August 17, 2023

Dusty Rhodes: Wrestling's Maverick Hero or Narcissistic Villain?

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Dusty Rhodes: Wrestling's Maverick Hero or Narcissistic Villain?

By Joel | August 17, 2023

Dusty Rhodes, aptly dubbed "The American Dream," remains one of the most iconic figures in professional wrestling. Known for his captivating charisma, unique style, and significant contributions both inside and outside the ring, his influence on the wrestling industry is undeniable. While widely celebrated for his achievements, Rhodes faced controversies amongst his peers, most notably as a promoter.

Dusty Rhodes: Wrestling's Maverick Hero or Narcistic Villain?

Rise to Stardom

Dusty Rhodes, born Virgil Riley Runnels Jr. in 1945, began his mark in the wrestling world in the late 1960s. By the '70s, he rose to unparalleled fame. With the persona "The American Dream," he struck a chord with average everyday people, epitomizing hope, struggles, and resilience.

Feuds That Defined A Generation

Renowned for his storytelling and dramatic flair, Rhodes' feuds became legendary, pulling fans into arenas in record numbers unseen during that time. His iconic rivalry with Ric Flair for example, contrasting Flair's opulence with Rhodes' grounded appeal, crafted compelling narratives of societal struggle, pitting the rich against the poor, the elites versus the blue-collar. This type of rivalry propelled wrestling to new heights.

Another standout feud involved the "Superstar" Billy Graham, with the NWA World Heavyweight Championship on the line. Their face-offs were unforgettable, melding athletic mastery with unmatched mic performances.

A Collection of Gold

Throughout his illustrious journey, Dusty secured numerous titles, prominently the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Clinching this esteemed title three times, it spotlighted his undeniable charisma and in-ring prowess. Rhodes had become a well-known personality among wrestling enthusiasts, even before earning any official titles.

The Double-Edged Sword of Booking

Transitioning into the intricate role of booker and promoter for the NWA, Dusty's decisions met both applause and criticism. Innovatively introducing the "Dusty Finish," which often led to unexpected match conclusions, he ensured storylines remained fresh and audiences captivated.

Yet, Rhodes' proclivity to position himself centrally in major storylines faced backlash. While some believed it was strategic, leveraging his fame, critics perceived it as egocentric. They argued that Rhodes' repeated spotlight grabs overshadowed emerging talent, making the NWA's top events feel stagnate and monotonous.

Critics and supporters alike often highlighted this behavior as a mark of narcissism, arguing he frequently sought center stage, even when elevating newcomers might've been advantageous. This, they contend, curbed the NWA's growth and evolution.


Irrespective of the controversies, Dusty Rhodes' monumental impact on professional wrestling stands uncontested. His heartfelt promos, especially the renowned "Hard Times" speech, emphasized his deep bond with the fans. And, while some of his promotional choices spurred debate, they undeniably kept the conversation going, which is a hallmark of a master promoter.

In the end, however, Dusty Rhodes was a study in contrasts—an adored personality sometimes juxtaposed against his off-stage choices and yet, this duality perhaps adds to his allure. Navigating through ups and downs, Dusty Rhodes undeniably personified the essence of the American Dream, leaving an unforgettable legacy in his wake.

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