Is he really too sweet to be sour daddy, if you will? Read on…
Dusty Rhodes has an undeniable legacy in the annals of professional wrestling. He is a man who took a thimbleful of athletic skill and look, mixed it with a metric shit ton of charisma, and created one of the most legendary characters wrestling has ever seen. Virgil Riley Runnels Jr. created the monster that became, arguably, one of the biggest babyface draws in the history of North American wrestling, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. That fact alone should have made this book a slam dunk, a no brainer, for any wrestling fan…any fans collection would be incomplete without the complete story of one of wrestling’s most legendary figures, a man who truly transcended the sport. It should also serve as Dusty’s coda of sorts, as Dusty is not only a man among boys when it comes to his on screen exploits, but behind the scenes as well, and not necessarily in a good way. WWE announcers like to say John Cena is “the most polarizing figure in the history of WWE” simply because they book him like shit, like some unbeatable Superman in an era where people are not looking for it. Well, where Cena is booked to fail, Big Dust booked HIMSELF to the moon, to the detriment of several, and for that he remains probably the single most polarizing figure in the history of modern wrestling. So one would think he would take a step back, show some humility, and explain exactly where he was coming from during his years atop the wrestling landscape.
You could not be more wrong in your assessment or assumption.
Dusty Rhodes autobiography, for this assessors worth, has to be one of the worst written, most egotistical pieces of trash I have ever read. I read the book about a year ago, when I was still very much in a rhesus monkey recovering state, and hated it. I recently read, and reviewed, his son’s book, and thought to myself, “Well, maybe I gave one of the biggest draws in the history of the business the short end.” So I bought it…repeat, BOUGHT it, with my hard earned cash at the bookstore down the street from my now former employer. I bought it three weeks ago, along with David Shoemaker’s new book and Gary Michael Capetta’s book. I rifled through Shoemaker’s book, which is basically Scott’s “Buzz on Wrestling” on crack, and through Capetta’s book, in 3 days each. Both great books, both reviews to be forthcoming. But Dusty’s book stuck in my craw. A lot of people are wont to deride Bret Hart’s book as thoroughly egotistical…listen, I get that. He overstates his place in the landscape of wrestling. But he always knocks himself down a few pegs at the right opportunity, and it is well written without the aid of a ghostwriter. Dusty’s tome is…just…wow. Firstly, it is not particularly well written. Which is amazing seeing that Dusty ranks as one of the top stick men of all time. Sure, not the most educated, but Dusty, on screen, always made his point, always crystallized what each angle he was involved in boiled down to. Here, in his book…you read a passage and you need to read it back five or six times to make sure you read it correctly. But that is hardly the only gripe you get here. No sir. Dusty also has a very high opinion of himself. While that is common in most wrestling books, most of the authors realize their mortality or limitations or…just…something. Dusty, not him. In his mind, he was the biggest babyface ever (he may not be far off in that assessment). He is always harping on separate eras of wrestling, which he calls “Yellow Finger” and “Pre Yellow Finger.” Basically, Yellow Finger refers to Hogan’s WWF run in the 80’s and the foam fingers WWF marketed for him as merchandising. Dusty maintains he was Yellow Finger before Yellow Finger…which is true…and the whole first half of the book is Dusty explaining how huge he was, who he may or may not have partied with, and why he is God’s gift to the industry. Now, normally, I come to expect that in most wrestling books, as most wrestlers have a very high opinion of themselves, and their contributions to the history of the game. But this is an instance where it reaches critical mass, as Dusty unapologetically rambles on and on and ON about his legacy and how it is criminally underrated. And to an extent it is, but to any fan worth their salt, it isn’t. Its false bravado just for the sake of false bravado, whereas Dusty needs no reason for false bravado. He is a legend, realized as such, and the fact that he feels compelled to share his dick size throughout the book is actually quite sad.
The good portions of the book usually revolve around Dusty’s exploits with Dick Murdoch as the Outlaws, and his marriage to his second wife, Michelle. Those portions are quite good. The wrestling portions are downright delusional though. Testimonial after testimonial from former wrestlers/managers/acquaintances only serve to blow Dusty’s Hindenberg size ego to ridiculous levels, and make for a tough reading experience. Dusty basically glosses over the glory years of Crockett in order to make sure the reader knows that Crockett folding and selling to Turner was not his fault at all, no sir, it was the corporate higher ups. Dusty passes more bucks than Donald Trump to the folks at Neilsen. Its actually quite pathetic. The polka dot years in WWF? Four pages. His last WWF angle with his son and Ted DiBiase (an awesome angle, by the way)? Four pages. His altercations with Bianca Jagger and the denizens who inhabited Studio 54 in the 70’s and 80’s? Dozens of pages. While he does recover towards the end of the book in describing Cody’s progress, the previous 200 pages render that point moot.
So is this book pure shit? Yes. Does Dusty come off as worse than he did before writing it? HELL YES. But it is worth reading, as most fans are not going to believe the level of egotism and condescension experienced here. I give the book my full negative review, call it the Kennel in a Cell review, but at the same time, track it down and judge for yourself. It is a very interesting character study in self delusion.