Around 1:00 this afternoon, I learned of the death of Dusty Rhodes.  The reports said "American Dream" passed away of kidney failure at the age of 69.  The reports also mentioned his accomplishments:  three-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, WWE Hall-of-Famer, booker, father to Dustin and Cody (better known Goldust and Stardust), and trainer of many rising stars in the WWE.

Those articles only scratched the surface of Rhodes's accomplishments in the world of professional wrestling.  His work inside and outside the ring have left a lasting impact on sports entertainment--an impact that many fans don't realize is still felt today.

Rhodes wasn't the stereotypical pretty boy, musclebound babyface.  In fact, he was quite ugly and rotund.  However, he had the gift of gab and could charm even the most cynical wrestling viewer.  His homely look, his stories of being the son of a plumber who lived through hard times, and his sometimes braggadocios nature endeared him to those who watched him, especially the average Joe who aspired to rise to the top of his chosen profession.  He may have even inspired a wrestler or two to take up the sport and live their dream of chasing glory in the squared circle.

More importantly, he could tell a magnificent story in the ring through his work.  Whether he was squashing a jobber or going Broadway for 60 minutes with Ric Flair for seven consecutive nights on the Great American Bash tour, Rhodes knew how to keep the fans in the palm of his hand and cheer him through his many chases for the world title.

That ability to read a crowd made him one of the top-10 wrestling bookers in the sport's history.

Ever screamed at the TV when someone seemingly won a championship only to have a decision reversed by the referee on a technicality.  That trope is known as the "Dusty Finish" because--you guessed it--he was the first to use it.

Who was the genius who gave us the Shockmaster?  Unfortunately, that was Dusty's idea, too.

Maybe Rhodes's greatest talent as a booker was recognizing that he didn't need to be the world champion to draw fans.  Sure, Dusty booked himself to win a number of regional and lower-level championships.  The man, after all did have to make himself look good.  However, by putting himself in a Road Runner vs. Wile E. Coyote situation with his two main rivals for the world title, Harley Race and Ric Flair, he could make just as much money (if not more) by giving the fans the chance to live vicariously through him and to savor the moments in which he finally captured the world championship.

Rhodes's legacy was furthered by his work with WWE's NXT developmental promotion.  At the time of his death, he was a booker and producer for NXT, training the latest generation of wrestling superstars in the art of promos, ring psychology, and showmanship.  As these younger stars work their way into the main roster, we'll certainly see some of Dusty's influence pop up during their matches.

While it's still difficult to process the fact that the "American Dream" is no longer with us, it's comforting to know that he will always be here in spirit and in how modern pro wrestling shows are produced.  Most of everything wrestling fans take for granted--from certainly storyline arcs to the sight of a well-known superstar--was introduced by Dusty Rhodes.  For that, we shall forever be grateful.

Here's hoping that Dusty has joined that Pier 6 brawl on the mothership in the sky. I'm sure Sapphire is already standing by his side.

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