Dusty Rhodes (wrestler)

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Dusty Rhodes
Dusty Rhodes cropped and retouched.jpg
Rhodes circa 2008
Birth nameVirgil Riley Runnels Jr.
Born(1945-10-11)October 11, 1945
Austin, Texas, United States [1]
DiedJune 11, 2015(2015-06-11) (aged 69)
Orlando, Florida, United States
Cause of death Kidney failure
Sandra Runnels
(m. 1965;div. 1975)

Michelle Runnels(m. 1978)
Children4, including Dustin Runnels, Cody Runnels
Family Brandi Rhodes (daughter-in-law)
Fred Ottman (brother-in-law)
Jerry Sags (brother-in-law)
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Dusty Rhodes [2]
Dusty Runnels [3]
The Midnight Rider
Billed height6 ft 2 in (188 cm) [4]
Billed weight275 lb (125 kg) [4]
Billed fromAustin, Texas [4]
Diablo Canyon, Colorado
Trained by Joe Blanchard [3] [5]
Debut1967 [6]
Retired2010 [7]

Virgil Riley Runnels Jr. (October 11, 1945 – June 11, 2015), better known as "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, was an American professional wrestler, booker, and trainer who most notably worked for the National Wrestling Alliance, Jim Crockett Promotions, and the World Wrestling Federation, later known as the WWE. Following his retirement from wrestling, 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". [8]

Professional wrestling entertainment form that mimics contact sports

Professional wrestling is a form of performance art and entertainment that combines athletics with theatrical performance. It takes the form of events, held by touring companies, that mimic a title-match combat sport. The unique form of sport portrayed is fundamentally based on classical and "catch" wrestling, with modern additions of striking attacks, strength-based holds and throws and acrobatic maneuvers. Much of these derive from the influence of various international martial arts. An additional aspect of combat with improvised weaponry is sometimes included to varying degrees.

National Wrestling Alliance Professional wrestling organization

The National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) is an American professional wrestling organization. Formed in 1948, it was for a time the most-recognized brand and largest governing body in professional wrestling. Under the control of the NWA Board of Directors, the organization acted as a governing body for the NWA's national territory system which recognized one world champion, participated in talent exchanges and collectively protected the territorial integrity of member promotions.

Jim Crockett Promotions Professional wrestling promotion

Jim Crockett Promotions Inc. was a family-owned professional wrestling promotion headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, United States. Founded in 1931, the promotion emerged as a cornerstone of the National Wrestling Alliance. By the 1980s, Jim Crockett Promotions was, along with the World Wrestling Federation, one of the two largest promotions in the United States. The Crockett family sold a majority interest in the promotion to Turner Broadcasting System in 1988, resulting in the creation of World Championship Wrestling.


Rhodes was a three-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, and during his time in Jim Crockett Promotions, later known as WCW, he was a United States Heavyweight Champion, and multi-time World Television, World Tag Team and World Six-Man Tag Team Champion. He also won many regional championships, and is one of seven men inducted into each of the WWE, WCW, Professional Wrestling, and Wrestling Observer Newsletter Halls of Fame. His sons, Dustin and Cody, both pursued careers in professional wrestling and performed for WWE.

NWA World Heavyweight Championship

The NWA World Heavyweight Championship is a world heavyweight championship in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). Although formally established in 1948, its lineage has been traditionally traced back to the first World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship, which traces its lineage to the title first awarded to George Hackenschmidt in 1905. This effectively makes it the oldest surviving wrestling championship in the world. The title has been competed for in the World Wide Wrestling Federation, New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), Eastern Championship Wrestling, Ring of Honor (ROH), and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.

World Championship Wrestling Former American professional wrestling company

World Championship Wrestling Inc. (WCW) is a defunct American professional wrestling promotion. For much of its existence, WCW was one of the top professional wrestling promotions in the United States, and was a significant competitor to the dominant World Wrestling Federation.

WWE United States Championship Championship created by the National Wrestling Alliance, promoted by the American professional wrestling promotion WWE and previously World Championship Wrestling

The WWE United States Championship is a professional wrestling championship promoted by the American professional wrestling promotion WWE on the Raw brand. It is one of two secondary titles for WWE's main roster, along with the WWE Intercontinental Championship, which is on the SmackDown brand. The current champion is Samoa Joe, who is in his second reign.

