Thursday, July 30, 2015

Even More Outrageous Conduct By Jimmy Hart

To think that I once wasn't even sure that it actually existed, Jimmy Hart's "Outrageous Conduct" has become one of the most popular topics on the blog. It's been about two years since we took a look at the WWF-released version of "Outrageous Conduct," but there's more than just that. The album stretches back into Hart's days in Memphis and, like much of "The Mouth of the South's early career, even involves Jerry "The King" Lawler.

Most 1980's wrestling fans remember the ad in WWF Magazine. It loudly proclaimed that "Outrageous Conduct" was available via mail. Even though the order blank was there, I just wasn't convinced that it really existed. Why did it never show up anywhere as "The Wrestling Album" and "Piledriver" so readily did? As I said two years ago, I was finally convinced that it did in fact exist when I had a copy of my own. But it didn't end there.

It turns out that the 1986 WWF version with "The Colonel" perched on a WWF ring apron on the front cover and the LJN Jimmy Hart figure on the back is a re-release. The original version was released a year earlier by "Rockin' Rasslin' Records." This seems to have been a vanity label of R-T Music Enterprises Inc. of Houston, Texas. Seeing as that Hart entered the WWF in early 1985, this could have been a side venture even while he was busy with the World Wrestling Federation. But, as I mentioned earlier, there is a connection to "The King of Memphis" here. The cover of the 1985 version is a collage of Jimmy Hart cartoons pertaining to the various song titles. Who was the artist? Jerry Lawler, of course.

My copy of this earlier version included a letter "from" Jimmy Hart on Rockin' Rasslin' Records letterhead.  The statement indicates that a different cover had been pictured from wherever the album was ordered from and includes instructions on how to exchange it or own both. Could this be from the era of the 1986 WWF-released version? Were these earlier editions shipped out at first? The letter also displays an address for a Jimmy Hart Fan Club out of Ramsey, New Jersey.

Despite the different cover art and labels releasing the album, the songs remain the same. Many of these songs would have been long familiar to Memphis wrestling fans, as many were released as singles in Memphis at the same time as Jerry Lawler was releasing his own musical ventures. At least one single was released with the "Outrageous Conduct" label, again by Rockin' Rasslin' Records. This 45 contained "We Hate School" as Side A and "Juvenile Delinquents" on Side B. The album also hit cassette tape, although I highly doubt any official CD releases were ever produced.

It seems that everyone knows a piece here or there of the "Outrageous Conduct" story, but no full tale of the various versions and spin-offs has ever come out. I think that Jerry Lawler's often-told joke about his own album ("It wasn't released, it escaped!) also holds true for this effort. Most record collecting sites seem to list one version or the other, and rarely if ever the single. Whereas mainstream releases like the two aforementioned WWF albums are remembered by most, "Outrageous Conduct" is still a hidden treasure. Or more truthfully, when looking at the dual versions and other related items, a hidden treasure trove.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

That's Not Sting, That's A WWE Figure Of Sting...

As one of the last possible "surprise" moments involving a wrestler from the '80s and '90s, Sting showing up in WWE delivered. Sure, "The Franchise" of WCW may not have won his debut WWE match, but it certainly created a true "WrestleMania Moment" that will be remembered for years to come. As of press time, rumor and insider talk indicate that we have not seen the end of Sting in WWE, and that's no surprise to me. The man still has a great presence and something to offer. Plus, he needs to win at least one WWE match.

Fans always wondered how the WWE marketing machine would treat Sting. So far, it's exactly how we imagined. To be honest, WCW and TNA used the Sting persona correctly as well when it came to merchandising. Masks, shirts, and baseball bats have long been available in the image of "The Man Called Sting." Nevertheless, it's still a bit odd, even after WrestleMania, to see Sting associated with the WWE logo. Now, thanks to Mattel, we're seeing a grand roll-out for the first figure of The Stinger to be released under the WWE banner.

