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RIP Dusty Rhodes: your favorite career matches & moments

Photo: Pro Wrestling Illustrated

Dusty Rhodes vs. Ric Flair

By Josh Nason, Wrestling Observer

I asked for your favorite Dusty Rhodes matches and you delivered. What follows is a collection of various big matches from Rhodes' career with some consistencies, some memories, and lots of video links. If you're a Dusty Rhodes fan, this post is for you.


Dusty Rhodes & Ole Anderson vs. Assassins Steel Cage Match - Georgia Championship Wrestling, 1980

I was lucky to see two really historically significant matches live. One was June 8, 1990, when Jumbo Tsuruta passed the torch and put over Mitsuhara Misawa. The other was in 1980, when I, along with numerous other folks at the Atlanta WFIA Convention, saw Dusty teaming with Ole Anderson vs The Assassins in a steel cage with Gene Anderson as a babyface ref and Ivan Koloff as a heel ref.

Now being a Southern California kid (pre cable TV in my region), I was unfamiliar with just how over Dusty was. I'll never forget that when the match was about to start, one of the WFIA folks (Pete Lederberg) said, "Hey, do you think the other five wrestlers will turn on Dusty?" People shook their heads or said "Naaaaah"...even though I bet most of those folks would later claim they saw the angle coming months ahead!

Well, we all know the turn he predicted happened, and I sat there, absolutely stunned at how batsh*t crazy the fans in the Omni went over Dusty's blood, guts, and thunder massacre at the hands of five heels inside a cage! Beer, food, everything imaginable was hurled at the cage. The fan I'll never forget was some teen, not the stereotypical wrestling nerd, looked more like a varsity jock, walked aimlessly near ringside, tears streaming down his face, and then, straight out of the most melodramatic movie you've ever seen, clenches his fists and screams through a giant sob, "DUUUUUUSTY!!!"

I'm not going to lie and say I was a mega Dusty fan. I really dug him at times, got burned out on him at others. That said, that night at The Omni, 1980, I TOTALLY understood that there was so much more to Dusty Rhodes than what I previously saw in the Apter & Keitzer magazines! RIP Dusty Rhodes.

- Kurt Brown


Dusty Rhodes vs. Barry Windham -- Great American Bash 1988

- Tommy Slinker


The James Boys vs. Midnight Express - WCW Saturday Night

Frank and Jesse James are Dusty and Magnum TA under masks. Great match and great angle. Great finish. I love this match.

- Dan Cerquitella


Assassins vs. Dusty & Ole Anderson with Gene Anderson & Ivan Koloff as special refs - 1980, Omni in Atlanta, GA

The match told a great story. It was about trust, lack of trust and revenge.

- Ted Leavey


Dusty Rhodes

Dusty Rhodes & Wahoo McDaniel vs Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson double bullrope & Indian strap match - Jim Crockett Promotions house show, spring of 1986

Dusty Rhodes & Dick Murdoch vs The Bruiser & The Crusher - AWA, March 1973

Great brawl. I'm not sure if these 4 guys knew pro wrestling was a work.

- Matt Mann



Dusty Rhodes WarGames

War Games: The Match Beyond

So many feuds & storylines all timed to hit at once. Just perfect. Also, a few moments: when the James Gang attacked the Midnight Express (nearly kills Jim Cornette), and when Dusty nearly murdered Tully Blanchard with a baseball bat. I think that Dusty is up in heaven talking to the other wrestlers saying "Y'all hear that they're talkin' 'bout me, right?"

- Uncle Jason from West Virginia


War Games: The Match Beyond - July 4th, 1987 in Atlanta at the Omni

It was the Four Horsemen (Lex Luger version) and JJ Dillon against The Super Powers (Dusty and Nikita Koloff), the Road Warriors and Paul Ellering. Classic good vs evil, and the Horsemen had been on a serious roll. I did not think there was any way the Horsemen would lose, but then I saw the match. Dusty was great in the match. He sold, he bled, and you knew he was going to lead his team to victory. I never bet against Dusty after that.

- Reginald Featherbottom


Bunkhouse Stampede ‘88 (Dusty, Animal, Barbarian, Arn Anderson, Ivan Koloff, Lex Luger, Warlord, Tully Blanchard) - Nassau Coliseum, NY

I get the impression that, to people growing up with Dusty, this match is not as fondly remembered as I remember it. However, to a kid born in 1987 in North Louisiana that only had a few tapes on hand, this opened the door to a whole new world of wrestling.

