In the early 1990s, Dustin Rhodes competed in World Championship Wrestling and had a similar look to his highly popular and successful, Dusty Rhodes. Dustin himself had great success in WCW winning the WCW World Tag Team Championship three times and the WCW US Championship on two occasions.
Dustin also competed in the WWF in the early 90s for a brief time teaming with his father Dusty Rhodes at the 1990 Royal Rumble where they lost to Ted DiBiase and Virgil. Dustin had lasted ten minutes in the ring with DiBiase leading to the pay per view bout. However, Dustin wouldn’t stay in the WWF as he returned to WCW with his father.
For most of ’91, Dustin was involved in undercard feuds and was a fine hand in the ring during that time. However, by the end of ’91, Dustin was a tag team champion with Ricky Steamboat and was involved in a top angle aligning himself with the likes of Steamboat and Sting taking on the Dangerous Alliance, an invading stable of wrestlers led by Paul E. Dangerously trying to take over WCW.
After they prevailed in that feud, Dustin would eventually feud with Barry Windham after their team had a falling out at the end of ’92. However, the most intense and memorable feud for Dustin’s WCW career at the time, in my opinion, would be his series of matches with Rick Rude. His matches with Rick Rude solidified Rhodes as a major player for WCW and proved to the fans that Dustin could be a major player in WCW after a few years stuck in the midcard.
The feud over the WCW US Championship provided several memorable TV matches and a good IronMan match at Beach Blast ’93. At the end of the feud, Dustin would be the WCW US Champion and by the fall of ’93 entered a feud with Steve Austin, who had just broken away from Brian Pillman and the Hollywood Blonde tag team. Rhodes would lose the WCW US Championship at Starrcade and perhaps in line for a move up the card.
However, within the first six months of ’94, Dustin returned to the mid card status getting involved in a lengthy feud with Col. Robert Parker and his stable of men. First, Dustin battled Bunkhouse Buck in several bloody affairs on pay per view. Dustin would then be betrayed by Arn Anderson at Bash at the Beach leading to a singles match at Halloween Havoc, which Dustin won. The month prior to that, Dustin reconnected with his father, Dusty, and led a team including the Nasty Boys into WAR GAMES at Fall Brawl to battle the Stud Stable.
By the end of ’94, Dustin couldn’t shake the feud with the Stud Stable and embarked in a feud with the Blacktop Bully, who was bailed out of jail by Col. Robert Parker. They would have a King of the Road match at UnCensored ’95 where the match took place in the back of a truck, and both men were fired due to unauthorized blading. One of the best in-ring workers WCW had at the time, was let go and free to be picked up by the struggling WWF.
Sure enough, the World Wrestling Federation signed Dustin Rhodes, but he wasn’t going to be used as the Natural Dustin Rhodes, a gimmick he had been his entire young career. By 1995, the WWF was very character driven and every man on the roster had some kind of character or clear personality different from each other. Dustin Rhodes as a cowboy would have fit in maybe in the late 80s, but the WWF had the Smoking Gunns for that role, and Dustin was about to be given a drastically different character and a character that would define Dustin’s career.
By the fall of ’95, Dustin Rhodes would return to the WWF as a drag queen obsessed with films constantly quoting old films and had everything gold. The character would be known as Goldust and often times Goldust would play mind games with opponents be acting as a homosexual as a way to get in their heads and consequently winning several matches.
Goldust’s first feud in the WWF was against Razor Ramon, who was the WWF Intercontinental Champion at the time. At the end of ’95, Goldust made it clear that he had a crush on Ramon, and at one point revealed a heart drawn on his chest with Razor written on it. In real-life, Ramon was not a fan of the angle because of his children watching the program, but continued with the feud and lost the WWF Intercontinental Championship to Goldust at the Royal Rumble.
The Goldust character was extremely controversial for a company that was PG-rated. A lot of critics noted that this was typical stigma that gays suffered from with the character being presented as a heel. Often times, Goldust would have slurs shouted during his matches. What wasn’t noted was that Goldust was presented strongly and had a substantial undefeated streak, which lasted until early ’96 when he lost a match against WWF World Champion Bret Hart on an episode of RAW.
At the Rumble, Goldust was given a manager, his real-life wife Terri Runnels, going by the name Marlena. She would sit in a directors chair and smoke a cigar during his matches. Goldust was supposed to feud with Ramon into WrestleMania XII, but that was scrapped due to Ramon having a contract dispute with the company. Instead, Goldust would have a memorable feud and subsequent brawl with Roddy Piper at the event. The brawl culminated with Piper stripping Goldust of his clothes, which would reveal a unique choice of clothing underneath.
