Induction: Dustin Runnels – Cuckoldust

27 Submitted by on Thu, 31 August 2017, 20:41

WWF, 1998

One of my favorite parts of Raw these days – and that is a small list, let me tell you – is the return of Goldust to his roots as a mysterious film aficionado rather than as wacky comic relief. 

See, over the course of just the first three years of his character’s run…

…the bizarre, androgynous movie critic lost much of his mystique…

…evolving into a gay sexual predator movie critic…

…then a secret transvestite movie critic…

…before coming out of the closet as a heterosexual family man…

…then abandoning his family to become just a blatantly weird guy who wore ball gags and diapers to the ring.

All those character tweaks would be enough to wear anyone out, so in May 1998, Goldust burned his costume, blaming Vince McMahon’s sick imagination for ruining his career and life. The crowd was… well, less than sympathetic.

Shedding his former ring persona and wrestling under his real name didn’t lead to instant success, though.

The next week, Dustin Runnels lost to Dude Love. Thus, for the next 30 days (per a pre-match stipulation) he had to wrestle for Paul Heyman. No, not really, but he still had to wrestle without collecting a paycheck.

Runnels’s hard luck continued until, with the assist of a distraction by Sable, he beat Marc Mero and thanked Jesus Christ for the victory.

Show of hands: who here thought this gimmick would be executed tastefully?

His ensuing matches saw Runnels, who eschewed entrance music, pray before the bell…

…point to heaven…

…and offer handshakes to his opponents both before and after the match…

…which did not go over well with them.

Nor did Dustin’s heavy-handed proselytizing go over well with Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross.

While he would never quite lay it on as thick as he did on commentary that night, Runnels didn’t win many new fans the next month when he prayed for the audience before the Fully Loaded bikini contest (a very physical bikini contest, as JR predicted).

The born-again Christian Dustin began proclaiming, “He is coming back,” wearing the slogan on his clothes…

…and displaying it on signs as he marched through the crowd. This “He is coming back” business perplexed Jerry Lawler for some reason. “Who’s ‘he’, JR?”

JR wouldn’t say it outright, but the answer was obvious:

Shane McMahon wasn’t too quick on the uptake, either regarding whom the scripture-quoting born-again Christian Runnels might be talking about, but JR gave him a straight answer:

“I think it’s Dustin’s new spiritual…

“…

“…force.”

In the plainest of terms, Dustin Runnels was “playing for a different coach” and “dancing to the beat of a different and more omnipotent drummer”.

Get it? Like, God or something.

The turning point of this angle came after Val Venis’s so-called castration, the reaction to which was divided even within the WWF.

Some, like Mick Foley, took a very bold stand against it:

Others, like, for example, WWF owner Vince McMahon, didn’t see what the fuss was about:

(By the way, Vince was technically right to mock critics accusing him of portraying castration on his television show: this was not a “castration”, but rather an emasculation, or more specifically, a penectomy. In wrestling terms, it had to do with strudel, not grapefruits).

Before Val Venis’s follow-up segment with John Bobbitt, Runnels aired a PSA encouraging viewers to instead watch a special on reptiles on the Discovery Channel, closing with an assurance that “he” (or, if you will, “He”) was “coming back”.

Sure, this was an obvious jab at the many uptight wackos criticizing the WWF for its supposedly lewd content, but you have to wonder why on this night Runnels singled out Val’s post-emasculation press conference with Bobbitt as particularly objectionable.

Why not speak up before the match that Vader forfeited in exchange for group sex with three prostitutes?

Or before the match that LOD forfeited due to Hawk being too intoxicated to walk?

(Let alone attempt a spin-aroonie)

Or before the segment where DX used the words “jack-off” exactly 19 times before mooning the audience?

Anyway, like I said, what a bunch of uptight wackos.

But perhaps a better question was why the wholesome Dustin would make up a group whose initials spelled, “EAT ME”?

Probably the same reason the super-serious Alberta native Lance Storm would name a championship, the “Saskatchewan Hardcore International Title”:

A week later, before another Val Venis segment, Dustin again told us “He” was coming back via another PSA

…this time encouraging viewers to stop watching Raw and to read a good book like The Bible.

He found this preferable to watching Venis shoot a white, viscous liquid at his ex-lover and her husband with a pink Super Soaker. Prude.

As “His” return drew nearer, the evangelist’s campaign against Venis continued, with the adult film star now responding in kind each new step of the way.

Runnels picketed Val’s matches with one of his signs reading, “He’s coming back”…

…so Venis picketed Dustin’s matches with a sign reading, “I have come” (in the sexual sense!).

Runnels attacked Venis after his match …

…so Venis filmed himself having sex with Runnels’s wife and made Runnels watch it.

Here’s where you’d expect me to post an image macro of Ron Burgundy saying, “Well that escalated quickly”, but we’re all better than that, aren’t we?

