In Defense Of… Dusty Rhodes: Head Booker
A version of this article originally appeared on 411mania.com and was updated for the book IN DEFENSE OF… EXONERATING PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING’S MOST HATED. Learn more at https://www.jpprag.com
Certain people, events, organizations, and storylines in wrestling history have gotten a bum rap. Some writers have presented overtly critical comments and outright lies as fact, and others have followed suit. Well no more! “In Defense of…” has one reason: to bring the truth to the wrestling fan!
Some dame walked into my office and said…
Steve Cook of Cook’s Corner sent this thought along to me:
I have an idea for your column though… how about Dusty Rhodes as a booker? I’m not the biggest fan of his, which is kinda why I’d like to see you take him on.
See people, this is what I’m talking about. Steve isn’t a big fan of Dusty’s but he’s willing to have an open mind about him! That’s the enlightened attitude I’m looking to create!
Or he’s daring me with something he thinks I’ll miserably fail at and the 411mania staff can laugh at me for the rest of my tenure.
Either way, I’ll take the case!
As I said to Steve:
Dusty Rhodes as a booker is a great idea! I always read comments about what a terrible booker he is and the infamous “Dusty Finish”, yet he was head booker for years in many different promotions, including running his own. If he was so terrible, why do promotions keep giving him a shot? This should be an interesting case!
And that’s the question that starts this all: Why was Dusty given the book in the first place?
All hail the American Dream
Who is the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes? For those born into the Rock and Wrestling era (like myself) or the New Generation or the nWo/Attitude era, all you may know about Dusty Rhodes is that he is a fat man with some funny sayings. You might ask yourself, why oh why would this man ever be allowed to be in the business, nonetheless allowed to run the show?
In 1966, the man born Virgil Runnels Jr. began training for wrestling under Joe Blanchard (who was also the father of future horseman great Tully Blanchard). Dusty had overcome childhood ailments that attacked his hip, learned to walk again, and went on to successfully play football for West Texas State. Being a man of determination, he wanted to take a chance at the wrestling business, and so began his two years of training.
Finally in 1968, Dusty made his debut in Pat O’Connor’s Central States territory of the NWA. He found much success there and went on to defeat Tommy Martin for the NWA Central States Championship in the last month of the year. But real success would find him when he teamed up with “Dirty” Dick Murdock in the last year of the Age of Aquarius and the early Disco days to form the uber-hated Texas Outlaws. The Outlaws went on to cheat their way to a vast number of tag team championships, winning notoriety across the entire industry.
After the Texas Outlaws went their separate ways, Dusty moved on to the AWA, and then to Eddie Graham’s NWA Florida. There, despite his cheating and heelish ways, the crowd began to cheer Dusty and force his face turn, a la the Rock in the late 1990’s. It was there that Dusty became the “man of the people” and earned his nickname “The American Dream”. He went on to capture a vast number of titles while battling all of the top heels of the time until finally defeating Harley Race in 1979 for his first of three NWA World Heavyweight Championships. He would quickly lose the title and not win it back until 1981. That reign only lasted a couple of months when he lost the title to Ric Flair, a win he would not get back until 1986 for his last NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
And what does this all prove? Dusty Rhodes had paid his dues and knew the wrestling industry. He did not become a head booker until 1983, seventeen years after he began training. There was a man who had traveled the world and done it all. He knew this industry from the inside out, so why not get a shot at running it?
Those fateful six years
From 1983 until 1989, Dusty Rhodes was head booker for the NWA, managing all of the top angles and storylines of the time. But it was not as if he was just thrust into power in 1983; there was long process to get there.
In 1974, Florida promoter Eddie Graham saw the potential in Dusty to not only be a star, but to be a leading man in the industry. His understanding of the audience and ability to draw and make money led Graham to show Dusty the other side of the business. He taught him what it takes to run a show, how to plot out matches, how to maintain and organize talent, and how to find new prospects for future growth. Dusty was an eager student and used all of these lessons in his personal career and in helping others.
In 1983, the wrestling landscape was changing as Ted Turner had already launched his SuperStation WTBS with Georgia Championship Wrestling as a keystone program. That year, with the larger audience outside Georgia, GWC television became World Championship Wrestling. The timeslot would go to Vince McMahon’s WWF for less than a year in 1984 (WWF’s World Championship Wrestling?), and quickly returned to the NWA with Jim Crocket Promotions. All this time, though, Dusty Rhodes had been given the book.
