Real Name – Dustin Runnels
Aliases – Dustin Rhodes;
Seven; Gold Dustin
Hometown – Austin, Texas
Debuted – September 13th, 1988
Titles Held – WWE Intercontinental; WCW United States; WWE World Tag Team; NWA World Tag Team; WWE Hardcore
Other Accomplishments – voted Most Improved Wrestler of 1991 by both Pro Wrestling Illustrated and the Wrestling Observer; was managed in WWE by real-life wife Terri, though they divorced in 1999; did not speak to father Dusty Rhodes for several years in the 1990s
For as long as there have been fathers and sons, overshadowed offspring have struggled to get out from under the shadow of their famous forbearers. In the old days, this could mean princes helping the king to an early death; in modern times, you see it with everything from Robin Thicke refusing to pimp his old man Alan’s legendary “Growing PainsÃ¢â‚¬Â street cred to kick start his singing career to Carrot Top dying his hair red so as not to be confused with Papa Grut.
But none of them covered themselves in gold paint and became a sexually ambiguous fetish freakÃ¢â‚¬â€Dustin Runnels did. For thatÃ¢â‚¬â€and for being one of the most groundbreaking and charismatic performers of the 1990sÃ¢â‚¬â€we salute the man who became much more than just the son of “The American DreamÃ¢â‚¬Â Dusty Rhodes.
When Dustin started out, he actually followed about as close in his dad’s cowboy boot steps as he could. While he may have been a mite lankier than his pop and not possessing even a fraction of the old man’s personality, the kid made his pedigree clear when he chose the ring name Dustin Rhodes. After modest regional success in Texas and Florida, Dustin headed north to the World Wrestling Federation just in time to share in the winding down of the darkest, yellow polka-dotted final days of his dad’s career as a regularly active in-ring competitor.
In a not so memorable episode of Superstars in late 1990, Dustin donned a leather vest that would make J.R. Ewing cringe and took a seat in the front row only to find himself on the wrong end of a beat down from daddy Dusty’s then arch-nemesis “Million Dollar ManÃ¢â‚¬Â Ted DiBiase and his bodyguard Virgil. Despite upsetting DiBiase in 10-minute challenge match on syndicated WWF programming, Dustin would not be so lucky when he and Dusty teamed unsuccessfully against Virgil and his boss at the 1991 Royal Rumble en route to being ousted from the company.
Less than a month later, Dustin debuted on more comfortable turf: his father’s traditional stomping grounds in World Championship Wrestling. Nicknamed “The Natural,Ã¢â‚¬Â the younger Rhodes quickly won fans down south largely by virtue of his last name, but also thanks to a quiet charisma and basic but solid in-ring work.
Dustin would benefit greatly from being one of top babyface Sting’s allies in his super hot feud with the Dangerous Alliance and forming championship tag teams with veterans Ricky Steamboat and Barry Windham. Young Rhodes also met the future temporary love of his life, falling spurs over ten gallon for Terri Boatwright, who failed to recruit him as devious Alexandra York but got a diamond ring for her efforts in real life.
By the beginning of 1993, Dustin’s popularity had risen to the point where he was selected to be WCW’s number two man, winning the United States title from Rick Rude. He would hold onto the U.S. title for the better part of a year, fending off Rude and a host of others before dropping the strap to a fellow young lion by the name of Steve Austin who would drop a Port-o-potty on him four years later.
Unfortunately, Dustin followed up with a less than impressive 1994, feuding with such luminaries as Bunkhouse Buck, actually trusting Arn AndersonÃ¢â‚¬â€yes, that Arn AndersonÃ¢â‚¬â€as a tag team partner (who of course turned on him) and ultimately needing dear old dad to come out of retirement and bail his ass out.
Perhaps feeling like he had something to proveÃ¢â‚¬â€or perhaps realizing that nobody wanted to watch two guys punching either in between tripping in a moving truckÃ¢â‚¬â€Dustin made the ill-advised decision to blade in his “King of the RoadÃ¢â‚¬Â match with Blacktop Bully at Uncensored 1995, violating WCW’s strict no blood (if your name isn’t Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair) policy. Having fallen out of favor with his father since his marriage, Dustin found himself without a place to ply his trade.
