Son Of A Plumber Man
Hard Times. . .
Ring The Bells Again
As a child of the 1980's I grew up in the era of "Rock and Wrestling". My Saturdays, Sundays, and, during the summer, Mondays were spent in front of the television watching Hulk Hogan, the Junkyard Dog, RIcky 'The Dragon' Steamboat and The Killer B's do battle in the ring. The Killer B's were a favorite of my brother and I, since we shared their names; My real name is James and my Brother's is Brian. I later found out that my Brother and Brian Blair share a birthday.
So it was with a bit of a sadness that I heard about the passing of Dusty Rhodes. I actually thought he had passed away years earlier. But a few tweets from Dave Zirin, The Nation's sports specialist led me to a piece of his that provided an interesting glimpse into Dusty's character and the character of the times he performed in.
Dusty, I Hardly Knew You
I have to say, besides reading about Dusty in the magazines, I didn't actually see him perform that much. My brother, his friends and I, were more fans of what what then called the World Wrestling Federation, now called the WWE. We also did watch the smaller American Wrestling Alliance. But the southern-based federations that Dusty mainly plied his craft in were not part of our viewing. I saw him as a sort of "working class joke" when he was in the WWF in the late 1980's, but I was more familar with him in the early to mid 1990s as an announcer for the World Championship Wrestling promotion.
The First "People's Champion"?
According to Dave Zirin's post on Dusty's passing, not only did Dusty not look like the sports-entertainer of his day, when folks like Hulk Hogan, Lex Luger and other muscular, and, likely, enhanced, athletes ruled the ring. But he did not have the background of the cuture of the day.
The 1980s were the era of greed, of shows like Dallas and Dynasty, of savings and loan frauds. The days when factories closed and the working class was eroded.
Dusty had grown up poor in Texas, and picked up the cadences of the African-American preachers of the day. The classic "Hard Times" promo he cut in 1985 shows this well.
Paying The Price
While in the rural South, Dusty was a hero, in the Northeast that Vince McMahon dominated, Dusty was a joke. When "The Million Dollar Man", Ted DiBiase, needed a servant character, they named him "Virgil", Dusty's real first name. As stated earlier, his character in the WWF was a working-class joke.
Whatever animosity Vince felt towards Dusty. it did not carry on to the next generation. Both of Dusty's sons, by different mothers, would have success in Vince's new World Wrestling Entertainment. Dustin would become the flambouyant, over the top, "Golddust" character, Cody would, in an odd twist, join forces with Ted DiDiase's son, and now is at his half-brother's side.
Dwayne, "The Rock" Johnson, a third-generation star of ring, and now a successful actor, called himself "The People's Champion". The late Dusty Rhodes may have been a real one.