Since resurrecting the popular Defining Moments series last year we've seen new figures of Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, and Razor Ramon. The ornate packaging (which I recently noticed is slightly smaller beginning with Flair) casts a grand light on the figure and almost justifies the heftier price of around $25 each. Seeing as how these figures have been very easy to find in stores, no one should be paying online or secondary market prices. In addition, the line is available at every major retailer including Toys "R" Us, Target, Wal Mart, and K-Mart. I recently encountered several rows of Sting at one particular store.

This first WWE-released Sting is based on "The Icon's" appearance at Starrcade 1997. That was the first match that Sting actually wrestled in his "Crow" look. For a year prior, Sting would appear brooding after, usually, dropping from the ceiling. The picture used behind the figure inside of the box is the recent Sting "sneer" face used on a t-shirt release. The combination of styles used really proves that the man has changed very little over the years, another reason why there's no reason for his WWE career to end after just one match and a handful of appearances.

The figure includes his trench coat and baseball bat as accessories. The coat is a soft goods material and not rubber as some Mattel clothing accessories have turned out. This is fortunate, as most collectors will want to pose this figure with the coat on, something that the rubber accessories do not allow. The recent WrestleMania XXX figure of The Undertaker was a sad example of this, as the infamous "lights on" pose is completely negated by this design flaw. On the contrary, Sting's coat is made of a thin material that permits many menacing poses for "The Vigilante." The baseball bat is also well designed and doesn't suffer from low-quality plastic bending as many long and thin accessories have over the years. Actual molding of the "wood grain" on the bat is also a nice touch.

The facial likeness is well done here. I've often said that even with face-painted stars, you still need a good likeness underneath. This is clearly Sting, and a morose one at that. Remember, Sting felt scorned by all sides at that point. He was not a happy camper due to the rise of the nWo and the "rumors" that he had joined the outlaw faction. The wrestling outfit itself is well done, too, and my often-lamented torso joint is barely visible. I really like the heavy-looking boots used for the figure, and Sting is even wearing the necklace that he wore at the time. While Sting is still in amazing shape at his current age, I see no reason why he still isn't wearing an outfit like this one. With how little he has changed, the figure honestly doesn't look at all out of place with those of more modern stars.

I usually find something to critique in any figure, but this one is a toughy. Perhaps he could have used a third accessory, but what? The "Big Gold" belt looks great on the figure, but I'm not sure that I would have wanted one in the package. The black and white motif is perfect and striking in the package, and most loose figure collectors likely have the belt already hanging around anyway. The higher price point is never pleasing, but when you get a figure of this effort and quality, the purchase remains satisfying. Indeed, this is one of Mattel's greatest WWE releases to date.

The Defining Moments Sting is in fact my current pick for "Figure of the Year." Although I did not review it here on the blog, the Elite release of Rusev had been my previous choice. Will something come along to blow Sting out of the water? Time will tell, but it's going to be an awfully big challenge.

Two further Mattel releases of Sting have been announced. Another "Crow" Sting will be in the Basic line and an Elite release of the 1990 Great American Bash Sting is also in the works. The Basic version looked a bit underwhelming, but the Bash entry could be promising. I'm interested to see just how many different Sting looks Mattel will end up giving us. I would not object to multiple Basic releases of Sting's many "surfer" styles as they've done with The Ultimate Warrior. It's very wishful thinking to even entertain the thought of a Blade Runners two-pack, but I'd hope that it would at least be considered for an exclusive of some sort. Two huge names in a style that's never before been done in figure form for either man. But, we are dealing with Mattel here...

"Think of the children!"

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest: Your Guide To Fun

It seems like it wouldn't be Summer here on the blog without a mention of Fanfest. Whether you know it as "Mid-Atlantic Fanfest," "NWA Fanfest," "The Greg Price Fanfest," or simply "Charlotte," the annual event is the one that many wrestling fans build their year around. From smaller beginnings over a decade ago with just a two-day event, Fanfest now stretches out over four fun days. Although the 2014 edition was promoted as the last, Fanfest returns to Charlotte in 2015 in a slightly different form.

