I’ve never been ashamed to admit that I’m a wrestling fan. It’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and even though I don’t pay so much attention to the current product, I’ll defend it as one of the purest forms of entertainment ever created.
Today the world of professional wrestling lost one of its most important stars. Virgil Runnels, better to know to the world as “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes passed away today at the way-too-young age of sixty-nine.
I don’t usually get all teary-eyed when a someone famous dies. That’s usually something that should be reserved for the people who actually knew the deceased.
But in the case of Dusty Rhodes, it’s different. His death really hit me hard. What’s more ironic is that I was never a fan of him as a wrestler. When I was a kid, the promotions he worked for didn’t air in my part of the country, so I only knew who he was from the grocery store magazines. When he finally jumped to the World Wrestling Federation, I couldn’t stand him. I didn’t get his character and just thought he was annoying.
I didn’t appreciate his impact on the business of professional wrestling until long after he retired as an active wrestler. And to be honest, it wasn’t his wrestling that I appreciated.
On a side note, I hate it when people who don’t follow wrestling throw around the word “fake.” It’s really an insult to the enormous amount of work the performers put into their craft. It’s no more “fake” than any movie you see in a theater or action/drama you watch on TV.
Just like anything else, it’s got performers and writers.
And that’s where Dusty Rhodes fits in at this blog. From the 80’s until the day he died, Dusty Rhodes worked off and on as one of the behind the scenes writers (or “bookers” as they’re called) in various promotions across the country. He knew how to tell a story. Where the WWF pretty much sold a tame kids’ show in middle to late 80’s, the NWA under Dusty’s direction sold drama. His storylines usually followed a Hero’s Journey outline and in some cases built for years before the final payoff.
He also set up some of the greatest underdog stories this side of the movie Dodgeball.
Throughout this career from the 1980s NWA, to WWE in the 2000s, to NXT today, he was one of those guys that if he appeared on camera, you knew you’d be entertained, regardless of what he’d be doing. And for every great thing Dusty Rhodes the character did, you can find ten that Virgil Runnels the man did.
And now I’m sure he’s making everybody up there laugh in the great big Pay Window in the sky.
Dusty, thanks for the memories.
Image by Javier Blanco