After a brief and not-so memorable feud with the Ultimate Warrior, Goldust would be challenged by Ahmed Johnson, a popular intense competitor. On an episode of RAW, Goldust performed mouth to mouth resuscitation. Naturally, Ahmed Johnson freaked out. They would battle at the King of the Ring pay per view, with Johnson winning the title.
Goldust remained a strong mid card act, even battling WWF World Champion Shawn Michaels on the house show market having several ladder matches, which were quite good. That was a feud that would have been easy to book on TV and should have had a pay per view blowoff. The creepy over the top drag queen challenging a good looking WWF World Champion, it made more than enough sense.
In any event, by the end of ’96 Goldust was on the last legs as a heel. In December, Jerry Lawler would ask several inappropriate questions towards Goldust even flat-out asking if Goldust was queer. Goldust took exception to it and attacked Lawler. Goldust would feud with Hunter Hearst Helmsley for several months into ’97. The man was once hated and despised by fans would become a popular act for the WWF.
By mid-’97 the WWF was steering away from over the top character and became more realistic. During the spring, Goldust talked about being Dustin Rhodes, the son of the legendary Dusty Rhodes. Goldust would feud Brian Pillman with Pillman getting the services of Marlena in the fall of ’97. Sadly, Pillman would pass away before the conclusion of the angle. By the end of ’97, Goldust would turn heel again and abort the Goldust character rather going with the Artist Formerly Known As Goldust, which would see Dustin dress in odd clothing and his music was a remix of the Goldust theme. He would be managed by Luna Vachon, as well.
After several months of dressing in over the top drag clothing, Dustin would change his tune and begin to voice his displeasure with the direction WWF programming was going in. At around this time, Val Venis, a porn star, was involved with Dustin’s ex-wife, Marlena, which would lead to a feud between the two men. By the winter of ’98, Dustin would reprise the role of Goldust and would win the WWF Intercontinental Championship again, but the title reign lasted two weeks ending at Backlash ’99 losing to the Godfather.
Dustin would compete from 1999 to 2001 in World Championship Wrestling, which was rather lackluster. Initially, Dustin was going to be Seven, but that never materialized. Dustin reunited with his father for a tag match in 2001, but aside from that his return to WCW was nothing of note.
Dustin signed with the WWF by the end of 2001 and would return at the Royal Rumble playing the Goldust character. Goldust entered into a feud with Rob Van Dam, but lost at No Way Out in 2002.
Goldust’s greatest success since his ’96 run came when he teamed with Booker T in 2002. The oddball tandem challenged Christian and Chris Jericho several times for the WWE Tag Team Championships. There were numerous times where they came very close to the winning the titles, but failed to win the gold. They’d eventually win the titles at Armageddon at the end of the year, but it was too late for the title win to mean much to the fans.
In an infamous moment, Goldust was electrocuted by Batista and Randy Orton giving Goldust a stutter. Goldust wouldn’t get anywhere near the level he once was and his contract wasn’t renewed at the end of ’03.
For nearly the next decade, Goldust would compete in TNA both as himself and as a character named Black Reign. It was during this time that Dustin’s drug issues were out of hand and he was out of shape.
Eventually, Dustin returned to the WWF and appeared to be in the best physical condition of his career. He was involved in the angle involving Cody Rhodes talking out against the Authority which led to Cody losing his job. Dustin, portraying the Goldust character, tried to get Cody rehired by battling WWE Champion Randy Orton, but failed. Goldust and Cody would get their jobs back when they defeated the Shield in a non-title match at Battleground and on the October 14th edition of RAW, they won the WWE World Tag Team Championships. They were champions until the 2014 Royal Rumble losing to the New Age Outlaws.
They would turn heel, by this time Cody had become Stardust and they would regain the titles in September but only held the titles until November ‘14. Soon thereafter, Stardust turned on Goldust leading to a match at Fastlane, which was won by Goldust.
As of August 2016, Goldust remains in the WWE teaming with R-Truth.
The career of Dustin Rhodes is an interesting one at that. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed his work as the man has adapted in each era. Whether he was the Natural, or the Bizarre One, Dustin Rhodes has been a great worker. The Goldust character could have destroyed his career, but it’s the one character that made him a household name at one point. It’s an example of someone buying into a character and making it work 100%.
What are your memories of Dustin Rhodes or Goldust?
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Thanks for reading.
34-year-old currently living in Syracuse, New York. Long-time fan of the New York Mets, Chicago Bulls, and Minnesota Vikings. An avid fan of professional wrestling and write reviews/articles on the product. Usually focusing on old-school wrestling.