In wrestling, the word legend is overused and the status conferred upon many as time rolls on. For Dusty Rhodes however, it held true meaning being a rank he achieved in life and one that has simply been underlined by his untimely passing. Rhodes was a legend in every sense of the word. Someone who had seen and done nearly everything there was to do in the industry, someone who invested in future generations and whom led from the front. He died aged 69 in June 2015, much as he had lived, as an inspiration to those that followed.
For the uninitiated, Rhodes career is worthy of review. After a short stint playing American football, he broke into the wrestling industry in the late 60s with the help of Gary Hart - a former professional wrestler and one of the names behind the "golden years" of wrestling in the 1980s. Hart helped the former Virgil Runnels Jr transition into 'Dusty Rhodes' but it was Rhodes natural charm and personality (not to mention that wonderful 'bionic elbow') that helped him establish an early following. Before long, he was tag-teaming with Dick Murdoch (later a WWF tag-champion with Adrian Adonis) as one half of the villainous 'Texas Outlaws' for the AWA. Sometime later, in another tag-team, Rhodes turned his back on his evil persona and started on his path as a 'babyface' solo wrestler, a plucky working class hero - with nicknames including the ubiquitous 'American Dream' and as his son's alter ego respectfully acknowledges, 'Stardust'.
Although wrestling primarily in Florida, Rhodes made a mark in a number of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) promotions and by 1977 was wrestling in the WWWF for Vince McMahon Sr where he would challenge for the championship belt against 'Superstar' Billy Graham. Rhodes didn't take the belt but was main-eventing across the US including bouts for the Mid-Atlantic and Florida Heavyweight Championships and more.
Rhodes was a major player both as a solo talent and in tag-teams for Jim Crockett Promotions, the company that ultimately purchased WCW. He would become part of 'the Super Powers' with Nikita Koloff and regularly battled the Four Horseman. It was in fact during a feud with the Horsemen's Ric Flair that Rhodes delivered one of his most noted promos known as the "Hard Times" interview in which he evoked his character's blue collar roots, speaking to America and emotionally engaging them with his work.
As smart out of the ring as he was in it, Rhodes became a booker for JCP, naming many of their pay-per-views and even having a match ending named after him. The 'Dusty finish' although not originated by Rhodes is still used in wrestling today. Despite a controversial exit from JCP relating to his supposed opposition to company policy, Rhodes was soon picking up championships in the territories again and it was not long before he made his way to the WWF. He had a number of notable feuds in the company and paved the way for his son - Dustin 'Goldust' Rhodes to debut.
Leaving WWF in 1991 with his son, Rhodes went to WCW as a booker, manager and later broadcaster where amongst other roles he managed 'the Outsiders' as part of the nWo faction. Rhodes worked with both WCW and ECW in the 90's and would later go on to make a number of independent appearances most notably for Ring of Honor. Rhodes had a short stint at TNA, booking, wrestling and writing. During the early naughties he also ran Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling in Georgia where he trained various talents, foreshadowing his later return to WWE.
In 2005, Rhodes returned to WWE on the creative side of the business but continued to make sporadic on-screen appearances including with his sons. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Dustin and Cody Rhodes in 2007 and in turn, inducted a number of others. Rhodes principal role in his later years at WWE though was as chief writer and director of creative for NXT. As the tributes that flooded in from past and present NXT talent proved, he was universally popular there.
It is clear that during his life, Dusty Rhodes earned the respect of many others in the industry. Yes, he held numerous world titles and was induced into every wrestling hall of fame going but whenever you watched a wrestling DVD or listened to a podcast, the interviewee would almost always have warm memories of the man. He was simply loved.
Rhodes leaves behind his siblings, wife, four children and five grandchildren and our thoughts and best wishes are with them all. The family has requested donations in Dusty's memory to Connor's Cure and Joe Torre Safe At Home.