Published on June 11th, 2015 | by Pro Wrestling Stories0
‘THE COMMON MAN FOR THE COMMON FOLK’
The American Dream, DUSTY RHODES
(October 12, 1945 – June 11, 2015)
On June 11th, 2015, the pro wrestling world was shaken with the news of the untimely passing of wrestling great, ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes. Throughout his almost forty years in the business, Rhodes became known as a man of the people, the common man for the common folk. He never had the physique of a wrestling god, though his charisma and innate ability on the microphone more than made up for that. Dusty had an impact on others, in the business and not. Just listen to any of the many podcasts out there these days with current and past talent. Whenever Dusty is brought up or mentioned, words of kindness are shared as are Dusty impressions, with his southern drawl and trademark lisp in tow.
Gary Hart, who had been attributed to bringing Dusty into the forefront of the pro wrestling scene almost forty years ago, had this to say on meeting Rhodes for the first time back in 1968:
“I came into the Fort Worth dressing room for a KTVT taping, and we saw this 260-pound blonde headed kid with granny glasses on reading a book of poetry. We went over, said hello to him, and he introduced himself as Virgil Runnels. During the course of our conversation, he mentioned that his ring name was Dusty Rhodes. I’m a big fan of the movie “A Face in the Crowd,” where Andy Griffith starred as Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, so I suggested, “What about calling yourself ‘Lonesome Rhodes’?”
“Well…I don’t plan on being ‘Lonesome.’” Dusty said, clearly unimpressed. “I think I’ll stick with Dusty.”
When it came time for Dusty’s match, I went out to see him wrestle. [I] liked his look, but that was all [I] knew.
I can’t say I was blown away by his finesse, because he wasn’t very good at the mechanics of wrestling, and only knew how to do a clothesline and a hammerlock. I was most taken with his charisma and energy.”
Despite this, Hart saw something in Rhodes. As the story goes, Dusty was pegged to do the job for Grizzly Smith that night. Hart knew that if this happened, Rhodes would forever be known as a jobber in Fritz Von Erich’s Texas territory, so Hart begged and pleaded with Fritz to change the outcome of the match. Finally, after much pestering, while TV tapings were underway, Fritz allowed Hart to go out there and change the finish of the match as it was taking place. Hart saw the potential in Rhodes right away and from there, Dusty Rhodes was made in the Texas territory.
In this installment of Pro Wrestling Stories, we put together a range of stories which celebrate the life of Virgil Runnels, aka Dusty Rhodes.