The first movie, “The Preacher’s Wife”…

…and Val’s ensuing emotional torture of Dustin drew big cheers from the crowd for some twisted reason. True, Dustin was the one who left Terri for Luna in the first place in 1997, but much of Raw’s audience hadn’t even been watching way back then.

In all, Venis made three “films” with Terri Runnels, the first of which aired during a TV-PG Raw is War since re-classified as TV-MA.

Before Val premiered his third and final film, Dustin interfered in his match.

In turn, Val tied up Dustin, repeatedly slapped him and told him to “turn the other cheek”, taunted him with graphic sexual language, then forced him to watch him have sex with his wife again.

Val’s delivery, as well as everything I just wrote in the previous sentence, leads me to believe he was supposed to be the bad guy here, but in the Attitude Era, it was impossible to tell, especially as most fans were still cheering for Venis and his increasingly cruel antics

At Breakdown, Val was accompanied by Terri, whom JR called, a “Jezebel”, signaling to the home audience that she was officially a heel. The fans watching live, however, didn’t know quite how to react to the match… so they didn’t.

Dustin wrestled a half-hearted match while Val initiated Terri into his, as JR called it, “adult-oriented lifestyle”.

After getting robbed of a pinfall by the referee when Val Venis failed to get it up (his shoulder, that is)…

…Dustin ended up getting covered with the Money Shot.

Speaking of which, after the match Val and Terri continued their X-rated antics, which one of the commentators appeared to really, really enjoy.

(Guess which one)

The next night, Val and Terri did more sex stuff backstage, but after Venis’s match, Dustin’s disembodied voice one last time told Venis that “He” was coming back, this time with Goldust’s theme music and Titantron video playing.

It turned out that all those months Runnels was saying, “He is coming back,” he was referring to the Goldust persona!

Hey, Dustin never said that the “He” he was referring to was supposed to be a messiah

(…except for the first time, before the WWF toned down the overtly religious language, when he specifically called him, “The Messiah”…

…or the time he wore a “What Would the Messiah Do?” shirt in the ring).

This, apparently, was the brilliant plan Dustin Runnels had formulated:

1. Burn my Goldust gear.

2. Pretend to become a born-again Christian.

3. Launch a phony moral crusade against Val Venis so that he’ll sleep with my wife.

4. Become Goldust again.

5. Kick Val Venis in the nuts.


Whether the course of events made any sense was irrelevant; at least Runnels was back to the gimmick he loved so much…

…until the following year when he cut another promo about how much he hated Goldust, along with his new “Seven” gimmick, on his first night in WCW.

Written by

A wrestling fan ever since the days of Wrestlemania IX, Art graduated from college in the same building where Art Donovan called King of the Ring 1994. He also runs the "How Much Does This Guy Weigh?" blog, where he reviews New Generation-Era Monday Night Raws. Follow him on Twitter @Art0Donnell. Email at: art@wrestlecrap.com
27 Responses to "Induction: Dustin Runnels – Cuckoldust"
  1. Christopher Haydu says:

    First! Great induction, though, I wouldn’t call it WrestleCrap. It was great to read about because it was a good angle. I think more people would remember it if Dustin Runnels was booked stronger upon his return as Goldust. Before he got lost in the shuffle, though, that match between Dust and Valxxt Venis was very good. And the crowd cheered both guys a lot when they entered, and cheered Goldust when he won.

    Secondly, I think people miss the whole premise of the feud. Val Venis is a porn star; as in, he stars in porn films. Goldust is a film-related gimmick. It was natural for these two to work a program. I don’t know the exact dates, but didn’t Runnels begin the fake born again gimmick shortly after Val Venis debuted? They just needed a way to start the feud and set up for a surprise return of Goldust. So, I say this isn’t WrestleCrap, but it failed to really elevate Val or Dustin because they didn’t have anything good for either one of them after this feud was over.

  2. Christopher Haydu says:

    And by the way, if you count the ampersand in Evangelists Again Television, Movies And Entertainment, the acronym becomes EATMAE…. You know, like “Eat Mae Young….” This angle would’ve been funnier if it we’re in 1999 when she was in WWF.

  3. CF says:

    Yet more evidence that the main problem with the Attitude Era was: The fanbase were made up from half idiots, and half scumbags.

    I blame Bill Clinton. >;)

  4. E-Squared says:

    Two things that I want to point out:

    1. I actually still remember changing it from USA to the Discovery Channel that very night and voila! There actually was a special on reptiles on it at that very moment. It’s obvious that the segment was pre-taped in advance and had seen what DC was shown at that same time, so that was added in I suppose.

    2. I also loved how the roles were reversed going into Judgment Day after Breakdown, with Runnels having reverted back to Goldust and suddenly, Val was the one who was tormented. If that wasn’t great booking, I don’t know what is.

    • Art0Donnell says:

      “There actually was a special on reptiles on it at that very moment.”

      Awesome.

      I’m amazed the Discovery Channel didn’t win the Monday Night War after that. That’ll put butts in the seats.