Professional wrestling career

Early career (1967–1974)

After graduating from Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth, Rhodes played baseball and football for West Texas State (now known as West Texas A&M University). Turning professional, Rhodes tried out for the American Football League's Boston Patriots but was cut. He then played for the Hartford Charter Oaks in the Continental Football League until the team folded. [9]

Arlington Heights High School

Arlington Heights High School is a secondary school located in Fort Worth, Texas, United States. The school, which serves grades 9 through 12, is a part of the Fort Worth Independent School District. Its mascot is the Yellow Jacket and its colors are blue and gold.

Baseball Sport

Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two opposing teams who take turns batting and fielding. The game proceeds when a player on the fielding team, called the pitcher, throws a ball which a player on the batting team tries to hit with a bat. The objectives of the offensive team are to hit the ball into the field of play, and to run the bases—having its runners advance counter-clockwise around four bases to score what are called "runs". The objective of the defensive team is to prevent batters from becoming runners, and to prevent runners' advance around the bases. A run is scored when a runner legally advances around the bases in order and touches home plate. The team that scores the most runs by the end of the game is the winner.

American football Team field sport

American football, referred to as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular field with goalposts at each end. The offense, which is the team controlling the oval-shaped football, attempts to advance down the field by running with or passing the ball, while the defense, which is the team without control of the ball, aims to stop the offense's advance and aims to take control of the ball for themselves. The offense must advance at least ten yards in four downs, or plays, and otherwise they turn over the football to the defense; if the offense succeeds in advancing ten yards or more, they are given a new set of four downs. Points are primarily scored by advancing the ball into the opposing team's end zone for a touchdown or kicking the ball through the opponent's goalposts for a field goal. The team with the most points at the end of a game wins.

In 1967, Rhodes saw an advertisement in the newspaper for Tony Santos’ professional wrestling promotion Big Time Wrestling, based in Boston. Rhodes drove to Boston, and despite not having any wrestling experience, bluffed his way into working for the company by using his real life friendships with Bobby Duncum and the Funk brothers. Billed as Dusty Runnels, [6] one of his first matches was for the BTW World Heavyweight title against champion Frank Scarpa in the Boston Arena. Having little money, Rhodes slept in his car and spent Thanksgiving with Rufus R. Jones in a Boston soup kitchen. [9]

Boston Capital city of Massachusetts, United States

Boston is the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States. The city proper covers 48 square miles (124 km2) with an estimated population of 694,583 in 2018, making it also the most populous city in New England. Boston is the seat of Suffolk County as well, although the county government was disbanded on July 1, 1999. The city is the economic and cultural anchor of a substantially larger metropolitan area known as Greater Boston, a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) home to a census-estimated 4.8 million people in 2016 and ranking as the tenth-largest such area in the country. As a combined statistical area (CSA), this wider commuting region is home to some 8.2 million people, making it the sixth most populous in the United States.

Bobby Edward Duncum Sr. is an American former professional wrestler from the late 1960s to late 1980s, performing for the World Wide Wrestling Federation, National Wrestling Alliance and American Wrestling Association. He is the father of the late wrestler Bobby Duncum Jr.. His son died of an accidental overdose in January 2000.

Thanksgiving (United States) holiday celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November

Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It originated as a harvest festival. Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789, with a proclamation by George Washington after a request by Congress. Thomas Jefferson chose not to observe the holiday, and its celebration was intermittent until the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, when Thanksgiving became a federal holiday in 1863, during the American Civil War. Lincoln proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens," to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the date was changed to the fourth Thursday in November, an innovation that endures to this day. Together with Christmas and the New Year, Thanksgiving is a part of the broader fall–winter holiday season in the U.S.

Rhodes moved on to Fritz Von Erich's Texas territory World Class Championship Wrestling in 1968, at that time also called Big Time Wrestling. It was in Texas where Rhodes first adopted the ring name "Dusty Rhodes". [10] Upon meeting Rhodes, Gary Hart suggested that he change his ring name to "Lonesome Rhodes", a character Andy Griffith portrayed in the film A Face in the Crowd . Rhodes reportedly replied: "Well...I don’t plan on being 'Lonesome'. I think I’ll stick with Dusty." [11] Hart took an immediate liking to Rhodes and convinced Von Erich of the young wrestler's potential. Rhodes became a rule-breaking heel with Hart as his manager, teaming with Don Jardine, better known as The Spoiler.

