He’s dined with Kings and Queens and lived off of pork and beans. He even made our backs crack, our livers quiver and our knees freeze. Make no mistake about it, Virgil Runnels, aka “The American Dream,” Dusty Rhodes is a professional wrestling icon. Without the six-pack abs of Jesse Ventura, the wrestling ability of Bruno Sammartino and the good looks of Ric Flair, Rhodes was able to use charisma, dedication and intelligence to carve his own legacy in the industry.
The documentary based on his career, produced by WWE Entertainment, “The American Dream, The Dusty Rhodes Story,” not only does an excellent job of showing how special a piece he is in wrestling history, but shows the man behind the mystique. A three-disc set, this DVD is a step up from the usual WWE documentary that fails to give its all. Instead, this compilation is the definitive Rhodes set and one that any wrestling fan will be happy with.
Broken up between the main documentary, matches and promos, this set is extensive, lasting nine hours. The documentary lasts about an hour and a half and chronicles his career from start to finish, showcasing some of his great feuds and his travels and exploits in the AWA, WCW and the WWE. Even his rocky relationship with his son is discussed, providing some extremely emotional points and giving the set more depth than most of the other superstar documentaries the company has released over the years.
During his career, Rhodes was billed as someone the average man could relate to and as the documentary develops, you’ll begin to understand why. Candid and rugged, yet irresistibly witty and wise, Rhodes is super cool during his younger days and has aged finer than wine today, giving off a kind of grandfather you’d love to have feel today. Because of that, this documentary is an undeniable success that completely captures the essence of both Rhodes’ ring days and his life outside of it.
The same thing goes for the matches featured on the set, as they do an excellent job of showing some of his feuds with everyone from Ric Flair, Billy Graham and Terry Funk. The matches haven’t aged quite as gracefully as you’d expect, but to see so many people flipping out when Rhodes enters the ring is proof enough that he was an icon. Seeing matches end without a great finishing move is a bit of a disappointment, but seeing him punching guys around and dancing is a blast from the past that every wrestling fan has to see.
Despite possessing an excellent documentary and quality matches, the reason to buy this set is for the interviews and promos. Simply put, there are only a handful of wrestlers in the industry’s history that can work the mic like Rhodes. His trademark catch phrases and banter are second to none and for that reason alone, you’ll hang on every word he says. His promos during the latter years are hilarious and show just how charismatic he really was, even while wrestling in polka dots.
Polka dots or not however, Rhodes’ career is worth celebrating and the best way to do that is by watching this set. Thorough and fun, the WWE could learn a thing or two by patterning the rest of their DVD collections in the same way, as it is easily one of the best they’ve ever produced.