Back when there was more than one major US wrestling promotion, it was a big deal when guys would jump ship. Newer fans will never understand just how shocking it was to see guys like Ric Flair show up on WWF TV, or Lex Luger, whom Vince McMahon had pushed as his top babyface for over a year, all of a sudden appear on Nitro. The ability for your favorite wrestler to quickly be thrust into a new promotion (and therefore, be given a whole slew of new guys to feud with) gave wrestling ‘back then’ a level of unpredictability that is sorely missing in today’s WWE.
Many would argue that Flair’s entrance into the WWF (with the NWA title, no less!) was a true “mark out” moment in wrestling history. For my money, though, nothing could compare with the sheer impossibility of seeing the American Dream himself appear on WWF TV.
Make no mistake about it – Dusty Rhodes was a major, MAJOR player in the old NWA. Though his reigns as world champion were brief, he was the man around whom the promotion was often booked. His everyman persona and ‘funky like a monkey’ interviews connected with fans in a manner that a fat, ugly, blotchy man should never have been able to.
One might question why a man with seemingly so little ability was often given so much air time and notoriety. The answer to that is simple: Rhodes was often the booker of the promotion. The stuff you see today with Hunter & Steph always being the center of attention? That’s nothing new. When you give an active performer the book, they generally give themselves more than their fair share of television time.
Such was the case with Dusty Rhodes. The difference was during his booking run in the late 80’s NWA, he often butted heads with management. In one instance, Rhodes was told by WCW VP Jim Herd to dramatically cut back on the amount of blood on programs that would air on WTBS. Rhodes, seemingly livid with being told what to do, had the Road Warriors take a spike to his orbital socket during his very next match, causing a very gruesome scene, and, not surprisingly, his own firing.
What’s a dream to do? Call up Vince McMahon, of course!
The difference was that Vince wasn’t about to give Dusty the book. McMahon was anything but a Rhodes fan, and, in fact, had taken petty shots at Rhodes in the past. Specifically, Ted DiBiase’s lowly manservant was given Rhodes’ real first name, Virgil, in an insider attempt to knock Big Dust.
With Rhodes under contract, Vince decided to humiliate the Dream in every manner possible. After all, where else could he go?
And thus, Rhodes was given a hideous new wardrobe of the most unflattering nature, namely tight black leather and bright yellow polka dots. I should note that according to his own autobiography, Dusty ASKED for these polka dots. Do not ask me why.
Hey, is Dusty flipping me off there?
I think he is!
But you don’t just bring in Dusty Rhodes and have him prance around in polka dots. No, baby, you make him dance!
And in order to dance, you need funky music!
You have to love any entrance theme that starts out “He’s just a common man/working hard, eatin’ ham!”
Since Rhodes was such a nobody (to Vinny Mac at least), he needed to be introduced to WWF fans through a series of vignettes. During these intro pieces, Rhodes was the embodiment of Americana itself. A very flabby embodiment, but an embodiment nonetheless.
He was given all kinds of working class jobs, such as a plumber (“Is your toilet shhhhhhocolate color?”) , a pizza delivery man (as a rib against Herd, who was formerly a bigwig at Pizza Hut), and a farmer. During each bit, he would take a bit of time to explain just how American this was.
Example: during his bit as the farmer, he would clean crap out of his horse’s stalls. I don’t know about you, but when I see Old Glory flying high, I think two things: Dusty Rhodes and horse shit. Maybe it’s just me.
That last bit on there was a key part of the intro pieces. At the end, someone off screen would say, “Hey, aren’t you…???” One can only surmise that “…the stunt double for Jabba the Hutt?” was the ending to that sentence.
Hey, who could forget Dusty’s stint as the Americana butcher? If the sight of Rhodes working in a meat house wearing only a smock over his naked chesticles wasn’t enough to convert impressionable young viewers to a life of vegetarianism…
…surely his catch phrase was.
Of course, dressing Rhodes like a buffoon and having him do silly skits wasn’t enough for Vince. The WWF also decided to bring a fan from the crowd in as his manager in the form of SWEET SAPPHIRE.
Get this – rumor has it that when he was originally approached with the idea of having a manager, Rhodes wanted to get a real life black prostitute (although he disputes this in his book). Discretion was the better part of valor (this was the late 80’s WWF, not late 90’s, you know) and Vince decided to pair him up with the more family friendly Sapphire instead.
I don’t say this often, but GOD BLESS YOU VINCE MCMAHON.
His friendship with Sapphy was sadly a short one, as during his feud with Ted DiBiase, the Million Dollar Man bought and paid for Sapphire. Not quite sure why she so happy to get that long fur coat that she wore the entire freezing cold month of AUGUST, but hey, DiBiase was the evil millionaire genius, not me.
Poor Dust was left all by his lonesome. On the plus side, he no longer had to split his nightly supply of 11 boxes of Twinkies. That golden sponge cake and creamy filling was his and his alone, baby!
After a few years of this abject humiliation, Rhodes decided enough was enough. With Jim Herd safely removed from WCW, Rhodes was welcomed back to the Turner empire, where he remained employed more or less steadily until the promotion was bought out by Vince McMahon in 2001.
Of course, the real irony here in 2007, Dusty Rhodes is a full-on member of the WWE booking committee.
Remember kids, money talks – and polka dots walk.
Singing woman: “Ammmmmmerrrrikaaaahn Dreamm! He’s just a common man! Working hard with his hands! He’s just a common man! Working hard for the man! He’s the Ammmmmmmmmmerican Dream!”
Howard Finkel: “Coming down the aisle at a total combined weight of 465 pounds, the team of the ‘American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire!”
Jesse Ventura: “Now wait a minute, Gorilla – he said at a combined weight of 465 pounds? You’re telling me that Rhodes only weighs 200? Because I know damn well that Sapphire weighs two and a half!”
Big Dust: “So what I’m sayin’ here is very simple. Doo doo is good for me – and doo doo is good for you!”
Voice off screen: “Hey, aren’t you…???”
Big Dust: “I’m gonna tell you one time – you can’t beat my prices, but you can sure beat my meat!”