OLD SCHOOL…THE AMERICAN DREAM DUSTY RHODES

27. February, 2013

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I made a 12 hour, 800 mile round trip to Clayton, NC last weekend for the 5th Annual Ivan Koloff Tag Team Tournament.  I forgot how scenic and introspective a six hour drive through the mountains can be.  My thoughts were racing and my CDs seemed to find the mood I was looking for.  Make no mistake, this event was ‘pro wrestling’ with entertaining performers; Not ‘sports entertainment.’ It could be classified as “old school.”

NCWA ran in a decent size building and drew a SRO only house.  This was a special event of sorts as it was a tribute to one of the true icons in wrestling, Ivan Koloff.  In the day and age of glitz, glamour, instant gratification and the internet, a lot of people might not be familiar with “Uncle Ivan.”

Ivan Koloff is the man who ended Bruno Sammartino’s seven year run as champion in Madison Square Garden.  Bruno was champion for a long time and set the  standard of what champions should look and act like.  When the evil Russian Ivan Koloff defeated the Super Hero of the east coast it was a big deal.  Still is to many who were there.

Ivan went on to have a successful career and wrestled all over the world.  We had a nice talk and it was nice to see him in great spirits.

I had the pleasure of wrestling George South.  George is somewhat legendary in the business, mainly around the Carolinas.  He’s known for being smooth as silk and understanding how to make the most out of everything in the ring.  The match took me back to my early years when the business was so different but still a lot of fun.  Going to the ring and creating as you go is the way you not only learn but stay enthused and enjoy this “job.”  George is a rare breed and I’m glad he’s still around to help and show up and coming wrestlers there is another way to do things besides talking in the back planning A-B-C-D…

Bill Eadie (Masked Superstar, Demolition Ax), Hacksaw Duggan and Baby Doll were also in attendance.  I never worked the Mid Atlantic territory and most of the guys on the card had.  Being a special event people were more accepting and appreciative seeing stars like Bill and Hacksaw.

Old school.

That description gets thrown around on occasion.  “He’s old school.”  “I’m old school.” “That’s old school.”

It seems like there’s more “old school” fans than I thought.  People want to watch something that brings back good memories and feelings.  Was the old school way of doing things really that much better than today?  Not just in wrestling, but anything?  A local TV station in Knoxville just did a ‘retro newscast’ and brought back the old anchors, weather and sports guys from 20 years ago for one night. Why?  I guess they wanted to try something ‘new.’

RAW is going old school next week.  There are still some old school guys out there that fans will know and recognize.  I’m interested in seeing how far back and who will appear.  The American Dream, Dusty Rhodes is one of the old school icons who is as charismatic as it gets.

They broke the mold when they made The Dream.  He was one of those deceptively big men who could move like a cruiserweight.  His intensity and passion is something that can’t be taught.  We crossed paths over the years but I really got to know Dusty Rhodes in Tampa over the last five years…

The Dream is larger than life and still as confident today as he was during his in ring career.  He set the bar high as promos and interviews go.  There were few who could match his style and rhythm.  As the booker and boss during the heyday of WCW, Dusty Rhodes was the ‘Bull of the Woods’ behind the scenes as much as he was in the ring!

During the 1980’s, The Rock and Roll Express and Midnight Express had a fierce rivalry in WCW.  They just came off a hot feud in Louisiana and moved into the national spotlight.  The Mid Atlantic area was known for strong wrestling and in particular, tag teams were often featured.  There was chemistry between Ricky Morton, Robert Gibson, Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey along with manager Jim Cornette.  Put them together and something special happened.

The Dream was booking and the territory was on fire.  It was the right mix at the right time.  There was no doubt the guys were running hard too.  Traveling throughout the Carolinas, Georgia and the east coast could be brutal.  I was in the Pensacola/Alabama territory enjoying the beach and decent road trips.  I was pretty happy.  As a matter of fact, I had some of the best times in my life living in Gulf Breeze, hitting the gym, going to the beach and making some fun, easy road trips!