And with that book, did Dusty Rhodes put himself at the top of promotion? Contrary, he let Ric Flair run with the ball and the title, only once defeating him in 1986. But that win was a quick one, losing the title back to Flair less than two weeks later. Now wouldn’t a man who was only interested in putting himself over give himself the title for years at a time? Instead, he completely separated himself from the title, making that one moment when he won that much more special.
The booking strategy was counter to what the WWF was presenting at the time. The WWF became all about cartoon characters and the Rock and Wrestling connection. Hulk Hogan was the perpetual champion, the babyface who could not be overcome. The NWA knew they needed to be a different product if they wanted to compete so they became all about the wrestling. Matches were the focus above characters (though there were still their fair share). More so, having the faces chase the heel made the fans clamor to see the evil Flair dethroned. Flair himself was an interesting performer for the fans and had the skills that the NWA wrestling audience loved to watch. Similar to Kurt Angle of 2005, Ric Flair was a man the fans loved to hate.
Dusty recognized all of this and made sure that this was the storyline of the 1980’s for the NWA. Jim Crocket didn’t always agree with the direction of NWA, and his decisions were often reflected on WCW television. But the committee was behind Dusty, and Dusty continued to change the concept of professional wrestling.
Fun with numbers… errr… words
With the landscape of professional wrestling shifting, Dusty knew he needed to take the NWA into other media markets. The first playground was with PPV by creating Starrcade and the Great American Bash. And I mean creating them. He came up with the concepts, the name, and the cards. And how successful were these events? Well, 1987 Starrcade got a 3.3 buyrate, in 1988 1.8, and in 1989 a 1.3. And then the Great American Bash scored a 2.2 in 1988 and a 1.5 in 1989. Seeing the success of his initial PPVs, Dusty wanted to branch out even more and had the one and only Bunkhouse Stampede on January 24, 1988. And how did that no-name, never repeated PPV do? Oh, it scored a 3.5 PPV buyrate. Well, Dusty seemed to have some idea what he was doing, despite most people saying that the PPVs of the NWA were financial disasters. Check back in our Eric Bischoff case to see why we consider these to be “successful” PPVs.
By the way, a PPV buyrate translates into roughly 400,000 buys, in case you don’t know. Do the math and multiple by about $20 a pop at the time. Now multiply times 3% to the N where N is equal to the number of years since the event and 3% is the average rate of inflation. That is how much money that PPV would have made today on buyrates alone! What? I left my calculator at work.
During this time, Dusty also came up with and booked one of the most beloved gimmick matches in all of wrestling, IWC and mark alike. War Games was a creation of Dusty Rhodes, a match won by the Road Warriors over JJ Dillon — hardly putting himself above the card again. Dusty even used his greatest creations to put others over huge instead of himself and keep his opponents strong (notably Ric Flair) in the long chase.
Still, despite everything he had done for the NWA, World Championship Wrestling television, and the business in general, Dusty Rhodes had to go.
Revenge of the Stardust
In 1989, JCP would fall on hard financial times. Despite the success of Dusty’s PPVs and booking strategy, Crockett had made a number of bad financial decisions. He had been out acquiring rival promotions and signing wrestlers to guaranteed contracts in an effort to grow faster than Vince McMahon. This concentration on trying to beat McMahon without the business fundamentals first put JCP into bankruptcy.
Not wanting to see his highest rated television show just disappear, Turner acquired the assets of JCP and officially renamed it World Championship Wrestling, the same name as his television show. Concurrently, Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes were in a bitter backstage feud on the future of Flair as champion. Dusty saw that it was now time to use Flair to make new stars, while Flair thought that he should continue to ride high and long with the title. Turner would not buy JCP without Flair (being a huge mark for the man), so the NWA sent Dusty packing and Turner put Jim Herd in charge. In turn, Herd made Ric Flair the head booker, and the early 90’s went to Flair country in WCW.
Dusty took this opportunity to go the WWF where Vince tried to humiliate Dusty for all of his years of booking against the WWF. Despite the polka dots, the plumbers, and everything else, Dusty remembered his lessons from Graham and his natural charisma and ability and was being cheered in the WWF at levels near Hulk Hogan. Once again, Dusty proved he knew the business.