This year, Fanfest is focused on live shows and experiences with the centerpiece being the premiere of the documentary "Mid-Atlantic Memories." This project has been years in the making and will tell the story of the fabled Mid-Atlantic Wrestling territory as remembered by the wrestlers and fans who lived it. The legendary Jim Ross will not only narrarate the film but also host the live premiere. In addition, "Good ol' J.R." will also hold his first "RINGSIDE With Jim Ross" show ever in the South as part of Fanfest. Those of you who listen to "The Ross Report" podcast have heard many glowing comments about the event from both Ross and Jim Cornette in a recent guest appearance.

If you've never attended Fanfest, now is the time. With so much going on and every sense of your wrestling fandom being appealed to, it's often hard to decide what to do next. As a longtime "veteran" of the event, I offer the following tips for you to get the most of your experience. All weekend you will be given the chance at once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that most wrestling fans only dream about. The following list is just a few helpful hints for first timers or for those who have already been and want to relive those great memories made over the past eleven years.

*Arrive early! The festivities begin on Thursday. The mad dash for the vendor room is usually rather peaceful, just keep your eyes open. You never know when that "Holy Grail" that you've been wanting for decades will be hiding in a corner or in a box under a table. Merchandise old and new will be available, with many of the names having new items not normally found in stores.

*Mingle! Rarely do so many fans of classic wrestling gather under one roof. Many have great stories from past Fanfests as well as the days of territorial wrestling, especially in the Mid-Atlantic area.

*Visit with The Louisville Lip himself, Jim Cornette. The legendary manager is one of the most accessible stars throughout the Fanfest weekend. Why? Because he's a fan, too! In addition to his live show, Cornette will have his "Cornette's Collectibles" booth in the vendor room all weekend. Mama Cornette's boy is always more than willing to chat, swap stories, give an autograph and photo, and sell you some wrestling treasures. Memphis historian and author Mark James will be by his side with all of his great book titles available, some co-authored with Cornette. My recommendations for a first-time Fanfest attendee? "The Midnight Express Scrapbook" and "Rags, Paper, & Pins: The Merchandising of Memphis Wrestling."

*Attend the Hall of Heroes banquet and ceremony. Some of my favorite moments as a fan have been at the HoH banquets. It's a special, intimate evening to celebrate many of the stars who have entertained you over the years.

*Many special photo ops are offered throughout the weekend. This year, three of the greatest voices to ever grace professional wrestling will be gathered in one location: Bob Caudle, Lance Russell, and Jim Ross. I'm sure that a combination of these legendary broadcasters will be gathered in the photo op room at some point. It's the wrestling commentator "Mount Rushmore" come to life. How in the world could any fan pass that up? Even J.R. himself has stated that he doesn't want to leave without getting a photo with Caudle and Russell.

*Keep one eye on the action at all times. You truly never know who is going to pop in throughout the weekend. Whether it's out of curiosity, to play some Cribbage, or just to say "hi" to old friends, many familiar faces from the world of wrestling are drawn to Fanfest. From referees like Charles Robinson and Mac McMurray to wrestlers like David Isley, Bill White, and Princess Victoria. Even former wrestling "royalty" like David and Jackie Crockett have shown up unannounced over the years, more than willing to meet their fans.

*Celebrate the past...and the future. Although Fanfest was built on the glory days of pro wrestling's past, promoter Greg Price has opened the doors to the future as well. Between a weekend-long training camp for indy wrestlers helmed by Dr. Tom Prichard and Les Thatcher to including many future talents on the live Fanfest cards (which are held on Saturday night and Sunday), you will get a chance to see many up-and-comers. With the rise and mass exposure of WWE NXT in the past year, you're sure to get another view of just how true the "Future is Now" catchphrase is.

*Take some time to enjoy Charlotte! This is one tip that I wish I had utilized more often on my various trips there. Friendly folks, great food, and an absolutely beautiful area. Explore!

