Published on May 29th, 2015 | by Pro Wrestling Stories1
DUSTIN RUNNELS: The Art of Wrestling Before Ego
A Comprehensive Look at the Man Behind the Paint of Goldust
In celebration of his reaching seven years of being clean and sober from the bondage of drugs, this week’s installment of Pro Wrestling Stories is dedicated to Dustin Runnels, also known as Goldust in WWE and ‘The Natural’ Dustin Rhodes in WCW.
This is a throwback to the pre-Goldust era of his career when he was known as ‘The Natural’, fighting alongside greats such as Ricky Steamboat, ‘Stunning’ Steve Austin, Barry Windham, Arn Anderson and many others. Each of the stories featured in this edition come from his highly recommended autobiography, Cross Rhodes: Goldust, Out of the Darkness.
An utter sincerity is shown throughout the book which gives a dynamic you would never have known between him and his father, brother Cody and ex-wife Terri (WWE’s Marlena). He also goes into detail on his alcohol and drug abuse and how he overcame them. Again, a highly suggested read!
Rhodes Describes His Experience of Going an Hour in a Match for the First Time the Guys Who Taught Him the Art of Wrestling
“There were a lot of guys who helped me along the way. Mike Graham and Steve Keirn taught me how to work and hone my trade during those years in Florida. Then I was fortunate to get hooked up with guys like Barry Windham, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton, and Larry Zbyszko. Those guys taught me the nitty-gritty of professional wrestling. A lot of my work is like Barry’s. He is so smooth and so good. Thanks to what I learned from Barry, I work smooth as well. Arn, Bobby, and Larry were guys who did things the right way. They paid attention to detail and they were passionate about the business. Those guys all made me a bigger star than I was at the time simply because they were so good and they cared about what they were doing. They knew how to work the crowd and at the same time they were taking a kid like me to the next level. Ricky Steamboat taught me how to get beat up. It might not sound that difficult, but there is a fine art to showing people you are in pain and being able to completely sell that emotion. He taught me when to move, when to stay down on the mat, when to show my face, and how to do it in the most convincing manner.
When I wrestled with Arn or Ricky Steamboat, sometimes we would go for an hour. We did that several times. One night at the Omni in Atlanta, we went for nearly an hour and we never lost the fans. Arn, Ricky, and Bobby were just that good. They knew how to operate in the ring, how to tell a story and keep it compelling for sixty minutes. They were remarkable. They didn’t run around the ring trying to take time off the clock. Those guys worked.
That night Ricky and I were fighting Bobby Eaton and Arn Anderson, who were the Tag-Team Champions at the time. It was a live event and the Omni was sold out. Since there wasn’t any television, we were supposed to go an hour and end the match in a draw. As I said, those guys were so good that I wasn’t worried about anything. With about ten minutes left in the match, I was blown sky high. By that I mean that I was sucking wind in a way that felt like I was having a heart attack. I couldn’t catch my breath. I was huffing and puffing, gasping for air.
Both Arn and Bobby were looking at me like, “What is wrong with this kid? Is he dying or something?” Meanwhile, I was freaking out. Literally, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t get any air. It probably looked like I was dying because that’s pretty much how I felt. We had spent so much time building up to the final tag that I was spent. At about the eight-minute mark, Arn said, “You guys are going to win the title tonight.” We switched the planned finish over the last few minutes because I had freaked out. That was the first time I had ever gone beyond twenty-five or thirty minutes in a match, and I was blown out by all the work. The guys were looking at one another, tagging in and out saying, “What’s wrong with this guy? What’s going on?” They would look at me and say, “Just breathe. Take a breath.” Then I’d scream back, “I can’t. I can’t breathe. Oh, my God.” It felt like I was being suffocated. Finally somebody said, “Just do something.” That’s when I rolled over and tagged with Ricky. At that point I knew what they were thinking. “Now what are we going to do? We have built up a hell of a match and Dustin just screwed up the whole thing.” They had to improvise and let us win at that point because we had every person in the Omni on their feet. They were ready for us to win the title and we couldn’t let them down. When the match ended and we all got back behind the curtain, the guys said, “What happened to you, man?” They weren’t upset or anything like that. We had a really good match, which was all they cared about. Ending it the way we did was probably the best outcome possible for the fans.
I don’t know how they did it, though. I don’t know if I could have done it without them. I’ve always believed you are only as good as the other person in the ring with you. And they made me better, no question about it. I’m not saying it’s a lost art, but those guys were different.”
WATCH Ricky Steamboat & Dustin Rhodes vs Arn Anderson & Larry Zbyszko (Tag Team Championship match, WCW Clash of the Champions. November 19, 1991)
[Not the match described above as that was during a non-televised event, but a great example of guys who knew the art of professional wrestling.]