After being out of action for months, Dustin Rhodes is itching to get back into the ring. His World Championship Wrestling contract expired on August 1, and now he’s turning his attention to his father Dusty Rhodes’s TurnBuckle Championship Wrestling promotion.
The former Goldust teams up with his father this Saturday in Dothan, AL, to face former ECW star CW Anderson and the masked American Nightmare.
He talked with SLAM! Wrestling about the chaotic last couple of years of his life and his belief in TurnBuckle as a promotion that serves as an alternative to the WWF.
“I love this business and I’ll do anything to help my dad to better TurnBuckle Championship Wrestling. I think it will be good,” Dustin Rhodes said. The promotion is based out of Atlanta, and has been running around Georgia and Alabama, and recently made inroads into Florida.
“TCW is the alternative to the World Wrestling Federation,” he explained. “To me in my mind, my opinion, and my dad’s opinion, we are the World Wrestling Federation’s competition. We are not an independent, we are a company. We want to be treated as one. So we’re going to do everything we can to make it a respectable, family entertainment business.”
Family is the top reason that Dustin is involved with TCW. He is now divorced from wife Terri Runnels of the WWF, and they share custody of their daughter, Dakota.
Having had his own problems in the past with his father, Dustin is especially concerned with staying in Dakota’s life. “We had a falling out. We didn’t talk for five years,” Rhodes said about his father, The American Dream. “Since my divorce, and all that, that’s really when I went to him and we put our ways aside and said ‘hey, we both needed some growing up to do’ and we did. We’re closer right now than we ever were. There’s nothing, I think, that would tear that down again. I won’t let anything happen like that because you have one father and one father only.”
With WCW folding and being amalgamated into the WWF, Rhodes had some choices to make about his career. “I really didn’t have my heart set on returning to the World Wrestling Federation right away. Hopefully, maybe down the line, I don’t know. I want to help my dad out as much as possible and do some independents, Japan and whatever. But my main decision on that was that I wanted to be close to my daughter. Money is not everything to me, but business is.”
Being around WCW as it died a slow, painful death was confusing for Rhodes, who had to rely on rumours for information.
“To me, that was like a Mickey Mouse company. They were running it like it was three-ring circus, man. It was horrible. But with Vince McMahon holding the reins right now, and even though there’s only one place to go, which I think is bad for all the wrestlers in this world … I think, though, with the reins in his hands, WCW will be a success as the World Wrestling Federation has been, because he’s a very intelligent man.”
Before WCW folded though, Eric Bischoff had encouraged Dustin to get himself in better shape, and he’s thankful that he listened. “I lost 25 pounds. I’m like I was when I started wrestling, and I’m 250 pounds now and I’m still keeping it off which is the amazing thing,” said Rhodes. “It’s hard when you’re doing that diet. I don’t want to end up looking like my dad because it’s in my genes. But whatever you want to do with your body, you can if you set your mind to it. So I’m trying to keep it off as best I can. I’m staying on the treadmill everyday so hopefully I won’t be gasping for air out there and if I’ve got to get in the ring with Steve Corino and go an hour Broadway one night, I’m going to do it.”
Corino is one of the bigger names working with TurnBuckle, along with Barry Windham, WCW exiles Daffney, Scotty Riggs, Lodi, and legends like Larry Zybzsko and Manny Fernandez. Plus there’s the up-and-coming talent being groomed in Dusty Rhodes’ Atlanta wrestling school. A school run by Dustin Rhodes is set to open this fall in Florida.
Dustin is looking forward to sharing everything that he knows about this business, but recognizes that he comes at it from a different perspective than most, having grown up in the business with a famous father. “You can’t teach psychology. You have to have it in you, you have to feel it,” he explained. “But moves and things like that, how to do the moves, and how not to do the moves, I can do the very best because I think I’m pretty natural at this business. But as far as when to do something and when not to do something, you have to go out in front of people to do that. You can’t teach that. Then when they come back, I can critique it.”
He doesn’t believe that there are too many wrestling schools around. “There’s so many people that want to be wrestlers and wrestling is so big right now. If that’s really what they want to do, then great. I would definitely suggest that you go to college first.”
When the WWF ran the angle where it was buying WCW, Vince McMahon crowed on TV about how WCW wrestlers like Dustin Rhodes and Jeff Jarrett would never work for his company. Rhodes doesn’t know where that attack came from. “Really, I don’t know what to say to that. Since I was done with that, I left and I haven’t heard anything from anybody.
“I don’t think that there’s any bad blood between me and Vince. When I quit, I quit. I asked for my release and he gave it to me. There wasn’t any blood spilled over it.”
His time in the WWF peaked as Goldust with the WrestleMania XII Hollywood Backlot Match with Roddy Piper. It’s still Rhodes’ favourite moment from all his years in wrestling.
Three Intercontinental title reigns later as Goldust, plus a bizarre angle where he burned the costume and turned ultra-Christian on screen, tired both he and the writers out.
“The Golddust character was going nowhere. I was getting a divorce. That last year I was there, I was on the road about 280 days. My back was sore and tired, I was tired, run-down and I didn’t want it anymore, especially with the divorce. I think the divorce probably caused me to want to really say ‘Hey, I’m done with it.'”
“Towards the end of Golddust, that last year was probably the lowpoint of my career in all my years of wrestling,” he said. “I tried my best to give them my ideas. They just didn’t like them, or for whatever the reasons, I don’t know.”
It’s been a bit bizarre for Rhodes to go through such a private matter as divorce with the public tuned in. But he understands that the fans have followed both he and Terri over the years in their various characters, and even got to hear and see Dakota in a couple of instances.
“The wrestling fans know everything. There’s probably a camera in my house right now, and a wrestling fan is probably watching it,” he said with a laugh. “The whole world is watching you, everybody’s watching you and everybody thinks they know — and a lot of them do. I don’t know where they get their information, but they get their information from somewhere, more power to them.”
He has a good understanding with his ex-wife now. “My relationship with Terri now is awesome. She’s a wonderful mother to our child. We do whatever we can to make it a happy place for our daughter.”