    • MistaMaddog says:

      “Fans if you’re think of tuning to the Discovery Channel then don’t, because they’ll have reptiles…that’ll put some butts in seats!”

  5. Sean Bateman says:

    still a better storyline than Black Reign.

  6. Big Daddy Strong says:

    IMO Goldust doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being the first Attitude Era type persona. And I absolutely HATED this angle because it ruined what was a great character. And as this induction points out….for what?

    Anyway, a couple things I noticed looking back……….Dustin was Tebowing long before it became a thing and he was the prototype gimmick for what would eventually be the Right To Censor stable.

    Something also tells me they had to know Dustin would end up looking like a tool in this feud. They didn’t want a preacher boy they wanted Stone Cold, The Rock, Undertaker, DX……….they literally made him the opposite of what the whole era was about.

    Story is he was already on the outs within the company for various reasons and apparently he pitched an idea to Vince about getting breast implants. I don’t think it helped his case. Seemed like WWE was hellbent on separating husbands from their wives during that time. Sunny & Chris Candido, Sable & Marc Mero, Dustin & Terri.

    • Guest says:

      I don’t know the story behind why of of they separated Duatin and Terri but it’s pretty obvious why they separated Sable from Marc and Sunny from Candido.

  7. Arya Witner says:

    I was 13 and remember being happy about the shoot interview because now Dustin Rhodes would be back but I was really disappointed by what happened.

  8. KatieVictoriasSecret says:

    Clearlyarousedjerrylawler dot com – bet that url’s not taken!

    Goldust is one of my favorite gimmicks of all time, and watching Dustin’s journey has indeed been strange and fun. Aside from the tag team with Booker T the early era was probably my favorite so I’m glad that this will be the version that’s going to be around for (likely his) final ride.

    This isn’t quite the biggest lowlight for me (the whole Tourettes-by-electrocution thing is at the top of my list) but it’s up there because it felt so directionless for a very long time. I never took to the Val Venis gimmick beyond a few exceptions so that just might be my own feelings at play (and it would’ve helped if they’d addressed the whole Luna thing but continuity? In MY Attitude Era Raw?!)

    It’s amazing how much TV time Vince McMahon’s wasted trying to critique his critics – who in turn have proceeded to ignore him, except for WCW’s booking in general. This, the RTC, Vince “battling” God, The Nacho Man and the Huckster, etc. And very, very few of those booking decisions have ever made bank for him. At least they’ve given us good wrestlecrap.

    Good work on the induction, Art!

  9. Mitch Colburn says:

    WWE’s portrayal of Christianity throughout the years has been disgusting, not to mention inaccurate. Another reason I hated the Attitude Era.

    • Rocker234 says:

      At least you didn’t watch Backlash ’06, then. With Vince and Shane McMahon vs. Shawn Michaels and “God.” *shudders in remembrance*

  10. Hulk6785 says:

    Even as a dumb mark who went along with the crowd, I still thought it was stupid that everyone was cheering for Venis as he taunted Dustin with video of him banging Dustin’s wife.

    • Hulk6785 says:

      At least the crowds started to cheer for Dustin when he became Goldust again. But still…

    • Tempest Fennac says:

      They had divorced around the time of Survivour Series ’97, so Terri had every right to make those movies (admittedly the article does point out that a lot of fans weren’t around for that).

      • Art0Donnell says:

        In storyline, they were still married and rumored to have been “trying to reconcile”.

        • Tempest Fennac says:

          Sorry about that (the only things about the storyline I knew came from Survivor Series ’97 where a divorce had been mentioned and the Breakdown PPV).

  11. Michael M. says:

    Runnels really is an amazing performer. Like mixing an athlete with that weird performance art guy from the community theatre you worked with in college, and I mean that in a good way.

  12. MistaMaddog says:

    I have to be honest, these “Crash TV” segments were the part of the Attitude Era I hated which made me switch over to WCW Nitro. Thankfully there were better (and non-sexual) angles from headliners like Rock & Austin which was what wrestling fans only want to remember from back then.

    Ironically the head booker who did that storyline to mock Christians ended up becoming one himself…

  13. Al Lobama says:

    And don’t forget the final payoff of the angle, where Terri revealed she was pregnant and Val dumped her, which should make him a heel, but in actuality Terri was faking both the pregnancy and the eventual miscarriage for…you know, reasons, so she was really the heel, and poor D-Lo, who was a heel after turning on the Rock, was not a face after accidentally causing the miscarriage, which Terri was faking…and now I’ve gone cross eyed!

  14. Guest says:

    “The crowd was… well, less than sympathetic”.

    To be sure Art you know that fan didn’t call him a maggot right?

  15. Guest says:

    “Some, like Mick Foley, took a very bold stand against it”

    This wouldn’t happen to be the same Mick Foley who let himself take Joey Ryan’s penis move would it?

  16. Ryan Smith says:

    This storyline has Cam Brady written all over it….

    “Sir, he just questioned your character and values on live tv, what are you gonna do about it?”

    “I wanna f%ck his wife”

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