My first introduction to wrestling had been to the cartoon world of WWF and Hulk Hogan.  "Kid" stuff.  "My" stuff.  Stuff that easily fell into the Ninja Turtles demographic.  This was something different, though. This was blood and beer. This was my dad and his friends in the barroom brawls that I heard my dad was pretty good in. I didn't hear a Rhodes promo until the polka dot era,  but he won me over as a real hero wrestler.  Hogan was a comic book; Dusty was like my dad: a true blue, common man that worked hard for his family even if that meant he didn't get to see them. To anyone that says Dusty was all promo, f*ck 'em.  He got me with this match and winning the big boot.  

Midnight ridin' through hard times,

- Johnny Moore


Dusty Rhodes vs. Ric Flair World Title Match - Great American Bash, 1986

I'm 45 years old, and I've been a huge wrestling fan since I was 10 in 1980. It's very hard for me to pick one particular match since Dusty had so many great matches and moments in the ring. But if I had to pick just one, I would have to go with when Dusty defeated Ric Flair for the NWA World title at the Great American Bash in 1986.

Of course Dusty was not the most athletic wrestler or had the traditional wrestler body so to speak. But just like his promos, Dusty was excellent in performing and telling a physical story in the ring with his actions. His wrestling style and abilities in the ring made you believe he was one of the best wrestlers in the world because he made everything so emotional.

He was very good for a big man in the ring, was pretty quick in his prime, and he just made you believe what he was doing in the ring by his physical story telling in his matches, nobody could "sell" in the ring like Dusty. He had me thinking that the Bionic elbow was the most devastating move in the world. His cage match with Ric Flair was such an awesome match and such a good story of winning the title after his countless battles with the Four Horsemen, Ric Flair, War Games matches, tag matches with Magnum TA and Nikita Koloff in his battles with Flair, and his single matches were all just awesome.

But when he won the World title, which I think was his 2nd win? It was just an awesome moment at the time, and still gives me goosebumps when I go back and watch the match now. The crowd pop was so huge, Dusty was so emotional when he won the world title, and then all the NWA faces at the time all coming to the cage to celebrate with Dusty, just made it a special moment like he just won the World Series or the Super Bowl. Dusty was always a great story teller in the ring in his physical actions that just made you believe in everything he did. He was a master of the game to say the least.

My Mount Rushmore of wrestling includes Dusty Rhodes. He was a once in a lifetime performer that just made you believe. And that is the most important thing when watching a wrestling match.

- Jon Southerland


"Superstar" Billy Graham vs. Dusty Rhodes - Texas Death Match for the WWWF title, MSG 10/24/77

It's on the WWE DVD "20 Years Too Soon – The Superstar Billy Graham Story. Incredible heat!

- Robert from Vienna  


Since I rewatched ‘Rivalries’, the hot angle to reunite his feud with Flair. In the Omni in Atlanta, Flair vs. Nikita in the cage when Ivan jumps in and Dusty makes the save only to be jumped by the Horsemen, Ole, Arn, Tully. They “broke” Dusty's leg and the arena wouldn’t let the Horsemen out of the cage. Anderson and Flair said it took a hour to get out of the cage sadly. Dusty’s final triumph one on one at the GAB on July 26th in Greensboro, NC, to win the title over Flair was a great story finally coming to a climax.

Dusty Rhodes vs. ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham from MSG (1977)

Dusty Rhodes vs. Tully Blanchard for the rights to Baby Doll (1985-86)

- Matt Cail


Dusty Rhodes vs. Steve Corino - Bullrope Match; ECW Living Dangerously (2000)

One simple reason: I was there to see it from the fifth row. Born in '79, I was a little too young to appreciate his body of work at his prime, but I'd become a fan of his commentary on WCW Saturday Night. The ECW PPV was taking place a town away from where I lived at the time, and as cool as it was to attend an ECW show at close range (you can see me in the opening crowd pan on that show, on WWE Network), I was grateful I was getting to see Dusty do his thing inside the ring.

It was a simple bloody brawl that I'll always remember - specifically watching the Bionic Elbow in person. It'll always be a special memory for me.