Fritz Von Erich American professional wrestler

Jack Barton Adkisson Sr., better known by his ring name Fritz Von Erich, was an American professional wrestler, carnival attraction, wrestling promoter, and the patriarch of the Von Erich family. He was also the owner of the World Class Championship Wrestling territory.

World Class Championship Wrestling American professional wrestling promotion

World Class Championship Wrestling(WCCW), also known as the World Class Wrestling Association (WCWA), was an American professional wrestling promotion headquartered in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. Originally owned by promoter Ed McLemore, by 1966 it was run by Southwest Sports, Inc., whose president, Jack Adkisson, was better known as wrestler Fritz Von Erich. Beginning as a territory of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), it went independent in 1986 in a bid to become a major national promotion, but was unsuccessful in its attempts and eventually went out of business in 1990. Rights to the pre-1989 WCCW tape library belong to WWE and select episodes from 1982 to 1988 are available on the WWE Network.

Gary Hart (wrestler) American professional wrestler and manager

Gary Richard Williams was an American professional wrestling manager, as well as a professional wrestler in his early career, best known by his ring name Gary Hart. Hart was one of the pivotal driving forces behind what is considered to be World Class Championship Wrestling's "golden years" in the early 1980s.

Later in 1968, Rhodes left Texas and entered the Kansas City territory, tagging with fellow Texan Dick Murdoch to form the tag team The Texas Outlaws. [10] [11] The team traveled both nationally and internationally, appearing in Big Time Wrestling (Texas), NWA Western States Sports (Texas), NWA Detroit, National Wrestling Federation (NWF), Championship Wrestling from Florida, World Championship Wrestling (Australia), Tri-State Wrestling, the American Wrestling Association (AWA), and International Wrestling Enterprise (Japan). [4] [10] [12]

Heart of America Sports Attractions, also known as the Midwest Wrestling Association, Central States Wrestling and the World Wrestling Alliance, was an American professional wrestling promotion that ran shows mainly in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa. Due to the promotion's main office and base of operations being in Kansas City, Missouri the territory was often referred to simply as "Kansas City". The promotion existed from July 1948 until it closed in 1988. The territory was one of the original territories of the National Wrestling Alliance with two of the six "founding fathers" of the NWA promoting in it.

Dick Murdoch American professional wrestler

Hoyt Richard "Dick" Murdoch was an American professional wrestler.

Tag team Team of multiple professional wrestlers

Tag team wrestling is a type of professional wrestling in which matches are contested between teams of multiple wrestlers. A tag team may be made up of wrestlers who normally wrestle in singles competition, but more commonly are made of established teams who wrestle regularly as a unit and have a team name and identity.

National Wrestling Alliance territories (1974–1984)

Rhodes performing his finishing maneuver, the bionic elbow, in 1979 Dusty Rhodes Bionic Elbow 2.jpg
Rhodes performing his finishing maneuver, the bionic elbow, in 1979
Rising to prominence in the era of steroids and bleached-blond hair, Rhodes was the rare top-end superstar who didn't possess the hulking, bodybuilder physique. In fact, Dusty's was quite the opposite, with his rotund belly and conspicuous red blotch on his right side. Rhodes' figure was a huge key to his success at the box office as the ultimate sympathetic babyface. Chubby and loveable, Rhodes was never afraid to endure an incredible scripted beating in order to draw the most heat for his heel opponents.

—Brian Campbell, ESPN [13]

Rhodes did not have a typical wrestlers' physique, but he was well known for his personality, charisma and interviews. [12] [14] In 1974, Rhodes's character became a hero after tag team partner Pak Song and manager Gary Hart turned on him 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. [15]

In 1977, Rhodes wrestled for Vince McMahon, Sr.'s World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) on and off for lengthy periods of time until 1983. During that time, Rhodes main-evented twice in Madison Square Garden, both times challenging for the WWWF Heavyweight Championship against reigning champion Superstar Billy Graham. Rhodes won the first match on September 26 via countout, [16] [17] and lost the second, a Texas Death match, on October 24. [18] Graham won after a mid-ring collision, falling on Rhodes for the three count. [19]

