Dusty Rhodes (wrestler)
Dusty Rhodes in 2008
|Birth name||Virgil Riley Runnels Jr.|
October 12, 1945|
Austin, Texas, U.S.
|Died||June 11, 2015
Orlando, Florida, U.S
(m. 1965–1975; divorced)
(m. 1978–2015; his death)
|Children||4, including Dustin Runnels and Cody Runnels|
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Dusty Rhodes
The Midnight Rider
|Billed height||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)|
|Billed weight||275 lb (125 kg)|
|Billed from||Austin, Texas
Diablo Canyon, Colorado
|Trained by||Joe Blanchard|
Virgil Riley Runnels Jr. (October 12, 1945 – June 11, 2015), better known as "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, was an American professional wrestler and trainer who worked for WWE. He made occasional on-air appearances on WWE television and pay-per-views and worked as a backstage booker and producer in WWE's NXT developmental territory. Billed as "the son of a plumber", Rhodes did not have a typical wrestler's physique; his character was that of the "Common Man", known for the personality exhibited in his interviews. WWE chairman Vince McMahon remarked that no wrestler "personified the essence of charisma quite like Dusty Rhodes."
Rhodes was a three-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, and during his time in Jim Crockett Promotions (the forerunner of World Championship Wrestling), he was a United States Champion, and multi-time Television, World Tag Team and Six-Man Tag Team Champion. He also won many regional championships, and is one of six men inducted into each of the WWE, WCW, Professional Wrestling, and Wrestling Observer Newsletter Halls of Fame. He is the father of Dustin Rhodes and Cody Rhodes.
- 1 Professional wrestling career
- 1.1 Early career (1968-1973)
- 1.2 National Wrestling Alliance territories (1974-1984)
- 1.3 Jim Crockett Promotions (1985–1989)
- 1.4 World Wrestling Federation (1989–1991)
- 1.5 Return to WCW and ECW (1991-2001)
- 1.6 Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2003–2005)
- 1.7 Independent circuit (2000–2006)
- 1.8 Return to WWE (2005–2015)
- 2 Personal life
- 3 Death
- 4 In wrestling
- 5 Championships and accomplishments
- 6 Media
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Professional wrestling career
Early career (1968-1973)
After high school, Rhodes played football for West Texas State and the Continental Football League. Gary Hart helped Rhodes break into the professional wrestling business and christened him with the name "Dusty Rhodes" from Andy Griffith's character "Lonesome Rhodes" in the film A Face in the Crowd. In the 1960s, Rhodes became a rule-breaking villain, tagging with fellow Texan Dick Murdoch to form the tag team The Texas Outlaws in the American Wrestling Association.
National Wrestling Alliance territories (1974-1984)
Rhodes did not have a typical wrestlers' physique, but he was well-known for his personality, charisma and interviews. In 1974, Rhodes character became a hero after turning on tag team partner Pak Song and manager Gary Hart during a match in Florida against Eddie and Mike Graham. This led him to break out as a solo wrestler, primarily in Florida, referring to himself as the "American Dream", a working class hero, and aligning himself with Eddie Graham.
In 1977, Rhodes wrestled for Vince McMahon, Sr.'s World Wide Wrestling Federation (currently WWE). During that time, Rhodes main-evented twice in Madison Square Garden, both times challenging for the WWWF Championship against reigning champion "Superstar" Billy Graham. Rhodes won the first match on September 26 via countout, and lost the second, a "Texas Death match", on October 24. Graham won after a mid-ring collision, falling on Rhodes for the three count.
Jim Crockett Promotions (1985–1989)
He eventually began working as a booker and wrestler with Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) in the Mid-Atlantic, which eventually purchased World Championship Wrestling (WCW), formerly Georgia Championship Wrestling. In 1983, he helped create the first Starrcade, what would become one of WCW's annual supershows. Rhodes also teamed with Magnum T.A. as "America's Team," who opposed the Four Horsemen and The Russian Team in 1985. They were one of the more dominant tag teams in the promotion until 1986, when Magnum's career was ended in a car accident. Subsequently, he teamed with Nikita Koloff as The Super Powers. Rhodes was also a World Six-Man Tag Team Champion with The Road Warriors.
