As the Hall of Famers took to the stage during WrestleMania weekend, there were many references to a man who shaped careers and changed the pro wrestling business forever.
In the midst of what became almost an homage to the memory of Dusty Rhodes, some of his former pupils broke out with their favorite impressions of The Dream. If you closed your eyes for a minute, it was if The Bull of the Woods, himself, had somehow been resurrected on a Friday night in Orlando.
With a strange mix of Willie Dynamite and Foghorn Leghorn, Rhodes created an unmistakable vernacular that has been often imitated, but never duplicated. While being both purposely sly and accidentally funny, the man known as Stardust had his own, special way of getting his point across.
It’s a simple, yet complicated language, that historians will probably some day refer to as Dust-ese.
However, often overlooked among the studio interviews and all the “Hard Times”, some of the most entertaining work of Rhodes’ career came as a color commentator on WCW broadcasts.
Panned by some critics for sounding a little too southern, the fans didn’t seem to mind it all that much. Rhodes’ folksy regional charm punctuated some of the most hilarious calls in wrestling history. Along the way, his trademark lisp and sing-song delivery provided a soundtrack for some the sport’s most quotable moments.
For example, there was the famous instance during a match between The Public Enemy and Harlem Heat, when Big Dust went wildly off script and couldn’t stop laughing. His bubbling enthusiasm and uncontrolled joy only added to the broadcast, as if a big kid had just been handed the microphone.
Or, there was the time when Ray Traylor grabbed a bicycle from the side of the stage area and used it as a weapon (something unheard of in WCW at the time). Like a morning rooster call, Rhodes’ voice went up a couple scratchy octaves, as he struggled to explain what mayhem ‘Bubber’ was about to cause.
But perhaps the magnus opus of Rhodes’ comical color commentary, however, is the falls-count-anywhere match involving Chris Benoit and Kevin Sullivan at the 1996 Great American Bash. It’s not only remembered for brutally spilling into the men’s restroom, but also for how the Dream expressed his vision of the events.
To the average observer, there’s no way to describe the exasperated oil painting that came out of Dusty’s mouth that day. It was a load of rapid-fire ‘rasslin’ rhetoric.
But if you ask a die-hard wrestling fan to quote, “There’s a Lady in the Men’s Room!”, he can probably reel it off in much the same way a fan of comedy can recite, “Who’s On First?” It’s that memorable.
And just like in the game of baseball, Dusty was a Harry Caray-type figure on a wrestling broadcast. He may not describe the action clearly or concisely, but it sure was a lot of fun to listen to.
And you loved him for it, baby. You loved him like toast loves the mornin’ sun… if you will.
So, when you mark down all of Dusty Rhodes’ accomplishments, don’t forget to add that he was also one of the most entertaining announcers of all time. It’s an easily overlooked honor, considering everything else he accomplished in his life.
So, it’s only fitting that on a Friday night in Florida- the state that made him a star- there were echoes of The Dream resonating throughout the building.
His voice… his bluster, was the sound of a generation. In more ways than one.