Jim Crockett Promotions (1985–1989)

Rhodes battling Harley Race at an NWA event Dusty Rhodes Bionic Elbow.jpg
Rhodes battling Harley Race at an NWA event

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. 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 two time 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 Heavyweight Championship three times; twice by defeating Race and once by defeating Flair. [20] In October 1985, during his feud with Flair, Rhodes gave an interview that became known as his "Hard Times" promo, [13] arguably his most popular promo:

"First of all, I would to thank the many, many fans throughout this country that wrote cards and letters to Dusty Rhodes, The American Dream, while I was down. Secondly, I want to thank Jim Crockett Promotions for waitin’ and takin’ the time ‘cause I know how important it was, Starrcade '85 it is to the wrestling fans, it is to Jim Crockett promotions, and Dusty Rhodes The American Dream. With that wait, I got what I wanted, Ric Flair the World's Heavyweight Champion. I don’t have to say a whole lot more about the way I feel about Ric Flair; no respect, no honor. There is no honor amongst thieves in the first place.
He put hard times on Dusty Rhodes and his family. You don’t know what hard times are, daddy. Hard times are when the textile workers around this country are out of work, they got four or five kids and can’t pay their wages, can’t buy their food. Hard times are when the auto workers are out of work and they tell ‘em to go home. And hard times are when a man has worked at a job for thirty years, thirty years, and they give him a watch, kick him in the butt and say "hey a computer took your place, daddy", that's hard times! That's hard times! And Ric Flair you put hard times on this country by takin’ Dusty Rhodes out, that's hard times. And we all had hard times together, and I admit, I don’t look like the athlete of the day supposed to look. My belly's just a lil’ big, my heiny's a lil’ big, but brother, I am bad. And they know I’m bad.
There were two bad people… One was John Wayne and he's dead brother, and the other's right here. Nature Boy Ric Flair, the World's Heavyweight title belongs to these people. I’mma reach out right now, I want you at home to know my hand is touchin’ your hand for the gathering of the biggest body of people in this country, in this universe, all over the world now, reachin’ out because the love that was given me and this time I will repay you now. Because I will be the next World's Heavyweight Champion of this hard time blues. Dusty Rhodes tour, ‘85.
And Ric Flair, Nature Boy… Let me leave you with this. One way to hurt Ric Flair, is to take what he cherishes more than anything in the world and that's the World's Heavyweight title. I’m gon’ take it, I been there twice. This time when I take it daddy, I’m gon’ take it for you. Let's gather for it. Don’t let me down now, ‘cause I came back for you, for that man upstairs that died 10-12 years ago and never got the opportunity to see a real World's Champion. And I’m proud of you, thank God I have you, and I love you. Love ya!". [21] [22]

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". [13]

During his stint as booker, JCP were engulfed in aggressive competition with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). [12] 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. [23] 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. [12] [13]

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. [24] [25]

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. [26] 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, causing a severe laceration. [26] Rhodes was then fired from WCW. [26] Following this, Rhodes returned to Florida to compete in Championship Wrestling from Florida (CWF), where he captured the PWF Heavyweight Championship and also returned to the AWA 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. [20] [27] Rhodes was introduced to WWF audiences through a series of vignettes where he would gregariously and enthusiastically perform working class roles (including that of a plumber, butcher's apprentice, gas station attendant, and pizza delivery man), eventually being recognized by others at the end of the skit ("Hey! Aren't you...?"). He was managed by Sapphire, who was intended to represent the "common woman". [28] 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 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 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, making his first appearance only 11 days after his last WWF appearance at the Royal Rumble. [27] Booking disagreements between Rhodes and Ric Flair led to the latter's return to the WWF and the Big Gold Belt controversy. [27] 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 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 1998, 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 turning heel in the process. Hall then pointed to Rhodes as he revealed an nWo shirt. [29] 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 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. This lasted until the November 30, 1998 episode of Monday Nitro, when Rhodes, who was guest refereeing a match between Barry Windham and Dean Malenko after being appointed by Eric Bischoff, defected back to WCW by disqualifying Windham and awarding the match to Malenko. Bischoff then fired Rhodes.

