THE Most Dope Wrestler: Dusty Rhodes

I was sitting at my desk at work when the news broke on Twitter: The American Dream Dusty Rhodes had passed away. It wasn’t possible. There was no way a man like Dusty Rhodes was mortal. No way. I refused to believe it. But it was the truth and I felt like I got kicked right in the stomach. The Dream was no longer with us and I was devastated. There was a beautiful young lady interviewing for a position at work and there I was, trying to hold back Niagara Falls. I was mostly successful for the time being. Mostly.

This one really hurts.

I won’t lie to any of you: I missed the zenith of Dusty Rhodes. I was just a bit too young and I lived in the wrong area of the country. I have a vague recollection of the Horsemen beating him up, you know, that one time. I definitely remember the Road Warriors trying to blind The American Dream in a scene that would mess me up as a six year old boy. Like many of you, my first real introduction to Dusty was in the WWF where he would wear the infamous polka dots. I loved it. I loved the dancing, the crazy vignettes, Sapphire, the whole thing. After a run of being an IWC “Not Liking Anything Fun” cardholder, upon revisiting Polka Dot Dusty, I love it even more now than I did as a kid. Truth be told, revisiting his old exploits, Big Dust is one of my all-time favorites now.

Dusty-Rhodes-2

Of course, I remember Dusty Rhodes most for being the color commentator for WCW Saturday Night..ON TBS, THE SUPASTATION! SIX O’ FIVE EASTERN TIME! THE MOTHASHIP! IF YOU WHEEEEEEL. Ahem. During this time, we would learn what a “clubberin’” was and none of us would ever look at a bicycle the same way again. Most of it was pretty much nonsense. It was. How many times did we all ask, “Now, what the hell is Dusty talking about?” But it didn’t matter. His enthusiasm was downright infectious and it was funny. Not just wrestling funny, but plain old funny. That was Dusty and no matter what Dusty was always Dusty.

Like with any fandom, battle lines are drawn between various groups of wrestling fans. Some love WWE, others hate it. Same with TNA, and you can go down the list to every promotion you can think of. “The show I like is the best, the one you like is stupid.” That sort of thing. That segregation lifted, even if only briefly, when The Dream passed on. We were all sad beyond belief. A lot of us cried. We shared laughs and stories of what we had heard Dusty say or had seen him do. Some of us were lucky enough to share stories about meeting the man. We talked about just how important he was, and still is, to all of us. It was like a collective group hug. Very few people on this planet can garner this reaction. Dusty Rhodes was one of them.

What was it about The American Dream that could affect us so deeply? What could cause this sort of outpouring and reaction? After all, wasn’t it Ric Flair who we all wanted to be? Flair had the cars, the money, the title, the women; everything an aspiring young man in the greed-ridden materialistic 1980s could ever want. So, why did Dusty Rhodes resonate with us as much as he did? It’s because, deep down, we know we aren’t Ric Flair. We can’t be Ric Flair. More than that, we don’t want to be Ric Flair, not really. Flair was the epitome of everything that is vile in the human condition. Dusty was the opposite of that. Ric Flair would never be caught dead in a crowd at a wrestling show; Dusty would be sitting right next to us, drinking a beer.

The American Dream Dusty Rhodes (Courtesy of millerparkdrunk.com)

That’s the thing: Dusty was us. He was the common man. It’s hard for us to identify with a body builder. Most of us can’t fathom looking like that. We can only look up and be inspired by these superheroes. Dusty Rhodes looked like a lot of us do or, at least, how many of us feel like we look. In his own words, “I don’t look like the athlete of today is supposed to look; my belly is just a lil’ big, my heiny is just a lil’ big…”, but that never ever mattered. What did matter was that Dusty represented everything that was good in this world. He showed that through hard work and determination, you can accomplish anything. It didn’t matter that he was born a plumber’s son. In fact, that made him all the better as he had to scratch and claw for everything he got. And by doing so, he grew up to be “so sweet.” And while he did “wine and dine with kings and queens,” he remembered all too well what it was like to “sleep in alleys and dine on pork and beans.” He was flashy as can be, but that flash was always grounded in reverence to humble beginnings. Dusty Rhodes wasn’t just us, he was the idealized perfect version of what we should hope to be. He was, indeed, The American Dream.

Although he identified himself as the Common Man, Dusty was so much more than that. He was a moral compass. The Dream was good because that’s how we ought to be. He stood up for what was right, without fail. Even if the odds were stacked against him, as they often were when he fought The Horsemen, he still kept fighting. And he often fell, the odds were just too high. More times than not, the hero lost to the villain in this story. The hero was usually left bloody and unconscious, but that was besides the point. The point was that the hero kept getting up and fought another day. He was Superman for the working class. He represented all of us who have to get up to go to work a job that will spit us out as soon as it deems necessary. Dusty Rhodes standing up represented us standing up every single day. No matter what. We believed in The Dream and The Dream believed in us.

Dusty Rhodes has passed on, but he will live on in all of us. Some people have called him a National Treasure. I have done so in the past myself and make no mistake about it, he absolutely was. But he was even more than that: Dusty Rhodes was a gift to the entire world. A guiding light that took the shape of such an unlikely form and used such an unlikely venue to show us the way. But show us the way he did, in more ways than even he probably realized.

And when it comes to being dope, no one is or was as dope as Dusty Rhodes…and no one ever will be.

Dusty-Rhodes

Long live The American Dream.

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