- Tony Yannuzzi


Dusty Rhodes vs. Steve Corino - Bullrope Match; ECW Living Dangerously (2000)

It sticks out the most to me because even though Dusty was way past his prime, the ECW crowd still gets behind him. Few people could command a room like The Dream.

- James Lambert


Dusty Rhodes vs. Ric Flair: Starrcade '85

While I have as much respect as anyone regarding Dusty Rhodes’ career, he was never a personal favorite of mine. I didn't become a serious wrestling fan until the late-80's and that was all WWE. While obviously super-charismatic and a great promo, the polka dot wearing, Sapphire loving Dusty Rhodes was well past his best body of work (in-ring and otherwise).

However one match in particular that remains a personal favorite of mine (participants notwithstanding) is Dusty Rhodes vs. Ric Flair from Starrcade '85. I watched this match for the 1st time upon purchasing The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection DVD set WWE put out back around 2003. People often throw around the terminology "storytelling" when it comes to wrestling matches. Most of the best matches in history have been a demonstration of where that phrase comes from. That is hardly the case with most modern day matches which is no doubt the primary reason that even upon one viewing, this three decade old match had an impact on and still resonates with me even now.

The angles and promos leading to the match aside (which were top rate by themselves), this match was pure storytelling from bell-to-bell. While one has to give Flair all the credit in the world for his role in this match, it was Dusty that was the architect in making it successful. Nearly everything in the match was perfect in terms of timing, psychology, storytelling, and for Rhodes, a 101 seminar on how to be a successful babyface. To say the same angles and storylines could have been utilized in the same way with anyone besides Dusty Rhodes is fooling themselves.

Even as a non-Dusty Rhodes fan, I could see from this one little snapshot in time why there is nobody else in the wrestling business who was or will be another ‘American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes. How many matches today can one watch and even remember the next day?

- Joshua P. Christie


I know you called for matches, but for me the things I remember most about Dusty were the angles: when the Horsemen followed Dusty and beat him up in the parking lot, Dusty & Magnum as the The James Gang, Nikita turning babyface and saving Dusty, Baby Doll and Dusty, Dusty breaking the chair over Bubba's head (and Bubba no selling it), and so much more from that 80s Crockett era.  Dusty wasn't about great physical matches, he was about the emotion of the match.  And the peak for all of that was the first War Games. Just listen to the crowd when Dusty throws a punch or hits the elbow. The match was so huge because it came together naturally, and it made sense because of the interference by the Horsemen for two years.

If that had been the first Crockett PPV, I think they'd have been so successful that the cable companies may have not let Vince pull the power play on Thanksgiving. Would this have saved Crockett or just delayed the inevitable?

Most of Dusty's big matches weren't shown in their entirety on TV, but there were a bunch of big name matches on Worldwide that either were short (and exciting) or lasted three minutes before David Crockett said "we gotta go."  One that does stick out to me was Dusty vs. Bobby Eaton in a cage. It's not a long match, but was a unique match for TV.  Bobby being the awesome worker that he was and being able to have Jim Cornette on the outside makes this so much fun.

- Jason Campbell


Dusty Rhodes vs. Tully Blanchard, Great American Bash 1987 in Greensboro, NC

I want to say thanks for giving the fans an opportunity to say which match they best remember from Dusty. There are heroes from the great art of pro wrestling with great frequency, and Dusty surely means a great deal to those fortunate enough to have watched him wrestle throughout his career. I was thinking how cool it was that he showed up in ECW to feud with Steve Corino, and again foiled Corino and his "Group", when he joined Homicide in Ring of Honor wars back over a decade ago.

My favorite match goes back to the days of the NWA. the Great American Bash 1987. June 6th, 1987 to be exact as Dusty battled Tully Blanchard in Greensboro, NC at Greensboro Coliseum. This was the heyday of Dusty's feuding with the Horsemen. There is barbed wire wrapped around the ropes! Also a bag of money is hung, which brings a ladder into play many years before other wrestlers are credited for creating the ladder match.

I don't want to spoil for those that have not seen but this is every bit as exciting as other Dusty/Tully tangles. and JJ Dillon, Dark Journey and Barry Windham are all present for the match as well. Great Crockett-era action and just one of the many reasons to be a Dusty fan. Many condolences to the Rhodes (Runnels) family.

