He’s A Regular Rhodes Scholar

Orlando Sentinel – March 25, 2001
By Ric Russo

Dustin Rhodes Wants To Be A Major Player In The Business — Just Like Dad

Generating fan interest is a must for any pro wrestler who wants longevity in the business. Throughout the ’70s and ’80s there was perhaps nobody better at creating an air of excitement both in and out of the ring than “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes.

So when his son Dustin Rhodes was seeking advice for his recent comeback, he knew exactly where to go.

“My dad is to professional wrestling what Babe Ruth was to baseball — he’s an icon,” the younger Rhodes said. “Working with him and having him around as I try to get this new character over with the fans has been a major help.”

Last weekend the father-and-son combination — whose real last name is Runnels — battled Jeff Jarrett and Ric Flair in a grudge match at “Greed,” the final pay-per-view event for World Championship Wrestling. WCW is being dropped by TBS and TNT; the final Nitro broadcast will air Monday night on TNT.

The high-profile bout at “Greed” provided the younger Rhodes with an outlet to showcase his skills. The future of WCW and its wrestlers may be unclear, but Rhodes is sure of one thing — he wants to remain a major player in the business, just as his father was for nearly three decades.

“I’m not in tiptop ring-shape yet, but I’m on the treadmill every day working on my conditioning,” Rhodes said. “I feel like I’ve got plenty left in the tank and am hoping I can find a niche for myself.”

For the past two years Rhodes has been absent from the limelight, even though he has been under contract to WCW since 1999. He spent some of that time on loan to his father’s promotion in Marietta, Ga. — Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling.

The American Dream is president of TCW, which produces professional wrestling shows all over the Southeast. The company is a throwback to the way the pro wrestling industry conducted business back during Dusty’s heyday.

“We take it back to the day when you wrestled in one town on one night; then you got in your car and wrestled in a different town the next night,” said the elder Rhodes about TCW. “It’s old-school. It’s the way we used to do it when I was with Championship Wrestling From Florida and the old National Wrestling Alliance.”

It’s also the era Dustin grew up in, watching his dad compete night after night.

“I wish I could have wrestled back in that era of the NWA with my dad,” Dustin said. “Real old-school style.”

The highlight of Dustin’s career occurred during his successful run as the bizarre Goldust in the World Wrestling Federation during the mid-’90s. Dustin sported gold face paint and wore a gold body suit and a blond wig when he entered the ring. His valet was a woman who went by the name Marlena. She was Rhodes’ real-life wife Terri — current WWF diva Terri Runnels. The couple have since divorced and share custody of a 7-year old daughter, Dakota, whom Dustin calls “the light of my life.”

Dustin’s portrayal of Goldust made him a WWF superstar.

“The first year or so of the character were very good; the writers kept things fresh and I had a lot of fun with it,” Rhodes recalled. “Later on, it got a bit stale and I struggled with it.”

When his contract with the WWF expired in 1999, WCW quickly signed him. Unfortunately, this happened during a period of uncertainty for the company and management wasn’t sure how to use him.

An opportunity for him to show what he could do came about when Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo took control in April of last year. Dustin appeared as Seven, a mysterious figure who appeared to aid anyone who dared go up against Russo and his two henchmen — Creative Control, Apopka residents Ron and Don Harris.

“It [Seven] was a character I created, and Russo killed it,” Rhodes said.

Since his emergence last month, Rhodes had been involved in a major story line involving his father, Flair and Jarrett. When the angle debuted last month on a Monday Nitro telecast, the crowd went nuts when The American Dream came on the scene.

“Any time you can get some `rub’ off my old man, you’ve got to do it,” Dustin said of the crowd response. “He certainly knows how to get them going. He knows how to stir the pot, as they say.”

A “rub” is fan interest that comes from working with a top-notch or popular wrestler. Now it’s up to Dustin to maintain the interest.

“I’m hoping the match we had at `Greed’ last weekend leads to good things for this new variation of my character — what I like to call the Dustin Rhodes `cowboy’ image if you will,” Rhodes said. “If WCW manages to stay alive with a new buyer and a new television outlet, I hope to be a part of it.”

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