He left WCW in 2000 and went to Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) where he put over former ECW World Champion, "King of Old School" Steve Corino. [4] Rhodes returned once more to WCW, re-igniting his feud with Ric Flair.

Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling and other promotions (2000–2003)

After both WCW and ECW were bought by WWE (WWF), Rhodes went to compete in his own promotion, Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling with ex-WCW and ECW superstars in the Georgia, Florida and Tennessee.

During this time he feuded with Terry Funk and Steve Corino in other territories.

In 2002, Rhodes competed in Pro Pain Pro Wreslting based in Philadelphia feuding with Kevin Sullivan. This would lead to a Texas Bullrope match on November 23 in which Rhodes defeated Sullivan.

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. on the January 15 NWATNA PPV, Rhodes, Road Warriors and Jeff Jarrett lost to Vince Russo and Triple X. on the January 22 NWATNA PPV, Rhodes called out Nikita Koloff to reform the Superpowers, but Nikita turns on him. On the February 26 NWATNA PPV, Rhodes and Vader defeated Don and Ron Harris by disqualification. On the March 19 NWATNA PPV, Rhodes, Jeff Jarrett and D-Lo Brown defeated Erik Watts, Brian Lawler and David Flair in a six-man tag team match a week later Rhodes defeated David Flair in a Bunkhouse match. On the April 9 NWATNA PPV, Rhodes defeated Brian Lawler in a Ladder match. On the August 13 NWATNA PPV, Rhodes and America's Most Wanted defeated Glenn Gilbertti and Simon Diamond and Johnny Swinger the following week Rhodes lost a bullrope to Glen Gilbertti after Christopher Daniels interfered. On the October 1 NWATNA PPV, Rhodes and Jarrett defeated A.J. Styles and Russo. The following week Rhodes got a shot at the NWA title against Styles but lost when he passed out during the figure-4. On the October 15 NWATNA PPV, Rhodes and America's Most Wanted defeated Legend, Sonny Siaki and Ekmo Fatu. On the November 26 NWATNA PPV, Rhodes and Jarrett wrestled to a no contest in a Lumberjack Fan Strap match. After taking a few months off Rhodes returned on May 19, 2004 where he and James Storm defeated Dallas and Kid Kash in a “Bunkhouse Brawl” this led to the duo getting a shot at the NWA World Tag Team Championship on June 2 but they failed to win the titles. On the June 4 episode of Impact, Rhodes gave an interview with Mike Tenay but got punked out by NWA champ Jeff Jarrett. On the July 14 NWATNA PPV, Rhodes, Larry Zbyszko and 3Live Kru defeated Jarrett, Ken Shamrock, Hernandez, Chad Collyer and Onyx. On the August 25 NWATNA PPV, Russo suspended Rhodes from TNA and banned him from the Asylum a few days later on the August 27 episode of Impact, Rhodes showed up in the front row, and got attacked by Scott D’Amore and ejected again. On the September 1 NWATNA PPV, Rhodes under a mask billed as Midnight Rider teamed with Konnan and B.G. James to defeat Team Canada (Eric Young and Bobby Roode and Johnny Devine). On the September 8 NWATNA PPV, Rhodes defeated Scott D'Amore with Russo as the special guest referee. On the October 29 episode of Impact, Rhodes started his campaign to replace Vince Russo as the Director of Authority. Later, he became the Director of Authority at their November 7, 2004 pay-per-view, Victory Road. [30] At the same time, Rhodes acted as head booker and writer. On the April 8, 2005 episode of Impact, Rhodes made the on-air decision to make all matches at Lockdown PPV in Six Sides of Steel. Then on the April 29 episode of Impact, Rhodes announced that MMA fighter Tito Ortiz will referee the World title match at Hard Justice (2005). 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 (2003–2006)

Rhodes facing Kid Kash in Ballpark Brawl Dusty-kid XII.jpg
Rhodes facing Kid Kash in Ballpark Brawl

Rhodes made his first indy circuit appearance on April 12, 2003 for Ring of Honor (ROH), when he participated in the "I Quit Bunkhouse Riot" as a member of Homicide's team. [31] [32] On December 12, Rhodes defeated Jerry Lawler at an International Wrestling Cartel show that also featured Mick Foley as the special guest referee. [33] 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. [2]

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, [34] 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. [2]

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. [35] 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. [2]