- Robert Murillo


The matches Dusty had with Superstar Billy Graham at Madison Square Garden in 1977 and 1979 have an atmosphere to them that is hard to match. They play off each other like career opponents. They faced each other for the WWWF Title on 9/26/1977 and their rematch on 10/24/1977 was a Texas Death Match and is my personal favorite Graham match and maybe even favorite Dusty match. They had their famous 8/28/1978 Bullrope match that was a classic grudge match.

For me, I started watching NWA/WCW in 1988 when I rented Starrcade 86 and Starrcade 87 on successive nights without knowing the cards of results. I got behind Dusty in his 1986 TV Title loss to Tully Blanchard and then really enjoyed his US Title win in a cage match against Lex Luger.

The ending was telegraphed but the DDT on the chair for the title win made my night. I then really enjoyed his title challenge and loss to new US Champion Barry Windham in July 1988, my first "new" ppv since I'd started watching. It was probably his last great singles feud of his full-time career.

Also, Dusty's matches against Steve Corino in ECW were always fun. And the tag match at 1992 Tokyo Dome in which he teamed with Dustin against Masa Saito and Kim Duk was a great emotional experience, and I think it would be even more so now.

- Dave Musgrave


Dusty’s First Blood match vs. Tully Blanchard -- Starrcade, Greensboro, NC 1986.

Dusty vs. Ric Flair World title match, Great American Bash 1986

Dusty vs. Tully Blanchard cage match, Great American Bash 1985 in Charlotte.

What made them stand out is that I remember getting excited that Dusty had won the World title while the other two were brutal. I was 7-8 years old then and being that young, those three really stick with me today.

- Wesley Kelly


Dusty Rhodes vs. Lex Luger - Starrcade '87, cage match for the U.S. Title.

Maybe the match wasn't a classic, and I didn't need Johnny Weaver involved, but Dusty was at his best as a sympathetic babyface vs the powerhouse Luger.

-Richard Baker


The following is from Steve Helwagen whose work has appeared here before. This is a pretty extensive list with tons of video links, so I wanted to give him a special shoutout.

I spent lot of nights watching Dusty at the Convention Center (Ohio Center then) and Fairgrounds Coliseum. He and Ole Anderson were the main event of the first show at Ohio Center in Sept. 1980. Here’s some video links of my favorites including the first time I’ve ever seen the ‘92 St. Louis match where Flair pins him clean in the middle (wow!).

- Flair vs Rhodes from Mid-Atlantic TV 1986

- Flair-Rhodes from Starrcade ‘84 with Joe Frazier as ref and Gordon Solie on commentary

- Dusty Rhodes vs. Superstar Graham Texas Bullrope match - MSG, NYC. August 28, 1978. That one drew 22,000 to MSG and 4,000 in Felt Forum.

- Graham def Rhodes in Texas Death Match for WWWF title - MSG, NYC. Oct. 24, 1977

- Superpowers promo with Dusty and Nikita

- Dusty makes a deal with the devil (Ole Anderson)

- Ole Anderson turns on Dusty in the cage match with the Assassins - August 1980 at the Omni, nearly causing a riot. Koloff: "It was like old times, we were both there kicking the American Dream." (One of the greatest lines ever)

- Dusty beats Harley Race for NWA title in the Summer 1981 at the Omni. Dusty was the transitional champion from Race to Flair a few months later. Here’s a better clip.

- Dusty vs Flair - Great American Bash 1986. Dusty wins NWA title for third time

- Dusty beats Harley Race for his first NWA title in 1979 in Tampa

- Dusty Rhodes vs. Lex Luger - US title 1987 Starrcade cage match

- Dusty beats Tully Blanchard for the TV title - Great American Bash 85

- Rhodes promo for Billy Graham match in Boston

- Young Dusty 1970 Detroit tag match with Dick Murdoch

- Pain, blues and agony promo from 82-83 Georgia

- Rhodes vs. Ernie Ladd Florida 1977

- Rhodes vs. Jimmy Valiant 1979 MSG

- Florida Wrestling Takin Care of Business Tour 1983

- Ric Flair over Dusty Rhodes - Kansas City 1981 for Flair's first NWA title

- Flair-Tully vs. Dusty-Wahoo double bullrope match 1985 or 86

- Dusty finish match DQ negates title win over Flair 85 or 86

- First War Games match

- Dusty vs Bob Backlund May 1980, Japan

- Flair vs. Dusty St. Louis Jan. 1, 1982


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