*The most important piece of advice that I can give is simple: have fun! There's so much to take in and do that the time will slip away, so make the most of it! There will be Q&As with stars such as Rob Van Dam and The Honky Tonk Man, a musical performance starring "The Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart, a pool party with So Cal Val and Angelina Love, and so much more. I've always said that there's "something for every wrestling fan" at Fanfest, and this year that looks to ring true more than ever.

Each year, I devote some blog space to Fanfest. It isn't a commercial, it's just something that I believe in. So often I am asked about the various conventions and wrestling related events that I attend, but I hesitate to discuss them too much. No one wants to read something that appears to be a shill, and this certainly isn't. It's a notice that if you have yet to go for the Fanfest experience, now is the time. I may never have gotten as deep as I have in the wrestling autograph and meeting scene if it weren't for Fanfest. I hope that some of the fun that I've had over the years comes through in my words, and the only way to experience it all for yourself is to make that trip to Charlotte. More information on how you can do that is at NWALegends.com.

They'll know I sent ya!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Four Horsemen Ride Into Mattel's WWE Hall Of Fame

The Mattel-Target relationship has popped up here on the blog more than once recently, but that's because it's brought us some great product so far. The best Mattel WWE store exclusives, as far as I'm concerned, have been from the Hall of Fame line. Of course, I'm a bit biased towards the legends to begin with, but you can't deny that Mattel's renewed interest in the old school stars is getting better and better. Target seems to be all in, complete with an endcap display in many stores. This special spot has included the individual Hall of Fame figures, the classic "blue bar" cage set, as well some modern day releases. The "Rolls Royce" of the lineup, however, features the greatest supergroup in wrestling history, The Four Horsemen.

Since this is the version of the Horsemen inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, included in the set are Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, and Barry Windham. We simply aren't going to see a J.J. Dillon figure in a WWE lineup. Despite being inducted with the group, it was just a month ago that I heard the famous "Dillon was on Vince's 'not-to-be-made' list" rumor straight from the legendary manager's mouth. Unless another company picks up his rights, we aren't getting a J.J. Nonetheless, Mattel likes to focus on wrestlers and not managers, so here we are.

The box is, to put it simply, large. There won't be many in-store shenanigans as far as dishonest folk ripping these things open, as these boxes are sealed tight. You pretty much have to destroy one side of the box to get it open, so once you've let these guys out, they're out for good. The Hall of Fame 2012 backdrop is big and, with a little support added underneath, could be used as a display stage. The back of the box features the standard Mattel artists renderings of familiar photos of the four. The Flair photo used is from the mid '90s when "The Nature Boy" looked nothing like the figure included. Windham's image is from his brief 1989 WWF stint as "The Widowmaker."

As with the other Hall of Fame figures, each one is in the Mattel Elite style with extra articulation. The torso used for Flair is the same that was recently used for the Tito Santana and Hulk Hogan Hall of Fame figures. It still doesn't work for Hogan, but it's very believable for "Naitch." Clad in a black and red combo, Flair fits in very well with the rest of the lineup. This isn't the first Flair from Mattel, but it definitely holds up to other "classic" figures of "The Nature Boy" from other companies throughout the years. The facial likeness and "flow" of the famous long locks couldn't get any better.

This is the second Mattel release for "The Enforcer," and it very much reminds me of one of my all-time favorite figures, the Galoob WCW Arn Anderson. The body is just about right and the facial likeness carries the intensity of the rough grappler. Anderson is clad in red and white (just like the Galoob) with the famous "Double A" monogram on his tights. If I had any issue with the figure, it would be that the legs seem just a big too long and thin for Arn, but it's not a huge deal and might just be in my head.

It's hard to believe that we've gotten five Tully Blanchard figures in the past decade after a career completely devoid of them, but we have. This is the second Blanchard from Mattel, as he and Arn were both part of the final incarnation of the WWE Legends line. Those figures included the classic WWF Tag Team Championship belts, were clad in black, and soared in price following their "sell out" from the Mattel Collectors website. Thanks to Target you can pick up both Tully and Arn as well as the belts (now packaged with Yokozuna) for much more reasonable pricing. The Mattel Tully likeness reminds me of his WWF days while the Jakks effort looks more like his younger territorial days. Both are spot-on and I'm glad that Blanchard has received several great figures at this point.

