Upholding the tradition of breaking the mold

Page 2 of 6
April 24, 2012

An extreme icon

Along with the likes of Bruiser Brody and The Sheik, Dusty Rhodes’ name belongs on any list that claims to comprehensively name the pioneers of hardcore wrestling. His proclivity for out-and-out brawls emerged early on, during his team with “Dirty” Dick Murdoch. Known collectively as The Texas Outlaws, Rhodes and Murdoch were two bar room brawlers. Their fights in the Midwest against The Crusher and Dick the Bruiser often dissolved into riotous melees.

As a singles competitor, The American Dream did little to hurt his reputation as a brawler first, wrestler second. Having witnessed firsthand one of the earliest Texas Death Matches – a multi-hour marathon in Amarillo involving the contest’s inventor, Dory Funk Sr. – Dusty knew that his in-ring style meshed well with such wild, no-rules match formats.

“That was my first real look at what we call the gimmick match,” Dusty said, adding that his eventual involvement in those types of bouts was a byproduct of the era. “What drew me to those matches, I think, was the way I was built up – as a brawler, the kid from Texas, the plumber’s son sticking up for the common man.”

The American Dream added to his hardcore cred while competing in Florida wrestling. Alongside fellow hardcore innovators Terry Funk and Pak Song, Rhodes tussled in barbed wire and fought in Texas Bullrope Matches, a style of bout in which both competitors were tethered at the wrist by a bullrope with a cowbell hanging in the middle. For Dusty, such matches represented the definitive end to many a rivalry.

“The gimmick matches were the blow-off,” he recalled. “Either you beat me or I beat you. Either way, I knew that those matches meant the end.”