Thursday, June 11, 2015

The American Dream has died

Dusty Rhodes I mean:
WWE is deeply saddened that Virgil Runnels, aka “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes — WWE Hall of Famer, three-time NWA Champion and one of the most captivating and charismatic figures in sports entertainment history — passed away today at the age of 69.
Runnels became a hero to fans around the world thanks to his work ethic, his impassioned interviews and his indomitable spirit. Moreover, Runnels was a dedicated father to WWE Superstars Goldust (Dustin Runnels) and Stardust (Cody Runnels), a caring husband and a creative visionary who helped shape the landscape of WWE long after his in-ring career had ended.
WWE extends its sincerest condolences to Runnels’ family, friends and colleagues.
Before there was Hulk Hogan, there was Dusty Rhodes. The prime of his career took place in the old territory days. Before WWE became a virtual monopoly, each region of the country had its own wrestling promotion. Dusty spent most of his time in the South and mid-Atlantic states, and within those territories he was the number one baby face. He briefly wrestled for Vincent J. McMahon's World Wide Wrestling Federation, the company that eventually became WWE. As the territories began consolidating, he moved to Jim Crockett Promotions which evolved into World Championship Wrestling. During his time with Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, he gave one of the greatest promos of all time:

From 1989 to 1991, he wrestled for Vincent Kennedy McMahon's WWF under the "common man" gimmick. After that, he returned to WCW to perform booking duties and serve on the commentary team. Smarks quickly named one of his favorite booking scenarios the Dusty Finish: a wrestler's apparent victory being overturned on a technicality. Dusty came back to WWE after WCW died (the less said about TNA, the better.) The wrestling world has lost one of the all time greats. Rest in peace Dusty.

Long time fans and smarks complain endlessly about the PG Era of WWE which began in 2008 after the Chris Benoit murder-suicide. I stuck with WWE through its notoriously bad New Generation Era during its low point of 1994-1997, and even I have to admit the PG Era gives it a run for its money. Many of the complaints compare the PG Era to the Attitude Era, usually while wearing rose colored glasses. The Attitude Era coincided with most of my years in high school, and Monday Night Raw and WCW's Monday Nitro was all we talked about on Tuesday mornings. That time had some of WWE's greatest moments but also some of its worst ("I choppy choppy your pee pee!"), rivaling even the Katie Vick angle of of 2002.

The PG Era isn't bad because it's PG. Dusty and other greats like Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase, and the Ultimate Warrior all competed during a time when wrestling on broadcast television was family friendly and fun and goofy. The PG Era is bad because the writing and booking is terrible. Great talents like Cesaro, Bray Wyatt, and Daniel Bryan were booked into the ground. As Jim Cornette likes to say, the key to professional wrestling is here you have a good guy, and here you have a bad guy, and people want to pay money to see what happens when they fight. Yes, the outcome of the fight is predetermined. At their best, the wrestlers make you suspend your disbelief. They take care of each other in the ring but wrestlers get injured far more often than UFC fighters. MMA fighters have maybe four or five big fights per year. Wrestlers do what they do almost seven days a week. I tune in for the drama and the characters. If the writers bury the most compelling characters, then people won't watch. There's only so many times you can watch Super Cena overcome the odds.

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