Even four years after his death, Dusty Rhodes’ lasting legacy still echoes across the landscape of professional wrestling
“Get a dream, hold on to it, and shoot for the sky.”
— DUSTY RHODES
Today, June 11th, marks four years since the passing of Dusty Rhodes. Generally considered one of the most captivating entertainers of all time, the former Son of a Plumber seized the imagination of the world with his charm, his rap, and his underdog persona. There’s perhaps no grappling fan in the world who doesn’t have a ‘Dusty story’, or their own imitation of his signature lisp.
The American Dream’s death in 2015 caused millions of fans to take pause for the echoes of the past. They looked back on his greatest moments and greatest matches with fondness. He was celebrated as a superstar, and remembered as a legend. But in retrospect, the final part of his life was really a sounding board for the future.
At the time, Rhodes was a major influence on the flourishing NXT product, helping act as a father figure to a new generation of WWE Superstars. So much so, that WWE since borrowed from some of his old concepts, like WarGames & Starrcade, and even named a Tag Team Tournament in his honor.
It wasn’t always that way, however.
For years, he was a noisy nemesis to the WWF/E, acting as the booker for Jim Crockett Promotions, and waging a war down south on Vince McMahon and company. The American Dream often matched the Titan Towers juggernaut, wit-for-wit and move-for-move, despite sometimes having limited resources.
An outlaw by nature, Dusty almost relished any chance he could to tweak McMahon’s nose from afar. So, it wasn’t a shock that when Big Dust was forced to eat crow and go to work for the WWF, he was adorned in loud polka dots that accentuated his less-than-stellar physique. Given all that, he still thrived, and became more popular than ever – even while working behind enemy lines.
He returned to WCW, as a color commentator and creative force, taking part in the company’s hottest era. Once again, Dusty found himself on the other end of a war with McMahon. And once again, despite a valiant effort, yet another promotion from down south fell victim to the New York powerhouse.
Dusty would, for one last ride, to challenge McMahon again as part of TNA. He fired a few comical shots towards Stamford, before eventually hanging up his six shooter and making peace. He signed a WWE Legends deal in 2005, was inducted in to their Hall of Fame in 2007, and remained with the promotion in some capacity until his death.
His two sons, Dustin and Cody, inducted their legendary father in to McMahon’s Magical Hall of Fame that night. For a family that often had distance and some hard feelings between them, it was clearly an emotional moment for all three. And despite all his fame and great achievements, it was surely one of the happiest days of the three-time NWA World Champion’s life. After a wild and woolly life on the road chasing The American Dream, it seemed as if Dusty, the man, had finally found peace
So, it was only fitting that those same, two Rhodes boys (GRANDSONS of a plumber… if you will) took center stage in another, modern day salvo fired at The McMahon Empire. Now stars in their own right, Cody and Dustin shined as bright as the lights of Las Vegas at Double or Nothing, and their emotional match-up stirred echoes of their famous father’s name. Just weeks before the anniversary of his passing.
It was not only an acknowledgement to the greatness that Dusty passed along to his own wrestling dynasty, it was also a sign of the love that the audience still has for The Bull of the Woods. As his sons followed in his footsteps and wowed the crowd, 50 years of history all converged in one place, for one night, under a new umbrella.
That’s why the cheers (and tears) surrounding that match were real. Because, even in 2019, Dusty Rhodes is still admired for being a larger-than life figure. He still symbolizes tradition. And, tradition never really fades away.
It’s also why – four years after his death – 12,000 fans at The MGM Grand still chanted his name in unison: Because, when it’s all said and done, The Dream… will never die, baby!