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.
Virgil Riley Runnels Jr.
"Get A Dream, Hold Onto It, And Shoot For The Sky..."