The list of transcendent figures throughout the annals of professional wrestling is debatable. Certainly, names like Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Ric Flair come to mind right away.
However, any discussion about the important figures in professional wrestling must include the electrifying “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, who died at the age of 69 on Thursday.
Rhodes, a three-time NWA champion, rose to prominence in the 70s in the American Wrestling Association before exploding in promoter Eddie Graham’s Championship Wrestling from Florida territory during the later part of the decade.
His common-man, blue-collar gimmick caught fire with audiences all over the world as Rhodes famously feuded with the likes of Superstar Billy Graham, Kevin Sullivan, and Tully Blanchard throughout the 70s and 80s.
However, none of Rhodes’s rivalries struck the national nerve quite the way his massive run with “Nature Boy” Ric Flair did. The pair feuded from 1981-1988 over the NWA title and as a part of the long-standing conflict between The Dream and Flair’s faction, the infamous Four Horsemen.
The Flair feud further amplified Rhodes’s persona as a guy that represented the blue-collar working class versus the Nature Boy’s rich, evil, and spiteful party-boy character. Their battle led to perhaps one of the greatest pieces of microphone work in wrestling history – Rhodes’s legendary “Hard Times” promo.
During a WWE DVD, Rhodes once described his feud with Flair as magic. It was probably bigger than that. Arguably, it was wrestling’s greatest feud of all-time.
None of it would have worked without Rhodes, who was nearly as popular as Hulk Hogan during the Hulkster’s prime in the mid 80s, due to his ability to relate to fans.
His reach extended to behind the scenes. Rhodes developed the NWA’s first supercard called “Starrcade”, which eventually spawned a series of high-leverage closed-circuit and pay-per-view events from the NWA and eventually, the WWE’s golden goose, WrestleMania.
When Rhodes left the NWA in 1988 and eventually ended up in the WWE in 1989, he donned yellow polka dots and referred to himself as the “Common Man.”
Rhodes turned a visually ridiculous and goofy gimmick into something that fans loved.
Dusty Rhodes was that damn good.
He will be missed.
Thank you, Dream.