Finally, we get to "The Lone Wolf" himself, Barry Windham. This is the figure from the set that is likely to be most in demand in the future, as I don't see Mattel likely producing him again. Despite being one of the greatest in-ring performers of the 1980's, this is likely the one and only shot. Again, this figure reminds me very much of the Galoob WCW release from 1990. It also reminds me of his stint as "The Widowmaker" that I mentioned above. BW's red and black cowboy boots look really cool, and Windham is the only one in the set to include entrance gear. The vest is removable and was not present when we saw the prototype. Opinions will differ, but Windham is the star of the set in my book.

This is an interesting set for many reasons. Scalpers scooped this up when early shipments hit Target. They likely won't be making more than a few bucks, if that, on each as the sets hit more and more stores. For whatever reason, my set even rang up $5 less than the advertised price at $44.99. I would imagine that sales will dictate whether or not we see more sets like this.

Will the sets sell well? It's four Elite figures with one accessory whereas most Elite figures are usually sold between $20-$22 each. In that sense, it's a good deal. What kept me from purchasing another one to get autographed down the line was the fact that only Windham is in entrance gear. While I love the figures, a set of the Horsemen with Flair in a robe and Arn and Tully in jackets would've been much more visually appealing in the box. If collectors want Windham or an affordable (and superior) release of The Brainbusters, picking the set up is a no-brainer...terrible wrestling pun not intended.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Wrestling MarketWatch: The Great American Bash

Hot dogs, apple pie, and The Great American Bash. It was wrestling's answer to that old time summer baseball game, complete with fireworks display. Instead of wooden bats hitting baseballs, the cracking came from bones and skulls being bashed. In place of the colorful and vibrant pyro, the "oohs" and "aahhs" emanated from fans in awe of Ric Flair, The Rock N' Roll Express, and Magnum T.A. And batting cages? Steel cages or maybe even War Games were far more impressive. The brainchild of the late, great, Dusty Rhodes, The Great American Bash went from tour, to pay-per-view, and was even the one NWA/WCW event that was revived by WWE.

With so many great memories comes some great memorabilia. As is always the case in Wrestling MarketWatch, we'll take a look at several of those items and their recent selling prices on the secondary market. Prices listed are for unsigned examples.

*Where better to start than the creator of the Bash, "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes. There were several NWA-licensed collector cup sets over the years, but one from a chain called Fast Fare were actually branded with The Great American Bash logo. Listed on the cups are tour stops in Atlanta, Washington  D.C., Charlotte, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Jacksonville, Greensboro, Chicago, and Dallas. The Dusty cup features artists renderings of two familiar pictures of "The Dream" as well as a facsimile signature. This cup recently sold at auction for $15.

*The final Bash under the WCW banner took place in 2000. Although the event took place in Baltimore, Maryland and included past Bash names such as Ric Flair, Sting, and The Steiner Brothers, it otherwise did not resemble the Bashes of old. The show is available on WWE Network, but that has not hurt the high price of this rarer WCW VHS release. The cover features Sting and Vampiro (who battled in a "Human Torch Match") set to a mix of horrific and patriotic colors. An example of the tape recently sold for $75.

*Also in the realm of VHS collecting is the tape of what many consider to be the worst wrestling pay-per-view event of all-time. 1991 was a transitional period for WCW, especially with the then-recent loss of "Nature Boy" Ric Flair to the World Wrestling Federation. The 1991 Great American Bash greatly suffered from this down period. As any wrestling collector will tell, quality never equals demand. This tape, featuring Lex Luger and Barry Windham on the cover in a great shot, is another that has always been highly desired and remains so despite other ways to view the show these days and it ultimately being a poor event. Recently the VHS sold for $77.