Rhodes had feuds with Abdullah the Butcher, Pak Song, Terry Funk, Kevin Sullivan, Blackjack Mulligan, Nikita Koloff, Harley Race, Superstar Billy Graham, "Crippler" Ray Stevens and, most notably, The Four Horsemen (especially Ric Flair and Tully Blanchard). Rhodes, Flair and Race fought each other many times over the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Rhodes won the NWA World Title three times; twice by defeating Race and once by defeating Flair. In October 1985, during his feud with Flair, Rhodes gave an interview that became known as his "Hard Times" promo. During an interview on WWE's The American Dream DVD set, Rhodes claimed that his most popular promo of all time was his "Hard Times" interview during his feud with Ric Flair. The promo—which references out-of-work steel workers, factory runners and other blue collar individuals—apparently resonated with wrestling fans so much that people came to him in arenas in tears to thank him for "honoring their plight." In 2015, an ESPN article referred to "Hard Times" as Rhodes' best interview, writing, "In just over three minutes, Rhodes fully encapsulated every ounce of his charm by endearing himself to blue-collar mid-America."
During his stint as booker, JCP were engulfed in aggressive competition with the World Wrestling Federation. When the WWF introduced Mike Jones as Ted DiBiase's bodyguard, Bobby Heenan suggested to name the character Virgil as an inside joke on Dusty's real name. Also in the late 1980s, Rhodes became synonymous with what would become known as the "Dusty finish," a trick ending where a wrestler would win a match while the referee was knocked out, and the decision would be overturned.
Rhodes is often considered to be one of the most innovative and creative bookers in the history of professional wrestling. As previously mentioned, his work in the development of "supercards" and gimmick matches did much to enhance the quality of entertainment and move the industry forward, as evident by other major promotions following with their own major cards and gimmicks. At the same time, however, he and JCP had an "old school" philosophy that did not bode well with the changes that were brought with fast moving media such as cable TV, etc. The long-standing storylines and the frequent use of the aforementioned "Dusty Finish," techniques that had worked well during the NWA's territorial days, had now started to leave many fans dissatisfied with the promotion's booking.
Rhodes was fired after Starrcade '88, because of a taboo on-screen bloodletting (laid down by the Turner Broadcasting System following their purchase of the company) during a November 26 altercation with The Road Warriors. Furious with the interference, Rhodes booked a storyline where Road Warrior Animal pulled a spike out of his shoulder pad and jammed it in Rhodes' eye busting it wide open. Rhodes was then fired from WCW. Following this, Rhodes returned to Florida to compete in Florida Championship Wrestling, where he captured the PWF Heavyweight Championship and also returned to the American Wrestling Association for a few appearances.
World Wrestling Federation (1989–1991)
In mid-1989 Rhodes came to the WWF as the yellow polka-dotted "Common Man" Dusty Rhodes, a gimmick some felt was intended to humiliate him due to his synonymy with the rival JCP/WCW. He was managed by Sapphire, who was intended to represent the "common woman". During his early time in the WWF, Rhodes was embroiled in a heated storyline with "Macho King" Randy Savage and his manager/partner Sensational Queen Sherri, who in turn found a rival in Sapphire. After a confrontation between the two couples, Savage's ex-manager Miss Elizabeth allied herself with Rhodes and Sapphire and was instrumental in helping them win the WWF's first mixed tag-team match during WrestleMania VI. Sapphire, however, left Rhodes during SummerSlam 1990 for The Million-Dollar Man's money. Afterwards, Rhodes dropped the polka dots and feuded with Dibiase and Virgil, which also resulted in the national debut of his son Dustin at the 1991 Royal Rumble. Both departed the WWF shortly after, marking the end of Dusty Rhodes' career as a full-time in-ring competitor.
Return to WCW and ECW (1991-2001)
Rhodes returned to WCW in 1991 as a member of WCW's booking committee. Booking disagreements between Rhodes and Ric Flair led to the latter's return to the WWF and the Big Gold Belt controversy. Rhodes also served as the on-screen manager of Ron Simmons from 1991 to 1992 and was in Simmons' corner on August 2, 1992 when he defeated Big Van Vader to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. He later joined the broadcast team, usually working with Tony Schiavone on WCW Saturday Night. He was paired with Schiavone and Bobby Heenan on pay-per-views.
Rhodes was originally on the side of WCW when its battle with the New World Order (nWo) began in 1996. At Souled Out, Larry Zbyszko asked Rhodes, who was working the PPV broadcast, to accompany him to the ring for his match against Scott Hall. Zbyszko won the match by disqualification due to interference by Louie Spicolli. Rhodes entered the ring, delivering his trademark elbow smashes to Spicolli as Zbyszko stood and grabbed Hall. Rhodes went to elbow Hall, but seemingly inadvertently hit Zbyszko instead. Hall then pointed to Rhodes as he revealed an nWo shirt. The three began to drop repeated elbows on Zbyszko before Rhodes announced "That's tradition, WCW! Bite this!". Announcer Tony Schiavone left the broadcast booth in shock but later returned, kayfabe ripping Rhodes for his actions for most of the rest of the night. As a member of the nWo, Rhodes served as the manager of Hall and Nash.
