Wrestling: Dusty Rhodes




Virgil Riley Runnels, Jr., better known as ("The American Dream") Dusty Rhodes is just a common man, workin' hard with his hands. He's also a American professional wrestler who, throughout his forty year career, portrayed a happy-go-lucky schlub facing off against more elegant and physically fit competitors. Contrary to his underdog image, Dusty was a tank in his prime, known and feared throughout various permutations of the National Wrestling Alliance.

Working in various wrestling organizations since the late sixties, Dusty joined Jim Crockett Promotions in 1978. Throughout the late seventies and eighties, he would engage in a number of high profile feuds in the NWA, facing off against the likes of Terry Funk, Harley Race, Abdullah the Butcher, and especially the Four Horsemen; particularly their leader, the elitist braggart Ric Flair. Dusty would win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship a total of three times, and in 1985, he delivered what became known as the "Hard Times" promo, considered Dusty's finest, and definitely in the running for greatest wrestling promo of all time.

In 1985, Dusty transitioned into booking what would eventually become World Championship Wrestling. As booker, Rhodes would develop a number of creative feuds and gimmick matches, including the WCW standard "WarGames'' match. However, burnt out by constant competition with the WWF, Rhodes' booking style became notorious for an over-reliance on ambiguous endings to matches; particularly ones in which a face had scored a major victory against a heel, that would later be overturned for trivial reasons. These sorts of unsatisfying wrap-ups are referred to in the wrestling community as "Dusty Finishes" to this day.

After openly defying a "no bloodshed" edict from TBS censors at Starrcade '88, Rhodes was fired from WCW. He would join the WWF in 1989, where he wrestled as "Common Man" Dusty Rhodes for two years, feuding with "Macho Man" Randy Savage. The most notable aspect of this period was the god-awful ugly yellow-polkadot unitard he would wear in the role. Some thought the costume choice was WWF owner Vince McMahon's way of humiliating one of his former competitors, but Dusty has always maintained that thing was his idea. Dusty would leave the company for a semi-retirement as an active competitor in 1991.

Rhodes would soon return to WCW as a booker (until he was supplanted by Eric Bischoff) and on-screen manager, and would join the commentating team for much of the 90s. He gained quite the reputation for verbal diarrhea, so much so that "Insane Dusty Commentary" is a regular feature of Botchamania. During the rise of the NWO in 1996, Rhodes was originally cast as a pro-WCW figure, before eventually making a Face-Heel Turn and joining the NWO at Souled Out '98. Near the end of WCW's lifespan, Rhodes would briefly leave for a stint in ECW, before returning to WCW for one last feud with Flair.

After WCW's purchase and dissolution by the WWF in 2001, Rhodes would work for TNA, ROH, and various other indie wrestling leagues for the next five years, including Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling, a promotion founded by Rhodes himself. In late 2005, he would sign a WWE Legends deal, making occasional appearances on WWE programming from then on.

He is the father of fellow wrestlers, Dustin "Goldust" Rhodes and Cody "Stardust" Rhodes. He's raised some weird kids.