*Many of the early Great American Bash events had some great programs. The gritty wrestling product of Jim Crockett Promotions perfectly transitioned to the printed page. The programs were chock full of action shots, many featuring bloody battles between the stars of the NWA. The 1987 and 1988 Bash programs featured a flag motif on the cover. I prefer the former, as it also features the stars of War Games, but both are equally collectible. The 1988 version recently sold for $25.

*Thanks to the WWF producing their own magazine, Pro Wrestling Illustrated and its sister publications often gave more press to Jim Crockett Promotions in the 1980's. Most issues from the decade can be had for around $10 each, but the December 1985 issue of PWI has always been a bit more in-demand and thus often sells for a higher price. The cover story is a great montage of the action of the 1985 Great American Bash tour. Many fans seem to favorably remember this particular issue from their childhood, and looking at it leaves no question as to why. A copy of this issue also recently sold for $25.

WWE eventually quit using the Bash as an annual pay-per-view event but the name has resurfaced as a special episode of Smackdown in the last few years. With WWE looking to have more Network exclusive events, it wouldn't be the worst idea to revive the Bash yet again, especially in remembrance of "The American Dream." If just one classic, hard fought match is held on the show, you can bet that there will be yet another "Million Dollar Smile" in Heaven.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Mattel & Target Make Another (Banzai) Splash

The amount of new WWE product from Mattel has been staggering as of late. Basics, Elites, and Battle Packs of WWE Superstars, Divas, Legends, and even the stars of NXT have been popping up in great numbers with no end in sight. In addition, Target has continued their popular exclusive WWE Hall of Fame series. This time around Eddie Guerrero, Yokozuna, Tito Santana, and "The Immortal" Hulk Hogan join the blue-boxed line. It's the latter three that we'll be looking at today.

Like most fans, I miss Eddie Guerrero, I just didn't feel the need for another figure of the late star. So far, he seems to be selling the least well of the new foursome. This is Tito Santana's first figure released by Mattel and Yokozuna's second. All four figures are again boxed in attractive blue packaging with the WWE Hall of Fame "screen" in the background. All have accessories and none suffer from the "floating" issue where some Mattel figures appear overwhelmed by the packaging.

I passed up on the original Mattel Yokozuna because it did not seem to offer much different from previous figures of the former champion. This version is clad in black and white and includes the classic WWF Tag Team Championship belts. These belts were only previously included with the single WWE Legends releases of Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard. It's good to see these belts re-released since the Blanchard and Anderson figures have been driven up in price. Yokozuna has excellent articulation to demonstrate what an agile "big man" wrestler he was. With the beard and hair braid, this figure clearly represents 1995-1996 Yoko.

Hulk Hogan looks to be based on his 1993 return. The removable bandana is a welcome addition, considering several of his Mattel releases have not featured this. This is an all new headsculpt for Hulk, and it is fairly faithful to the legend. My gripe with the figure is that it feels just a bit too skinny. Hogan had lost a lot of weight for the return on which this figure is based, but no Hogan figure should ever share a torso with Tito Santana. This one does.

Speaking of Tito, I think that this figure is my favorite of the set. This is the very first figure of, in my mind, the quintessential Tito Santana image: the longish hair, white trunks, white boots. LJN re-released their Tito in white trunks after it had originally been in purple, but it had short hair. Considering that the Hasbro card picture featured this Tito, I will always be convinced that a figure of this appearance was in the works, but it was "El Matador" at release. Jakks released two Santana figures in this image, but one had a molded shirt and the other a molded jacket. After all of these years, we finally have a perfect Tito in the familiar 1987-1991 image. The classic red Tito Santana shirt is included as a soft goods accessory.

I was pleased and surprised with this second series. I never would have thought that Santana would be produced by Mattel. His inclusion leaves the door open for more "mid-card" Hall of Famers to be produced. If any of these four appeal to you, grabbing them at first sight would be your best bet. I cannot picture the "main event"-minded Mattel producing another Santana. Yokozuna is probably done after two figures as well. Hogan and Eddie will likely see more releases down the line.