Then one night Adrian Street came to me and said “Jim Cornette was looking to get in touch with you but didn’t have a number. Dennis Condrey apparently left the team and Jim was trying to get you to come in.”

Yeah, right.  This was before everyone had cell phones so if I was on the road or stayed over somewhere I wouldn’t be home every night and there was no way to get in touch with me unless we knew mutual people…like Adrian.

I thought about it for a minute but shortly after hearing about Dennis, I got word that Stan Lane got the call and he would now be Bobby’s partner in the new Midnight Express.  Damn.  I was having a blast but this could have been my big break!

Funny how things work out.  A few years later I did get a call from Jim Cornette asking if I would be interested in working with him and Stan Lane in his new territory, Smoky Mountain Wrestling based out of east Tennessee.  “Why, sure I would!”

We agreed on a date and I made my first set of TV tapings teaming with Stan with JC as our manager, debuting the Heavenly Bodies.  We worked a program with The Fantastics and then the Rock and Roll Express.  SMW wasn’t around long but it was fun while it lasted.

I managed to ask JC about Dennis leaving and if he was indeed looking for me around that time.

He was.  But he didn’t have a number on me. Damn…

JC proceeded to tell me how he wanted me to be Bobby’s partner but the Dream wanted Stan in that spot.  Ric Flair helped Stan break in and he was in Florida wrestling but not doing anything substantial.  Stan definitely looked the part of the “Gangster of Love” and fit the qualifications as a top tag team wrestler.  He and Steve Keirn worked as the Fabulous Ones and had good runs in Memphis and the AWA.  I understood.  But JC also said “It was Dusty who made the call on Stan…”

Hmmmm.  So Dusty Rhodes picked Stan over me?  I had to admit I wasn’t ready or in the right frame of mind to come in and make things work at that time.  The Florida panhandle was right where I needed to be…

So when Dream came to FCW and we got to talking, of course I brought up the fact that he screwed me out of my opportunity to make big money!  Certainly that wasn’t the case.  It was business. But that didn’t stop me from cutting a promo every chance I got to Dream about “screwing me out of my big break!”  Stan was in the right place at the right time.  I was happy for him.

Later when I teamed with Stan I saw another side of how things work.  I got along great with Stan and JC.  But eventually Stan saw the end coming near and wasn’t having fun anymore.  He decided to quit and concentrate on other ventures.  I didn’t begrudge him at all.  I just had to find another partner.

Damn…

Kevin Sullivan recommended a guy he knew from Tampa; Jimmy Backlund.  At that time we needed somebody fast and our choices were slim.  Hell, let’s do it!  JC contacted Jimmy and when he came in we changed his last name to Del Ray.  JC added “Gigolo” on the front. My new partner was billed as my cousin, Gigolo Jimmy Del Ray.  I have no complaints about Jimmy’s ring work.  We were different people outside the ring and we did our own thing away from each other.

I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if JC had gotten in touch with me when Dennis left.  Dream and I had many discussions on who really dropped the ball.  I contend it was him.  He tells a different story.

That’s the thing about a lot of old school guys.  They have their stories and you have yours.  I’ve had the privilege to listen to a lot of Dusty Rhodes stories over the last five years.  It was never a dull moment and I never got tired of listening to the ‘telling of tales’ if you weeeelllll….

I hope Dream has a cameo or speaking part next week.  The young guys can learn just by watching and listening.  There is something special and magical watching guys from that era tell a story.  Dusty Rhodes tells a story with passion and adds enough spice to give it a unique flavor all its own.

The American Dream Dusty Rhodes continues to help young and veteran talent alike to this day.  The conversations and time I spent with him were always entertaining and invaluable. I respect and love him.  I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next week.  Whatever it is you can bet he will steal the show…

Thanks for reading

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