You might have seen him and double-take, whether it was at a fan fest, or even in AEW. “Wait, is that Dusty Rhodes?”
Nope, it’s Michael Raimondi of New Jersey.
He absolutely lives by the modified motto of “The American Dream” himself” “I just show up as Dusty and amazing things happen.”
Dusty Rhodes was, of course, a larger than life American professional wrestler, who not only captivated the wrestling audience but inspired people. It’s the story of Virgil Riley Runnels Jr., a plumber’s son who came from poverty to reach amazing heights, both in the ring and behind the scenes as a booker and promoter.
Rhodes passed away June 11, 2015, and his pro wrestling legacy lives on through his sons Cody and Dustin.
But back to Raimondi.
When I met him at Tommy Fierro’s 80’s Wrestle Con in New Jersey about a year ago, he was singing karaoke to the Dusty Rhodes WWF theme song dressed up full blast in the infamous 1990s yellow and black polka dot outfit. He performed the song excellently, however, what drew me to him was his infectious ability to make everyone around him happy.
This was much more than someone cosplaying a character. He embodied what Dusty was as a person, and had, in a way, become an actual vessel harnessing the spirit of the American Dream. He has been able to become a bit of name for himself, and has been featured both on AEW and WWE as per Cody Rhodes’ request.
With all that in mind, I caught up with Raimondi and asked him the why.
Q. What does Dusty Rhodes mean to you and why?
A: Dusty means so much to me. He made it cool to be a “common man.” He valued family and people. He showed that you didn’t have to be the best looking or have the biggest muscles to succeed. He was tough but had a heart of gold. He believed that you should be true to yourself, work hard and follow your dreams.
Q. How was this idea created and established?
A: I had met Dusty Rhodes at a convention in 2013 wearing the polka-dot outfit. I had told him I was going to events dressed like him and the fans loved it. I asked him if I should continue doing it and he said, “You have to, baby, you have to.” Ten years later and I am blessed to have many amazing moments.
Q. What was it like to be featured on AEW and WWE?
A: When I see myself on WWE and AEW social media, I am still in disbelief. I am glad they appreciate my tribute to Dusty, and no matter how many years go by The American Dream lives on.
Q. How did you get discovered by Cody and now WWE?
A: I really don’t know the exact answer. I can tell you that people have taken pics and videos of me and have sent them to Cody. I am just a common fan who buys a ticket and sits in the audience enjoying the show. I do, however, stand out and always hoped to get Cody’s attention at an event. I would never expect for him to hand me a live microphone or invite me in the ring. He has given me a once in a lifetime moment, and for that I am forever grateful.
Q: Can you safely say you are living your own American dream?
A: I am a very lucky man. I have a beautiful wife, and an amazing seven-year-old daughter. I work hard at my job, and love spending time with my family. When I’m not at work or spending with my family, I am going to wrestling events and conventions and having the time of my life. I have met some great people and have had amazing experiences. You can say that is my version of living the American Dream.
Q: What were you doing before dressing up like Dusty? And what inspired that?
A: Before dressing up as Dusty, I would go to events with my friends in the typical jeans and a black wrestling T-shirt. When I found out Dusty was going to be at Fan Axxess at WrestleMania 29, I had made a polka dot T-shirt, bought a white curly wig at Party City, and an elbow pad. I always saw fans dressed up as Hogan or Macho Man and realized I should dress up as my favorite wrestler. I never knew how far it would go.
Q: You once said, “I just show up as Dusty and amazing things happen.” Can you elaborate on that?
A: I say it because it’s true. Nothing is ever planned I am mostly in the right place at the right time. Dusty’s talent is that he drew people in emotionally. Just dressing up like him and impersonating his voice is like a magnet that attracts people. He had an infectious personality and charisma. He made you feel how he felt. Nobody did it better.
TOP PHOTO: “Goldust” Dustin Rhodes with Michael Raimondi; Michael Raimondi with Cody Rhodes.