Vince McMahon is a highly controversial figure in the world of professional wrestling, known for his eccentricity and enigmatic personality. However, one cannot deny that his approach to the industry is highly calculated and strategic. He also had plans in mind for a legend to become the next Hulk Hogan, but it didn’t quite turn out that way.
Dusty Rhodes made his mark in the wrestling industry primarily through his work with Championship Wrestling from Florida and Jim Crockett Promotions. However, he also spent a notable period working for Vince McMahon Sr’s WWWF in the late 1970s and early 1980s. During this time, the company underwent a major transformation as it was rebranded as the WWF and taken over by Vince McMahon Jr., who had a vision of expanding the company nationally and breaking away from the NWA.
Despite facing criticism from some NWA members, McMahon’s strategic shift ultimately revolutionized the wrestling landscape in North America, propelling the WWF to become the biggest wrestling organization in the world. And during this pivotal period, Dusty Rhodes was there, playing a part in the WWF’s history-making journey to the top.
While speaking on Cheap Heat with Peter Rosenberg, Cody Rhodes recalled his father telling him about the time he worked for Vince McMahon Sr.’s WWWF, and specifically about McMahon’s plans to make Dusty and Billy Graham the face of his company’s national expansion. However, Hulk Hogan ultimately ended up in that role, prompting Cody to initially believe that his father was simply trying to save face.
However, as Cody got older, he claims that McMahon himself confirmed the story, verifying Dusty’s account of what had happened during that pivotal time in wrestling history.
“One of the things that I was told as a kid was that right after these Garden Shows with ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham, is that Vince McMahon wanted to use Dusty and ‘Superstar’ for his expansion, the expansion that would become what we know and where we work and the biggest global sports entertainment wrestling entity on the planet, by far.
They booked recording studio time, they were going to make albums, this was before Rock N Wrestling where Vince had these ideas of reaching out beyond pro wrestling. As a kid, hearing that story from Dusty, I didn’t believe it. I’m watching VHS videos of Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior and I thought it was his way of catching up, ‘I was really special too,’ he didn’t need to do that, but everyone has an ego.
Come to find out, one day I’m sitting by the ring, this is before I left, I’m still doing Stardust, Vince told me the exact story. How mad he was that Dad left and he was going to give him the whole world and he wanted him to be the Hogan and all this. I remember my dad telling me how Hogan used to come to Championship Wrestling from Florida and watched him and revered him. It just sounded like, ‘you’re just trying to chase that clout.’ Then I heard it from Vince and then I heard it from Hogan and Bruce Prichard.
I hope we cover this on the documentary. I consider Dusty Rhodes a Mount Rushmore guy, and not just because he’s my dad. If it’s a son Mount Rushmore, I’m putting four Dustys. I consider him from an industry perspective, closed circuit becoming pay-per-view, The Big Event, the idea of sizzle and matching substance, especially what him and ‘Superstar’ did in the Garden, that’s why the Garden is so dang special to me. It was great to get this part of the story out there and hear it from Bruce as well,”
In 1989, Dusty Rhodes signed with the WWF, where he gained notoriety for his iconic polka-dot ring gear. Despite his popularity, he only remained with the company for a brief two years before departing for WCW.
In the later stages of his career, Rhodes made a return to WWE, working as a consultant before ultimately becoming a pivotal figure in the development of the NXT brand. His contributions to the company were recognized when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007, cementing his status as one of the all-time greats in the wrestling industry.
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