There will be a lot written on Dusty Rhodes following his passing on Thursday, some of it in the moment on social media, but a canvasing of his peers reveals one word again and again — charisma.
Of course, charisma can’t be taught. It’s organic and alive.
“You’re talking about entertainment, and Dusty Rhodes is one of the greatest entertainers of all time,” said Blackjack Mulligan in September 2006.
He addressed how he, Superstar Billy Graham and Rhodes “changed the face of this business because we could do promos and talk and get heat in promos where the other guys didn’t know how to work the camera. They hadn’t had that camera time. Once we had created a character, or an aura of a character around us, we found out that we could talk them into the buildings.”
Superstar Graham told as much to journalist Scott Williams in 2004, addressing their battles around the WWWF territory based in New York City even though Rhodes was on top down in Florida: “There was crossover, because they had that built in stardom with Dusty. They were getting the Florida tapes in New York, so he was over before he even got there. So, naturally, when I got the title, I wanted to do a title match with Dusty,” Graham said. “There was no one to equal Dusty. He was the most fun to work with, and we were close friends and laughed all the time. He was the ultimate. He was my number-one opponent, because we could just work those promos off of each other, and he was so charismatic.”
The appeal transcended race said Homicide in 2010: “I was from Brooklyn, New York, and it’s more African-Americans and Hispanics. He brung this culture of charisma that was more than color. A lot of people, we believe in Pedro Morales, every time he comes to Madison Square Garden, Bruno Sammartino, all the talent. Dusty had everybody, yellow, black, brown, he just had everybody, just his charisma. He’s a soul brother, you know? You can’t beat Dusty Rhodes. He’s a great, great guy and the master of charisma.”
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase knew a thing or two about drawing heat as well.
“You can go out and have a good, solid match, but if you’re not colorful doing it, if you don’t have that charisma, if there’s no chemistry between you and the crowd, you’re not going to make any money,” said DiBiase. “You take a guy like Dusty Rhodes, Dusty in his earlier career was a lot better wrestler than people that didn’t see him in his younger career, was a lot better wrestler than people gave him credit for being. When he and Dick Murdoch were a tag team, they could work, man. Dusty could work, he could go. But as he got older, and he was a big, heavy guy, he let his charisma do most of the work.”
We’ll leave the last word — and again it’s charisma — with Gordon Solie, the legendary announcer whose career intertwined Dusty’s in the same way that Howard Cosell’s did with Muhammad Ali.
“There are some guys who are bulls that succeed for a while, but it’s short-lived. Jack Brisco, Dory Funk and Don Curtis, the ones that have had all the training, will be the ones with long-term success,” Solie said in 1984. Dusty Rhodes has a little bit of everything going for him. He’s got more charisma in his little finger than most people have in their entire body.”