In my view, the hottest feud in the WWE right now is not Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton or CM Punk vs Paul Heyman….it is the “worked” feud between the Rhodes family and the McMahons. Why is it the most intriguing to me? It’s because it’s nearly 30 years in the making.
30 years of real animosity, jealousy and differences….now finally coming to a head all these years later. Forget the year long build up of John Cena vs Rock for Wrestlemania…the Rhodes/McMahon battles have been going on as long or longer than some of you reading have been alive. A large reason for the years of animosity stem from Dusty Rhodes being a big face for Vince’s adversaries in the NWA territories. It also had to do with Dusty being the head booker for a majority of those years as well.
While McMahon gets all the praise and credit for Wrestlemania….it was Dusty’s vision that started the Pay Per View revolution with Starrcade in 1983. When Vince McMahon gave ultimatums to ppv companies to either air his Survivor Series or Starrcade on Thanksgiving…McMahon won. So leave it to Dusty to counterattack with a pay per view caliber show on free TV the night of Wrestlemania in 1988 called Clash of the Champions. The battles did not stop there, as both McMahon and Rhodes would go on TV and mock each other in some form or another.
McMahon did it with satirical characters like “Virgil,” (Dusty’s real first name) the manservant to”The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase (A satire of Ted Turner) TL Hopper a wrestling plumber…Dusty’s father was a plumber by trade. He also briefly had a character named Reo Rodgers (Played by Bruce Prichard) who dressed in Cowboy attire and talked just like ‘The American Dream.” He would do color commentary by Vince’s side and also conducted interviews on a segment called “Reo’s Roundup” Thankfully, the Reo character was tossed away not too long after his debut.
Dusty on the other hand, did things the way he knew best with scintillating promos taking shots at the WWF calling it “Hollywood Wrestling” and challenging Vince to come and bring his wrestlers down to “America’s Team” AKA the NWA.
In 1989, Dusty was fired by Crockett and he moved to smaller Florida promotions, until signing with the WWE. Instead of burying the hatchet with Rhodes…McMahon immediately sent a message that he was now his boss. In a recent interview with Gene Okerlund….Mean Gene revealed in Dusty’s very first match in the WWF at a house show…Dusty was forced to job to Ted Dibiase in under 30 seconds. Gene Okerlund was convinced this was a direct message by Vince to Dusty…that the playing field had changed. The humiliation didn’t stop there because Dusty was being treated like a virtual newcomer with a series of vignettes with him doing common tasks like butchering and electrician work. Then he began to enter the ring in big yellow polka dot tights and dancing before and after every match. He never really made any kind of impact in his WWF tenure.
When Dusty returned to NWA/WCW, his oldest son Dustin Rhodes was brought into the WWE and was handed a very bizarre and androgynous character named Goldust. Now granted, Goldust eventually worked and became successful…that was all credit to Dustin who was able to mold the character into a winner. Dustin has said in interviews that he was leery when initially approached with the strange character, but was willing to make it his own. I can’t help but wonder if the initial premise for the character was to get under Dusty’s skin…if so, it failed and made Dustin into a star despite it.
Dusty stayed with WCW ( with a brief stint in ECW) until its demise and after the WWE purchased WCW…Dusty didn’t go up north. Instead, Dusty Rhodes tried to compete against Vince McMahon. In 2000, he founded TCW (Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling) based out of Georgia. When the promotion folded in 2003, Dusty joined TNA wrestling as a personality, head booker and writer. He remained with TNA until 2005. Dusty also accepted indie bookings with Ring of Honor, and Japan…anywhere but the WWE….
That all changed when in 2005, the WWE signed the Dream to a Legends contract. He has been there ever since…Now some may say, that was Vince’s peace offering to Rhodes, but as we have seen in Vince’s history…he always puts aside grudges for ….wait for it….”What’s best for business.” Vince is the same guy who repeatedly rehired the Ultimate Warrior after several run ins…Sable after she sued him and the company for sexual harassment….etc, etc.
Believe it or not, there was a time where the McMahon family and Dusty Rhodes were on a much more friendly basis. Back in the 70’s, Florida promoter Eddie Graham lent Vince McMahon Sr…Dusty Rhodes to feud with the WWWF champ Superstar Billy Graham. The program was a success and everybody made money. The bad blood really didn’t come until Vince Jr. expanded nationally a few years later.
It’s now 2013, and the real bad blood between the families has seemed to diminish. The years of bickering and trash talking has resulted in a captivating feud. A feud that took 30 years to piece together….and the one man who is benefiting the most…is the man currently waiting on the sidelines….Cody Rhodes.