Meanwhile, back in WCW, the wrestlers were revolting against Ric Flair constantly putting himself over, so he resigned from the booking committee and was replaced with Jim Barnett who also brought Jim Crockett back into the committee. This group reversed a lot of the booking decisions Flair had made and confused the fans to no end. Thus Barnett’s reign quickly ended and Ole Anderson was given the book. Ole pushed older stars and was jobbing out the younger crew and driving them away in droves. This quickly led to him being fired at the end of 1990.
In January 1991, WCW decided only one man could book their show, only one man could help the fledgling WCW grow. And that man was none other than the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes.
Dusty was through with wrestling on a regular basis, so this time around there was less worry over him wanting to put himself over (though he did not do that much, as we have previously seen). This time around, too, Dusty tried to help the younger wrestlers develop personalities and gimmicks. Sure, some of them were as bad as Oz, but others were as good as “Stunning” Steve Austin. The most important aspect is that he was out there trying to find new talent and give them a shot.
As I said in the Kevin Nash case, it is one thing to be given the opportunity, it is another thing entirely to run with it. Dusty Rhodes had gotten over with a polka dot gimmick. The gimmick does not matter, the performer does. Carlito probably has one of the silliest gimmicks going in 2005 on RAW, but the performer behind it makes it all believable and enjoyable.
Also during this time, the main event was shuffled up as more wrestlers were given an opportunity to show what they were made of. Scott Steiner received a shot against Ric Flair at Clash of the Champions in his first ever main event. Bobby Eaton also got a main event title shot in his first and only time headlining a show. Dusty was never trying to hold these guys back, only give them legs to run on. If they could not run that was hardly his fault. Sometimes people need time to develop (Kevin Nash needed another three years of seasoning before he was ready), and sometimes they are ready to go (Vader became a monster in WCW under Rhodes).
Rhodes also worked to get back the prospects and talents that Ole had chased away, including IWC favorite Cactus Jack. And understanding the direction of the industry towards athletic competition and again going against the cartoons of the WWF, Dusty created the short-lived Light Heavyweight Championship that was won by Brian Pillman. Perhaps he was a bit ahead of his time with this concept, but Dusty knew what the fans wanted to see: action.
In that vein, he went on to Starrcade 1991 with the Lethal Lottery Tag Team Tournament, pairing odd teams together in an action-packed evening.
Still, business was not turning around fast enough for Herd, and Herd also failed in his negotiations with Ric Flair, losing the World Heavyweight Champion to the WWF. So at SuperBrawl 1992, Dusty was given his last night with the book by the desperate Herd. Going out with a bang, Dusty had the 17-minute Pillman-Liger classic for the Light Heavyweight Championship and Sting over Luger for the World Heavyweight Championship in Luger’s last match before going on to the World Bodybuilders Federation. And despite drawing a 0.96 buyrate (well above our success range), Dusty was pushed down to the announce booth and Cowboy Bill Watts took over the committee.
On the sidelines?
When Jim Herd removed Dusty Rhodes from his position as head booker, did you think it would be the end of Dusty Rhodes in a creative capacity? Of course not!
Herd may have been too impatient to turn business around, but at the very least he realized he was not the man to do it and men like Dusty Rhodes would have to be the answer. Besides, WCW was still on hard times and the last thing he would have wanted was for Dusty to go back to Vince. So Dusty remained on as an announcer and occasional wrestler, but lent a hand behind the scenes, pitching ideas and pushing for the next generation.
Time marched on. Eric Bischoff came in and took over. But Dusty was not pushed to the side. Bischoff took him in as a confident, let him continue to pitch ideas and be a part of the creative process. Dusty got to see his protégées Scott Hall and Kevin Nash rise to prominence in the nWo, all while helping Bischoff recognize that wrestling was the key to WCW’s continued success. The Cruiserweight Championship took prominence much like the Light Heavyweight Championship of the past. The wrestlers controlled the in-ring action, not the writers. Dusty’s fingerprints could be seen on every episode of Nitro and Saturday Night during WCW’s only profitable time.
But much like looking for the superstars of tomorrow, Rhodes also looked for the future bookers — the people who could lead the program long after he was gone — much like Eddie Graham did for him. And he found such a man in Kevin Nash.
Rhodes had this to say in an interview conducted in June 2001:
“Creatively, Kevin is very good and we worked well together.
“He was just coming into his own [on the Booking Committee] when the company made changes. Kevin is very modern, but still sees things old-school. He’s so in-tune with the atmosphere of the country, and that helps. I often was more of the old-fashioned cowboy, but he was into other things … but could combine our thinking.
“I think he’s a real force as far as a creative person.”
