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Thursday, June 11, 2015

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On Dusty Rhodes and "Hard Times"

By Speed on the Beat (@SpeedontheBeat)

I was prepared to do another WIRTB Review today, make some wise cracks at 2000 WCW's expense. I was ready to make the Eyes on the Ring fanbase laugh and shudder at my thoughts on Sunny. I was going to talk about the time that David Arquette won Big Gold.

But, then I received word that a legend, The American Dream Dusty Rhodes, had died.

Rhodes, 69, was probably one of the first wrestlers I gravitated to when I started watching wrestling. My older cousins, they had some older Coliseum Videos of late 1980s WWF stuff. Now, shoot me for not starting with his pre-WWF work, but he still spoke to me. Here's this guy, who wasn't a mound of muscles, out there, wrestling and kicking ass just like the Hulk Hogans and the Warriors and the Randy Savages. He truly represented the common man, because, let's face it: how many of us have physiques like Hulk and Warrior?

His promos were both intense enough and silly enough that they could keep a young kid like me entertained. He didn't sound zonked like Hulk and Warrior (may he rest in peace). But, he didn't sound like, oh, I don't know, Tito Santana, either. He was able to take the gimmick of being a big guy in polka dots and make it work. Look far and wide, and tell me: how many talents do you know that could've made that work for them without making it look asinine? Rhodes jumped right into it. But, as I got older, and my tastes changed, I began to wonder: how does The Common Man fit into my wrestling palate?

So, I looked and looked for bigger, better examples of Rhodes' work. I started where almost anyone who's looking to get into Rhodes should/would: the Hard Times promo.

Gone were the polka dots. Sapphire, too. What remained was a man who ate thunder and crapped lightning. A man who the masses could aspire to follow. A man who, well, knew about hard times and wanted to stick it to The Man (the "Man," in this instance--as with several of Rhodes' greatest moments--was Ric Flair; True, in the coming days and weeks, will have a retrospective on this rivalry). This promo, when I saw it, I was, maybe 16 or so and had just gotten back into wrestling (and YouTube had just started to take off). It made me want more. I salivated at the idea of Rhodes getting his hands on Flair and whipping him senseless, like the bloodthirsty, less-than-politically-correct fans of old.

But more than that, it affected me in a way that many wrestling moments don't. It hit my heart. Around the time I discovered "Hard Times," I was going through some hard times of my own. I had emotional issues, romantic issues, familial issues, suicidal thoughts--the whole nine. Those three minutes of Dusty speaking about Ric Flair and how Rhodes was dedicating his win to America (and, well, the American Dream), it sparked a fire in me that has not been quelled since. I picked myself up and kept going, using each hard time as kindling, each rejection as a reminder that even when I fail, I succeed. That philosophy helped me become the man I am today. Now, I'm not perfect, and I won't get all emotional here, but this promo stuck with me.

While wrestling and I have our spats and I walk away for a while, I always keep a Rhodes promo (usually this one) in my back pocket. Why? They're words to live by. And as the sun has set on another legend, let us not mourn for him. Let us celebrate his life, because brother, we've all seen hard times. And Dusty Rhodes helped me get through mine.

Rest in Peace.
-Speed on the Beat


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