Tropes Associated with Dusty Rhodes

  • Acrofatic: Heís just a common man, eatiní cake with both hands. While just shy of "giant" status (he's 6'1), Dusty was stout enough to shrug off any offense, while nimble enough to counter his opponent's attacks two-fold.
  • All American Face: "He's just a common man", "Son of a Plumber", etc. (These are both true.)
  • Arch-Enemy: Ric Flair, Kevin Sullivan, and Terry Funk.
  • Badass Normal: An average working class guy in the ring with the strange and otherworldly characters of pro wrestling.
  • Bash Brothers: with Dick Murdoch, Blackjack Mulligan, Magnum T.A., Mike Graham, Dustin Rhodes
  • Bastard Bastard: Describes Cornette this way, saying it was why he never talked about his daddy
  • Charlie Brown from Outta Town: He LOVED this trope:
    • Uvalde Slim
    • The Midnight Rider (easily his most famous version)
    • The James Boys (w/Magnum T.A.)
  • Big Fun: He's about the right size and to smile unironically with that polka dot headband, how could he be anything but?
  • Cuckoolander Commentator: They didn't even bother with closed captioning when Dusty Rhodes was on commentary. We haven't yet invented a machine that can understand him.
    • The Belfast Bruiser (Dave Finlay) v. Lord Steven Regal match is great, too, mostly Dustyís insane commentary about fighting a bear to the death. ("A big olí kodiak bear!") He means he had a few matches with Victor the Wrestling Bear in 1968. We apologize for ever doubting your bear-fighting prowess, Dusty.
  • Diabolus Ex Machina: So the wrestler that everyone loves has just won against his rival no one wants to see win. Hurray! Wait, sosandso interfered on the the fan favorite's behalf? That guy we all wanted to see win had his foot under the rope? The referee involved was obviously crooked? Accuracy of these claims be damned, the decision is reversed! Your hero is now the loser! You have just witnessed a Dusty Finish!
  • Dream Team: At Survivor Series 89 and Survivor Series 90, he captained teams called "The Dream Team." Unrelated to the other team with the same name which consisted of Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: In 1985, he announced his "Funky Like A Monkey Tour." Whatever that was supposed to mean, he included the peculiar suggestion, "If you ain't got a monkey, get funky anyway."
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: Born in Austin.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: A pad for his elbow, of course
  • Finishing Move: The Bionic Elbow
  • Heel-Face Turn: In the 1970s and never looked back...until he randomly turned on Larry Zbyszko to join the NWO during Zbyszko's match with Scott Hall at NWO Souled Out 98, January 24, 1998. Of course, after disappearing following the Outsiders' split in May at WCW Slamboree 98, he returned following Ric Flair's victory over Eric Bischoff on the WCW Monday Nitro after Starrcade on December 28 to celebrate the win.
  • Heel-Face Revolving Door: During Cody's heel run, Dusty would occasionally turn up & act as a face, until he turned heel to help Cody. Since these were only one-shot appearances, Dusty was back to being a face the next time he turned up.
  • It's Personal: Against Jim Cornette and The Midnight Express in Jim Crockett Promotions
  • Legacy Character: He has a few, not just Dustin and Cody.
    • Memphis legend Troy Graham (1949-2002)'s masked gimmick the Dream Machine involved him blatantly imitating Dusty, with the idea being that the fans were supposed to think Dusty was under the mask.
    • The Japanese wrestler Gedo (Keiji Takayama) is a huge fan of Dusty and of 1970s southern-style wrestling and has been called "The Dusty Rhodes of Japan." Gedo defeated Evan Karagias on the April 25, 1998 WCW {Pro}, and announcer Mike Tenay called him "The Japanese American Dream."
  • Leotard of Power: With polka dots
  • Martial Arts Head Band: In the WWF
  • Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: He accused Cornette and the Midnight Express of being more than just business partners but said he was content to say to each his own until they got in his business.
  • Older Sidekick: Sapphire was ten years his senior.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: The tag team the New Breed (Chris Champion and Sean Royal), in 1987, were billed from "The Future". They claimed that, in the year 2002, robots were common and, apparently, Dusty was President of the United States.
  • Parts Unknown (as the Midnight Rider): "Diablo Canyon, CO"
  • Perky Female Minion
    • Sapphire in the WWF, who even tagged with him at Wrestlemania VI against Randy Savage and Sherri Martel.
    • His assistant, Traci Brooks, while he was an authority figure in TNA.
  • Power Stable: Dusty Rhodes' Family (Florida), with Blackjack Mulligan, Barry Windham, "Cowboy" Ron Bass, The One Man Gang and Mike Rotunda.
    • As a heel in the 1970s, he was a member of Gary Hart's Army.
    • Then there was his short-lived run with the NWO.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Joining the WWF had the added effect of turning Dusty black: He gained a Jheri curled female valet (Sapphire) who was selected from the crowd — the joke being that heís just a common man, so he should have a common valet — and a funk entrance theme ("The Common Man Boogie") which he retains to this day. Move over, Isaac Hayes. (This angle might have a kernel of truth: Dusty wanted to bring in a black prostitute to be Sapphire, and already had one in mind.)
  • Rags to Riches / Riches to Rags: In his Badass Boast in the caption at top.
  • Red Baron: "The American Dream," "The Bull of the Woods," "Stardust"
  • Ring Oldies: In his 60s and still wrestling from time to time.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: According to Kevin Sullivan, "People get upset because Dusty Rhodes had a favorite talent... and it was Dusty Rhodes."
  • Start My Own: His Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling promotion in Marietta, GA, which ran from 2000 to 2003.
  • Tag Team: The Texas Outlaws, with Dick Murdoch
  • Talk Show with Fists: "The Dew Drop Inn"
  • Wrestling Family: His sons are Dustin "Goldust" Rhodes and Cody "Stardust" Rhodes. His daughter-in-law for a while was Terri "Marlena" Runnels. He can also count Fred "Tugboat"/"Typhoon" Ottman and Jerry Sags among his brothers-in-law.
  • The Unintelligible: Dusty's thick accent and bizarre speaking pattern makes it almost impossible to understand him, especially in the late 80's onwards.
  • Trope Codifier: Along with The Crusher, Dusty was the original "working mans hero", a gimmick that would eventually reach even bigger popularity with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
  • The Unintelligible: In his later years, Dusty became just about impossible to understand, as his already thick southern accent combined with what might possibly be concussion damage essentially turned his speech into word slurry.
  • Your Mom: Made fun of Cornette's momma when he learned Jim was a Momma's Boy.