On July 15, 2005, Rhodes participated in Ballpark Brawl IV in a victory over Kid Kash. [36] 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. [37]

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. [2] Rhodes made his final major appearances on the independent circuit before returning full-time to WWE in mid-2006, defeating Jerry Lawler by disqualification at a Southern Championship Wrestling (SCW) show and also earning a victory over Steve Corino in a Texas Bullrope match for Big Time Wrestling. [2]

Return to WWE

Rhodes at the 2009 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, inducting the Funk Brothers Dusty Rhodes.jpg
Rhodes at the 2009 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, inducting the Funk Brothers
Rhodes at the 2012 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, inducting the Four Horsemen Flickr - simononly - WWE Hall of Fame 2012 - The Four Horsemen.jpg
Rhodes at the 2012 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, inducting the Four Horsemen

Final matches and retirement (2005–2010)

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 Raw Homecoming in which he, along with other legends, beat down Rob Conway, to whom Rhodes delivered a signature Bionic Elbow . [38]

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, 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. [39]

Rhodes was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on March 31, 2007 by his two sons, Dustin and Cody. [40] 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. [4] 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. [41] [42] [43] At The Great American Bash, Orton defeated Rhodes in a Texas Bullrope match after hitting Rhodes with a cowbell. [44] This would be Runnels' final WWE match, officially retiring for the first time soon after at age 61. [45] 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. [46] On the December 10 episode of Raw, Rhodes was at ringside to see Cody and Hardcore Holly defeat Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch for the World Tag Team Championship. [47]

On August 31, 2009, during the time Cody was part of The Legacy with Randy Orton and Ted DiBiase, Rhodes was the special guest host of Raw and booked a match between Cody and Orton for Orton's WWE Championship with John Cena as the special guest referee. It quickly turned out to be a ruse with Dusty's intention to allow Legacy to attack Cena, as well as D-Generation X (Triple H and Shawn Michaels) once they came to make the save. Despite the four standing tall together, Orton quickly gave an RKO to Rhodes, and though initially angered, Cody fell in line behind Orton. [48]

On July 9, 2010, Rhodes briefly came out of retirement and wrestled the final match of his career at an FCW live event, where he teamed up with Cody and Goldust to defeat the team of Caylen Croft, Curt Hawkins, & Trent Barreta in a 6-man tag team match. [49] He would again retire shortly after.

Sporadic appearances (2010–2015)

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 Big Show on the orders of McMahon. [50] Rhodes also appeared at Battleground in the corner of Cody and Goldust as they took on The Shield (Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns with Dean Ambrose at ringside) in a tag team match. [51] The stipulation of the match would be that if the Rhodes Family won, Cody and Goldust 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.[ citation needed ]

Rhodes appeared on the February 16, 2015 episode of Raw, in an effort to reunite Goldust and Stardust, who were engaged in a conflict. Rhodes appeared at Fastlane 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.

Personal life

Runnels was married to Sandra from 1965 to 1975. In 1978 he married Michelle Rubio; the couple were married for 37 years until his death in 2015. He had four children: Dustin, Kristin, Teil and Cody Runnels. [4] [52] [53] [54] He had five grandchildren; [54] Dakota, the daughter of Dustin and his ex-wife, Terri Boatright, [55] [56] Dalton and Dylan, children of Kristin and her husband Don Ditto, [52] and Kellan and Maris, children of Teil and her husband Kevin Gergel. [54] He also had a brother, Larry, and a sister, Connie. [54]

Illness and death

In his later years, Rhodes suffered a kidney failure. [1]

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. Rhodes was cremated after his death, and his ashes were spread in November 2015 by his son Dustin on a ranch that Rhodes loved to visit. [57]

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 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 August 2015, WWE's NXT introduced the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, a tag team tournament in honor of Rhodes. [58] The tournament has been held annually since, with three editions having taken place as of March 2019. [59]

Championships and accomplishments

Rhodes was a three-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion Dusty Rhodes NWA Champion.jpg
Rhodes was a three-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion

1This Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, while currently operating out of the same region of the United States and having revised some of the championships used by the original Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, is not the same promotion that was once owned by Jim Crockett Jr. and subsequently sold to Ted Turner in 1988. It is just another NWA-affiliated promotion.


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