So, you've come back for more? Here we go with round two of "My Wrestling Favorites." As I explained previously, each entry in this series will highlight two wrestlers--one from my five "All-Time" favorites and one from my five "current" favorites. These are not in order, but their inclusion is explained both in word and in, of course, memorabilia. Comment and argument are both welcome!
1 of 5 All-Time Favorites: Dusty Rhodes
If you've read this blog for any amount of time, the inclusion of The American Dream should come as no surprise.
While he is indeed "The Dream," it's his other nickname of "The Common Man" that sums up his entire appeal. He didn't look like a superstar by any stretch of the imagination. Instead it was his boat loads of charisma that projected him into superstardom.
It was the same charisma that made you believe that Big Dust could defeat wrestling's supermen. While The Dream had strength, the large stomach and self-proclaimed "big booty" would've looked off-center against the muscle definition of Superstar Billy Graham, Lex Luger, and Nikita Koloff. Because of his gift for gab and absolute magnetism for drawing in a crowd, Rhodes' girth was lost in the "Stardust" magic.
Although many fondly remember Dusty's days in the WWF and '80s NWA, his peak in popularity may have actually been in the late 1970's. Paging through virtually any '70s wrestling magazine will showcase just how far his reach went. Pictures of Rhodes' being mobbed by fans, topping popularity lists, and dropping the "Bionic Elbow" on the era's top heels is living proof that Dustymania ran wild a few years before Hulkamania was on the radar.
While some fans have decried Dusty's "polka dot" WWF run from 1989 to 1991, most have come to accept it as a charming extension of his career. It has been erroneously reported over the years that "The Common Man" moniker replaced "The American Dream" during this run. In fact, this claim was repeated in the WWE-produced Rhodes' DVD documentary by a certain top WWE star that you "can't see." This claim is 100% false, as Dusty's WWF/WWE theme includes both names as did the WWF frequently on commentary and in print. Flip through the aforementioned '70s magazines and you'll even see Dusty occasionally wearing polka dots years earlier. There were only two changes noticeable to fans during this run: he was a bit more fun-loving and danced a little funkier. Dusty, himself, would point out a few more: he had more fun (he was not involved in the WWF booking process) and made more money for less work. Everyone wins.
My attraction to the Dusty Rhodes phenomenon is like everyone else who's ever counted him among their favorites. He's simply larger than life. If he had the body, he would be Hulk Hogan. He has just as much charisma as The Hulkster, but came a bit earlier and in a bit plumper package.
Two of the greatest experiences in my life as a wrestling fan was getting to sit ringside for two Dusty Rhodes matches. Although both were long past his prime years, Dusty could still captivate an audience and prove that "The Dream" is still alive and well.
1 of 5 Current Favorites: CM Punk
I'm sure that many fans would include CM Punk on their list of favorites. The fact of the matter is that Punk has been on my list for the better part of ten years.
As I've discussed in past entries, I had the opportunity to see Punk from his very beginnings thanks to the IWC promotion here in Pittsburgh. From scarfing down steak and eggs at Denny's to asking my friend to buy him "The Simpsons" on DVD to having one of the best matches I've ever seen live (against Christopher Daniels), I have enough personal Punk memories to last me a lifetime.
Truthfully, I hemmed and hawed against including him on this "current" list. Since the WWE botched his recent persona and angle late this past summer, his rebellious "shoot" attitude is out of place and I no longer enjoy his current character. In the minds of myself and many other fans, Punk should only be returning just about now.
The fact that he has been one of my "current" favorites since 2002 retains his place here. Like most of my other favorites, Punk has it "all." He can wrestle circles around just about any other wrestler out there, can talk anyone into wanting to see a match, and has a respect for the industry that all wrestlers should be required to possess.
I don't feel that I can end this passage without a controversial statement or two. Part of me wants to say that Punk needs to show that he is Edge...plus. Although I was not a fan of Edge, there's no denying that he has accomplished a lot in his short career. Everything that Edge could do or did can be done better by Punk. Punk should also steer clear of a rumored feud with Chris Jericho. While the promos and matches would be great, such a feud would be a giant step backward with how far Punk has come. Taking nothing away from Jericho, I just don't feel the feud would benefit either man. Punk also needs to go back to his heel "cult leader" persona, mixing his "quasi-shoot" promos with his maniacal leader character.
Cult of Personality, indeed.