He eventually left WCW and went to Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) where he put over former ECW World Champion, "King of Old School" Steve Corino. Rhodes returned once more to WCW, re-igniting his feud with Ric Flair.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2003–2005)
Rhodes began appearing with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) in 2003, returning to the ring to feud against the villainous Sports Entertainment Xtreme faction. Later, he became the Director of Authority at their November 7, 2004 pay-per-view, Victory Road. At the same time, Rhodes acted as head booker and writer. In May 2005, TNA President Dixie Carter asked Rhodes to move onto a creative team, which included Jeremy Borash, Bill Banks, and Scott D'Amore. Rhodes resigned as booker, waiting out the rest of his contract with TNA, which expired soon after.
Independent circuit (2000–2006)
From 2000 to 2003, Rhodes operated Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling (TCW), a small Georgia-based promotion featuring wrestlers trained by himself alongside veterans such as Barry Windham, Glacier, and Steve Corino. Rhodes began taking independent circuit bookings in 2003, after the closure of TCW and during his run with TNA.
Rhodes made his first indy circuit appearance on April 12, 2003 for Ring of Honor, when he participated in the "I Quit Bunkhouse Riot" as a member of Homicide's team. On December 12, Rhodes defeated Jerry Lawler at an International Wrestling Cartel show that also featured Mick Foley as the special guest referee. Rhodes returned to ROH on March 13, 2004, where he competed alongside The Carnage Crew in a Scramble Cage match against Special K, which the Carnage Crew won.
On July 24, Rhodes returned to Full Impact Pro (FIP) and defeated Gangrel. In October, he appeared for Northeast Wrestling in a victory over Kamala. Later in the month, he appeared for IWA Mid-South in a tag team match with Ian Rotten in a victory over Chris Candido and Steve Stone. Rhodes made three appearances for the Japanese promotion HUSTLE in 2004, the first being on January 4 in a six-man tag team match with Steve Corino and Tom Howard against Mil Mascaras, Dos Caras, and Sicodelico, Jr., which Rhodes' team lost. The second was on March 7, where he teamed with his son Dustin against Shinjiro Otani and Satoshi Kojima, which he also lost. The third was on May 8, where he defeated Corino.
Starting in December 2004, Rhodes made regular appearances for Carolina Championship Wrestling (CCW), where his first match for the promotion saw him team up with The Rock 'n' Roll Express to take on Dennis Condrey, Bobby Eaton, and Stan Lane, all three of the best-known members of the Midnight Express. He also briefly resurrected his feud with Tully Blanchard in CCW, earning two consecutive victories over him, the second being in a Bunkhouse Brawl. On April 9, 2005, Rhodes challenged Jeff Jarrett (who was still contracted to TNA, but due to TNA's then-affiliation with the NWA, he was allowed to appear for other affiliated promotions) for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. In a match that featured Jimmy Valiant as the special guest referee, Jarrett retained the title after Terry Funk made a surprise appearance and interfered. This led to Rhodes challenging Funk to a Falls-Count-Anywhere Bunkhouse match, which Rhodes won. This would be Rhodes' final appearance with CCW until August, where he would team with his son Dustin against Phi Delta Slam.
On July 15, 2005, Rhodes participated in Ballpark Brawl IV in a victory over Kid Kash. Rhodes participated in the first WrestleReunion, competing in an eight-man tag team match with D'Lo Brown, The Blue Meanie, and Tom Prichard against Steve Corino, Andrew Martin, Evil Clown, and the Masked Superstar. Rhodes faced Tully Blanchard at a Starrcade Tribute Show on November 19, where he was managed by Magnum T.A. and where Blanchard was managed by James J. Dillon. Rhodes ended up losing the match.
On December 3, 2005, Rhodes returned to Carolina Championship Wrestling for one night only to face Terry Funk in an "I Quit" match, which Rhodes won. Rhodes made his final major appearances on the independent circuit before returning full-time to WWE in mid-2006, defeating Jerry Lawler by DQ at a Southern Championship Wrestling show and also earning a victory over Steve Corino in a Texas Bullrope match for Big Time Wrestling.
Return to WWE (2005–2015)
In September 2005, Rhodes signed a WWE Legends deal and was brought onto the Creative Team as a creative consultant. He made an appearance on the October 3, 2005 WWE Homecoming in which he, along with other legends, beat down Rob Conway, to whom Rhodes delivered a signature Bionic elbow.