The only other game in town, the WWF, had no use for Dustin Rhodes, but they did have use for Goldust.
In perhaps the most dramatic character reinvention since Jim Carrey tried to be a serious actor, former good ol’ boy Dustin Rhodes pulled a vanishing act and in his place emerged a gold-painted enigma in a blonde wig and shimmering robe who quoted old Hollywood movies and played psychological games with his opponents like sending Razor Ramon flowers or giving Ahmed Johnson mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Nobody could have predicted how well Dustin would take to the character, boldly pulling off a role that could have easily become a joke in the hands of a less capable performer. Thriving on the venom his controversial act drew from the crowd, Goldust would claim three Intercontinental titles, climax a high octane feud with the legendary Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania XII with a lame faux O.J. Simpson car chase, and dare to step in the ring with the ever unstable Ultimate Warrior.
A brief 1997 flirtation with playing Goldust “straightÃ¢â‚¬Â as a babyface complete with loving wife Terri (who had been managing her man as the sultry Marlena) and cutesy daughter Dakota ended when Dustin ditched the family man routine and took on Luna Vachon as his new valet, determined to push the boundaries in the WWF’s new, more mature, post-Bret Hart days and make Goldust more controversial than ever.
Rifling through temporary costumes and personas as “The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust,Ã¢â‚¬Â one week “The Bizarre OneÃ¢â‚¬Â would don cone “breastsÃ¢â‚¬Â as “MarilyndustÃ¢â‚¬Â parodying Marilyn Manson, the next he’d squeeze his burgeoning girth into lingerie to mock WWF sexpot Sable. On one edition of Raw, Goldust even stuffed a black and yellow polka dotted singlet in a strange homage to his estranged father.
Following Wrestlemania XIV in 1998, the WWF again attempted to push Dustin in another direction under his real name with an evangelical gimmick, but the popularity of the Goldust character would not die. In fact, the only person who could kill Goldust would be Dustin Runnels.
Rumor has it that during his 1999 run with the Blue Meanie as his sidekick, Dustin pushed Vince McMahon to pay to get him breast implants for the Goldust character. This outlandish request combined with gradual receding of fan reaction and messy divorce proceedings with Terri were enough to get Goldust the axe.
When former WWF writer Vince Russo took over WCW, he scuttled plans for Dustin to return as a surreal character named Sev7n, unfortunate for any fans jonesing for a white-faced Freddy Krueger knockoff on a black horse (fun fact: according to Wikipedia, the gimmick got scrapped because Turner Standards & Practices thought Dustin would get mistook for a child molester). Instead, Dustin patched things up with his father and settled into a bland year and a half run using live chickens to hit Terry Funk before WCW died a merciful death.
With WWF now the only game in town and Vince McMahon burying Dustin on-air during the final edition of Nitro by mentioning the story about the breast implants, it seemed like the curtain had fallen on the artist truly formerly known as Goldust. However, since no bridge is ever truly burned in wrestling, the robe and wig came out of the closet (no pun intended) at the 2002 Royal Rumble and Goldust returned to the WWF. While it initially seemed that the character remained as stale as three years prior, a successful teaming with Booker T as a comedy duo and later legitimate babyface tag team plus Dustin’s renewed commitment to his own fitness gave Goldust new life that he would ride out through 2003 before being quietly released due to budget cuts.
While Dustin would resurface in TNA and later Goldust would briefly return to WWE in 2005 (both appearances neatly coinciding with Dusty Rhodes’ gaining backstage power at each organization), for all intents and purposes the final bow had been taken.
Goldust took the flamboyant heel character made famous by the likes of Gorgeous George and Adrian Street to the next level many never thought it would reach. Dustin Runnels earns his spot as one of the 100 most important wrestlers of the past three decades by taking the road less traveled, breaking away from the shadow of a famous father and creating an immortal character in sports entertainment history.
The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.