are out of work and they tell ‘em to go home. And hard times are when a man has worked at a job for thirty years, thirty years, and they give him a watch, kick him in the butt and say “hey a computer took your place, daddy”, that’s hard times!
I was personally introduced to Dusty a long time ago. My first memory of him was when the Road Warriors took a spike from their shoulderpads and dug it into his eye, blinding the Dream and continuing one of those blood feuds that it somehow seemed Dusty was perpetually involved in. I remember being horrified, shocked that they were allowed to take things that far, flabbergasted that this thing that others had assured wee me was "fake". How could it be fake? That blood was real. Dusty's screams were real. The tears of those in the crowd were real. How the hell could anyone see that and walk away thinking it was anything other than completely, utterly real?
Of course, it wasn't. But it may as well have been. There's a reason that Dusty was always involved in those ongoing blood feuds, and that reason was that the Dream was relatable. He wasn't huge and cut and ripped to shreds like Hogan or Luger. He wasn't flaunting and fancy and seemingly "better than you" like Flair, Blanchard and the Horsemen (though it's worth pointing out that Big Dust could wear the hell out of some fancy gear). He was larger than life, but he wasn't bigger than us. He was just a common man, a plumber's son who made good on his pursuit of the American Dream. Like many of those who cheered him week after week, year after year, his belly may have been a little big. His heiney may have been a little big.
But he was bad and brother, we knew he was bad. We loved him because he was OURS. He was one of us, a good man fighting for the things that we all fought for on a daily basis. It wasn't always about belts or glory. It was about pride, about passion, about putting food on the table and living that American Dream for all those who were still engaged in the struggle, trying to reach the Promised Land.
That’s hard times! And Ric Flair you put hard times on this country by takin’ Dusty Rhodes out, that’s hard times. And we all had hard times together, and I admit, I don’t look like the athlete of the day supposed to look. My belly’s just a lil’ big, my heiny’s a lil’ big, but brother, I am bad. And they know I’m bad.
I wasn't a huge NWA/WCW fan, though, honestly, so most of my real exposure to Dusty came a few years later when he came to the WWF. You're probably going to read a lot of columns and opinion pieces and stuff over the next few days talking about how Vince slapped Dusty in those polka dots and made him shuck and jive in an effort to make a fool of him. Maybe that's true, maybe it's not. In the end, it's inconsequential.
Why? Because none of us knew anything of those backstage politics and such at the time. Back then it was just our guy, the Common Man, Dusty Rhodes, living that American Dream and having a damn good time doing it. He wasn't a dancing fool. He was a fun loving modern day warrior, a guy who knew that you could be just as bad as you wanna be without pounding your chest and acting like you're hot shit. I never once thought that Dusty was lame or silly. I just thought he was fun as hell. Because he was.
When that era was over and he headed back to WCW, I was able to follow along due to WCW Worldwide being syndicated in my area. I saw the Bunkhouse battles, the ongoing fight of a man who represented the common man as he fought not for personal glory but simply for what was right. Sure, he was a little older, a little slower. But he was still The Dream, baby, and there wasn't anyone who could take that away from him. While the boys was in the back all laughin' and jokin', the Dream was still out front, baby, cookin' and smokin'.
There were two bad people… One was John Wayne and he’s dead brother, and the other’s right here. Nature Boy Ric Flair, the World’s Heavyweight title belongs to these people.
Even when Championship pursuits were a thing of the past for Dusty, his contributions continued. Hell, they may have grown. Dusty introduced himself to a whole new generation and firmly entrenched himself in the hearts and minds of those before when he sat down behind a desk, grabbed a microphone and proceeded to be one of the hands down most entertaining color commentators of all time. There is not a single soul among those who have seen it who will ever forget that night back in 1996 at The Great American Bash. The match was Chris Benoit vs Kevin Sullivan in a Falls Count Anywhere battle and they somehow made their way into the men's room outside the main arena floor. And Dusty lost his mind.
"They fightin' in the toilet, Shiavone!"
Then a woman appeared in the quickly growing crowd inside that men's room and Dusty spoke the words that will live with me for the rest of my time on this planet.
"There's a lady in the man's bathroom! There is a lady in the man's bathroom! She said, 'I gots to get some relief!'."
Add to that his dubbing all foreign objects as "plunder" and a stiff beating as "clubberin'" and a stiff kick to the guts as a shot to the "belly-welly" and all the other Dusty-isms... Just like his days in the ring, you couldn't help but love Dusty Rhodes. His joy and enthusiasm was infectious. You could tell that he was out there having the time of his life, providing a voice to us, the fans. Someone we could relate to. Someone who would take thing seriously when he had to, would get pissed off when the situation called for it, but who mostly just loved seeing these people get to clubberin' each other and relished in his opportunity to tell us all about it in a way that only he could.
I’mma reach out right now, I want you at home to know my hand is touchin’ your hand for the gathering of the biggest body of people in this country, in this universe, all over the world now, reachin’ out because the love that was given me and this time I will repay you now.
Most younger fans will only know Dusty as the father of Goldust and Cody Rhodes. That's as fine a legacy as any to leave, no doubt, but I sincerely hope that they look deeper. I hope that the younger fans of today and those yet to join this unusual little club will all dig into all the amazing footage of Dusty that exists. The glory of his Championship wins, the fun of his dancing with Sapphire, the goosebump inducing intensity and fire in those immortal promos. I mean, I get it. I've never really gone out of my way to dig into the ring warriors from before my time. I know very little about Sammartino or Superstar Graham. They were great, I respect them and what they meant, but they've just never grabbed me.
I tend to think that maybe it'll be different with The Dream. Because he was more than just that larger than life figure, that legend of a bygone era. He was one of the few out there who flat out lived up to every nickname that was bestowed upon him. He was a Texas Outlaw. As fine and rare as sparkling Stardust. The White Soul King and the Working Class Hero. He was a Common Man.
But he wasn't. He was one of us, but he was also all of us. The Uncommon Common Man, perhaps. A little plumber's son who grew up and made good, taking us all along for the ride as he chased down, grabbed and LIVED the very definition of the American Dream. Showing us all what was possible even when you're fighting to overcome this hard time blues.
Let’s gather for it. Don’t let me down now, ‘cause I came back for you, for that man upstairs that died 10-12 years ago and never got the opportunity to see a real World’s Champion. And I’m proud of you, thank god I have you, and I love you. I love you!
We love you, too, Dream. I love you. Thank you.