Rhodes made an appearance on the June 19, 2006 episode of Raw, appearing in a backstage segment with Vince McMahon where he promoted his new DVD, The American Dream – The Dusty Rhodes Story. A few weeks before Survivor Series 2006, Rhodes returned to WWE to be a part of Team WWE Legends, led by Flair. The team, which consisted of Sgt. Slaughter, Ron Simmons, and Arn Anderson (acting as manager) competed against The Spirit Squad at Survivor Series.
Dusty Rhodes was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on March 31, 2007 by his two sons, Dustin and Cody. During his acceptance speech, Rhodes asked Ric Flair and Arn Anderson to hold up the "sign" and induct him and Harley Race into the Four Horsemen. He has also inducted several other people into the Hall of Fame, including his mentor Eddie Graham in 2008, The Funk Brothers (Terry and Dory Funk, Jr.) in 2009, The Road Warriors in 2011, and longtime rivals The Four Horsemen in 2012.
A few weeks before WWE's 2007 broadcast of the Great American Bash, Rhodes returned to WWE television to feud with Randy Orton. At The Great American Bash, Orton defeated Rhodes in a Texas Bullrope match after Rhodes was nailed in the head with the cowbell; this was Rhodes' last match as a wrestler. The following night on Raw, after Orton defeated Rhodes' son Cody, Orton delivered a kick to Rhodes' head while he was trying to tend to his son. On December 10, 2007, on the Raw 15th Anniversary special episode, Rhodes was at ringside to see Cody and Hardcore Holly defeat Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch for the World Tag Team Championship. In August, Rhodes was the special guest host of Raw and booked a match between Cody and Randy Orton for Orton's WWE Championship with John Cena as the special guest referee.
Rhodes was the head writer and creative director for the weekly NXT Wrestling television broadcast. On September 12, 2013, he was removed as NXT Commissioner. Rhodes made his return to Raw on September 16, 2013 after accepting a "business proposition" from Stephanie McMahon in an attempt for WWE to rehire both his sons Cody and Dustin. After learning that McMahon would only rehire one son of his choosing, Rhodes turned down the offer and was subsequently knocked out by The Big Show on the orders of McMahon. Rhodes also appeared at Battleground in the corner of Cody and Dustin as they took on The Shield (Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns with Dean Ambrose at ringside) in a tag team match. The stipulation of the match would be that if the Rhodes Family won, Cody and Dustin got their jobs with the company back, but if they lose Dusty would be fired as an NXT trainer and none of them could appear on WWE programming ever again. The Rhodes brothers won the match, thus reinstating them to the roster and allowing Dusty to retain his position in NXT. During the match, Dusty got into an altercation with Ambrose and performed the Bionic Elbow on him.
Rhodes appeared on the February 16, 2015 edition of Raw, in an effort to reunite Goldust and Stardust, who were engaged in a conflict. Rhodes appeared at Fast Lane on February 22, in a backstage segment with Goldust. Rhodes' final appearance on WWE programming would be on March 28, when he appeared on the Hall of Fame: Live From the Red Carpet show.
A tribute to Dusty Rhodes took place after the July 6 episode of Raw on the WWE Network. Many WWE employees were trained by Dusty Rhodes at NXT.
Rhodes divorced his first wife, Sandra, and later married Michelle. He had four children: Dustin, Cody, Teil Runnels Gergel and Kristin Runnels Ditto. He had five grandchildren; Dakota, the daughter of Dustin and his ex-wife, Terri Runnels, Dalton and Dylan, children of Kristin and her husband Don Ditto, and Kellan and Maris, children of Teal Runnels Gergel. He also had a brother, Larry, and a sister, Connie.
On June 10, 2015, paramedics responded to Rhodes' home in Orlando, Florida, after getting a call reporting that he had fallen. They drove him to a nearby hospital, where he died the next day. A few days later, TMZ released Rhodes' 911 phone call in which the dispatcher was rude to his wife, causing her to hang up. It was met with backlash from fans towards the dispatcher.
At the 2015 Money in the Bank pay-per-view event, a ten-bell salute was given in honor of Rhodes, with the entire WWE roster and the McMahon family on the entrance ramp. The next night on Monday Night Raw, they honored him with a video tribute and a special after Raw on the WWE Network. At the NXT tapings following his death, he was honored with another ten-bell salute.
In his most famous promo, Rhodes said, "There were two bad people. One was John Wayne and he's dead, brother – and the other's right here." Wayne died on June 11, 1979, exactly 36 years before Rhodes' death, and also from stomach cancer.