I hope that this Hall of Fame line continues. I've said it before, but Lita would be a great choice here. An NWA style Dusty Rhodes would be another perfect fit, especially since Mattel already has the tooling from their earlier figure of "The American Dream." I have a feeling that Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels will both find their way in, although they would both be personal passes. I want variation, I want old school...

Bring in 'da Race, bring in 'da Funk?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Life Without The Dream. That's Hard Times.

The American Dream brought out a lot of emotion (or emoooshuuuun) in all of us. He fired us up, made us happy, and even a little bit funky...like a monkey. But I cannot ever remember "The Dream" bringing the sadness. Sure, we all felt a bit bad for him when Baby Doll, Sweet Sapphire, or a tag team partner would turn their back on him, but we were never truly sad. We were too busy protecting Big Dust from the storm after he'd been scorned. For the first passing in a very long time, I did shed some tears, but no more. The 265 pounds of blue eyed soul wouldn't want that.

I will always remember where I was when the news broke. I was not at home, and my destination that night was one of complete coincidence, considering that "The Dream" is my all-time favorite professional wrestler. I was, in fact, headed to see Dusty's "kids" perform. No, it wasn't Dustin, Cody, or Dusty's girls, but it was his NXT "kids," in what turned out to be the first public memorial for "The American Dream." For those who are unaware, Dusty was the promo teacher at the WWE Performance Center. We have already seen any number of tributes from the stars of NXT who, like most anyone who encountered Dusty, have great memories of their legendary teacher. William Regal began NXT's first foray into Pittsburgh with a ten-bell salute, followed by Dusty tributes in virtually each match keeping the spirit of "The Dream" flowing throughout the entire night.

The initial shock of Dusty's passing reminded us of something that we put out of our every day consciousness in order to survive: we're all mere mortals. As larger than life as some individuals become, the last moment can arrive at any time. It's what we accomplish and how we handle ourselves that then takes over. When the legacy of "The American Dream" took over for the life of Dusty Rhodes on June 11, the transition was as perfect as can be. Somewhere, I read the press coverage for Dusty's passing likened to that given for a president. It was covered by news outlets the world over. Tributes poured in the likes of which had not been seen for a wrestler since the death of Randy "Macho Man" Savage. Could even Dusty, who knew his own greatness, have predicted that? I know that even if he wouldn't have fathomed it, he sure is smiling down on all of it now.

As a fan, I do not feel cheated. We have almost fifty years of memories to fall back on. Each one of my times getting to either meet "The Dream" or watch him in action left me awestruck. The wrestlers who were able to sit under Dusty's "learning tree" should not feel cheated either, as they are able to carry his genius with them for the many more years that they have in the business, and then pass the knowledge on. Instead, we should focus on Dusty's family. Sixty-nine years of age is not young in pro wrestling, but it is in the real world. "The Dream" should have gone well into his eighth or ninth decade being a family patriarch as only he could. As all of us have felt so close to Dusty, it's his family and friends that need the prayers and energy now.

The fact that we do feel like we were right there on the end of the lightning bolt with Dusty echos what I've read in so many places this week. This wrestling death has hit the community like no other. Not just because we could all identify with being the working man that Dusty was, but because we became a part of him. When your hand reached out and touched his hand, whether it be through the television or at an event, you became part of  "The American Dream." Name me one other personality in any genre who had that power. Dusty was honest. Dusty was real. Dusty was the greatest.

I did not want to load this up with photos, as there is plenty of time for that in the future. Instead, I leave you with my favorite photo that I've ever taken with a wrestler, the time that I asked Dusty if we could recreate his famous "million dollar smile."

Rest easy, Dream. You may have wined and dined with kings and queens, but it was you who entertained us royally. The American Dream lives on, far into the stratosphere that you already had reserved.


"The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes 
***
Virgil Riley Runnels Jr.

1945-2015

"Get A Dream, Hold Onto It, And Shoot For The Sky..."