- Entrance themes
- "Common Man Boogie" by Jimmy Hart and J.J. Maguire (WWF/E; 1989–1991, 2006 – June 11, 2015)
- "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger (WCW) (1994, 2001)
- "Rockhouse" by Jimmy Hart and H. Helm (WCW; used while a part of the New World Order) (1998)
- "This Is Why (I Sing The Blues)" by Reckless Fortune (ECW) (2000)
- "Midnight Rider" by Willie Nelson (ROH) (2003)
- "Kakutougi Theme" by Ryuichi Sakamoto (NJPW/Hustle) (1979–1980, 1992; NJPW) (2004; Hustle)
- "American Dream" by Freedom (NJPW) (1980–1982)
- "You Can't Judge a book by the Cover" by Hank Williams Jr. (NWA)
- "Leather" by Dale Oliver (TNA)
Championships and accomplishments
- Central States Wrestling
- Championship Wrestling from Florida
- NWA Brass Knuckles Championship (Florida version) (2 times)
- NWA Florida Bahamian Championship (1 time)
- NWA Florida Global Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Magnum T.A.
- NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship (12 times)
- NWA Florida Tag Team Championship (4 times) – with Dick Murdoch (1), Dick Slater (1), Bobo Brazil (1), and André the Giant (1)
- NWA Florida Television Championship (2 times)
- NWA Southern Heavyweight Championship (Florida version) (10 times)
- NWA United States Tag Team Championship (Florida version) (2 times) – with Bugsy McGraw (1) and Blackjack Mulligan (1)
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Georgia Championship Wrestling
- International Wrestling Alliance (Australia)
- IWA World Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Dick Murdoch
- Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling/Jim Crockett Promotions/World Championship Wrestling
- NWA United States Heayvweight Championship (1 time)
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- NWA World Six-Man Tag Team Championship (2 times) – with The Road Warriors
- NWA World Tag Team Championship (Mid-Atlantic version) (2 times) – with Dick Slater (1) and Manny Fernandez (1)
- NWA World Television Championship (3 times)
- Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament (1987) – with Nikita Koloff
- Bunkhouse Stampede (1985–1988)
- WCW Hall of Fame (Class of 1995)
- NWA Big Time Wrestling
- NWA Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling1
- NWA Mid-Pacific Promotions
- NWA San Francisco
- NWA Tri-State
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Feud of the Year (1987) with Nikita Koloff and The Road Warriors vs. Four Horsemen
- Match of the Year (1979) vs. Harley Race on August 21
- Match of the Year (1986) vs. Ric Flair in a cage match at The Great American Bash
- Most Popular Wrestler of the Year (1978, 1979, 1987)
- Stanley Weston Award (2013)
- Wrestler of the Year (1977, 1978)
- PWI ranked him No. 11 in the PWI Years in 2003
- World Championship Wrestling (Australia)
- World Wrestling Entertainment/WWE
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- Best Babyface (1980)
- Best Booker (1986)
- Most Charismatic (1982) tied with Ric Flair
- Most Embarrassing Wrestler (1990)
- Most Overrated (1987, 1988)
- Readers' Least Favorite Wrestler (1987, 1988)
- Worst Feud of the Year (1988) vs. Tully Blanchard
- Worst Gimmick (1988)
- Worst Television Announcer (1997)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1996)
1 This Mid-Atlantic promotion operates out of the same region as the original and has revived some of the championships that it once used. However, it is not to be confused with the promotion that was once owned by Jim Crockett, Jr. and sold to Ted Turner in 1988. That promotion went on to be renamed World Championship Wrestling.
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- NWA North American Heavyweight Title (Hawaii version) history At wrestling-titles.com
- NWA United States Heavyweight Title (San Francisco) history At wrestling-titles.com
- North American Heavyweight Title (Mid-South) history At wrestling-titles.com
- NWA United States Tag Team Title (Tri-State version) history At wrestling-titles.com
- NWF World Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- "The PWI Awards". Pro Wrestling Illustrated 34 (2): 46. 2014.
- "Pro Wrestling Illustrated Top 500 – PWI Years". Wrestling Information Archive. Retrieved September 6, 2010.
- IWA World Tag Team Title (Australia) history At wrestling-titles.com
- WWF/WWE Hall of Fame history At wrestling-titles.com
- Meltzer, Dave (January 26, 2015). "Jan. 26, 2015 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: 2014 awards issue w/ results & Dave’s commentary, Conor McGregor, and much more". Wrestling Observer Newsletter (Campbell, California): 29–35. ISSN 1083-9593.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dusty Rhodes (wrestler).|
- Dusty Rhodes at the Internet Movie Database
- WWE Hall of Fame Profile
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame Profile