See, Dusty was not just about trying to give himself power or put his friends over. Much like a parent with his children, Dusty wanted his successors to be better than him. And humbly he admitted that Nash was the better man for the job during that phase of WCW, not himself.
Dusty went on to talk about some of their booking decisions:
“With the Lenny & Lodi characters, we were way ahead of our time, obviously.
“Corporate people came in one day and said, ‘Shut that down.’ We objected, but they didn’t listen. The funny thing is, the ending to that whole [story line] was that they were just brothers.
“Everyone always wanted us to say they were gay, but they weren’t, [which would have come to light had the storyline been fully developed.]”
There it is again. There was no off the cuff booking going on. Dusty always had a plan, but others were too quick to judge. Given the chance, Dusty could have the best long-term storylines going on any level of the card. But with so many political influences going on, Dusty would soon be out again.
With the dawn of the Vince Russo era and the change of direction of WCW corporate, Dusty soon found himself removed from WCW in general. He took a trip down to ECW to help get Steve Corino over, but that was only a part-time gig.
During this period, Dusty also started Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling.
In an interview with the Wrestling Digest, Dusty had this to say about TCW:
“After I got fired from WCW… I walked out the door there and said, `I’m gonna take it one step farther. It’s my vocation, and I love it, I’ve done well at it, I’ve had my ups and downs, so I said I want to start something that’s really meaningful and in the next three or four years will really mean something.”
And so Dusty started to train eight young competitors in the business before launching TCW. But TCW was not about just lining Rhodes pockets, as some would have you believe:
“The between 40 and 60 guys we turned down, financially would’ve made me pretty wealthy, but they had no place to go, no place to do anything but be smartened up and, my god, enough people in this country have been smartened up to my business, so I’m gonna turn the tide back around.”
Rhodes used his booking aptitude to gain a following for TCW, expanding from Georgia into Florida, North Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee. His goal consistently remained to become the #2 company to the WWE, and to later overtake it.
When WCW folded, TCW became the haven for exiled WCW stars without guaranteed contracts that Vince was not interested in, such as Daffney, Scotty Riggs, Lodi, and Larry Zybzsko (see the later chapter). Rhodes wanted to use those with talent who would not fit in with the WWE get a shot and to help build his promotion.
Still, Rhodes did not just want to use names to sell his cards. He understood what we in the IWC have realized for a while:
“You’re gonna see television become not as important for promoting your talent as the Web, and the Web sites and computers and all that knowledge will be in the next five years. You’re gonna see that come into play more than how many syndications or how many syndicated cities your show goes on.”
Rhodes as a booker embraced today’s technology instead of trying to fight it. The future seemed like it could be bright for the creative Rhodes and TCW.
An old enemy comes a-knockin’ and some new friends
Someone beside the fans of TCW noticed the efforts that Dusty put in as head booker. In July 2002, Vince McMahon arranged a meeting with Dusty Rhodes to recruit him to a booking position in the WWE. Much like the Vince Russo’s tryout, the WWE environment was not one for Dusty Rhodes. His decisions would butt heads too much with Vince McMahon, and Vince could have none of that.
In another interview with IGN Sports, Dusty was asked his opinion of what a booker means:
IGN Sports: One of your roles traditionally has been not only as a wrestler, but as a booker. What exactly is the role of a booker backstage?
Dusty Rhodes: It’s a head coach, it’s an executive producer of television, it’s all of those things wrapped into one. Now, though, it’s done more by committee where they have all of these writers writing the pay-per-views like Survivor Series, and that works, but I’m from that school where it’s my ball and if we’re going to play with my ball, I’ll pick the music, I’ll tell them when to play it, I’ll pick what interviews to do, I’ll write the show, I’ll be the executive producer, and I’ll be the star of that son of a bitch. That’s the way it was. That was the role of a booker. There are no more bookers any more. That term is gone. I was probably the last of what you’d call bookers. It’s the head coach, the head guy. The whole deal.
Dusty could not be part of a committee, and he did not see a future as a booker, so he returned to TCW to continue to train the next generation.
Meanwhile, a couple of other exiles had formed another promotion known as Total Nonstop Action. TNA already had a PPV distribution deal and had financing well beyond TCW. Dusty realized that he had already lost the battle to be #2, so he had one choice: when you can’t beat them, join them.
Dusty started making appearances for TNA and later closed shop on TCW in 2003. But it was not until 2004 when TNA handed the book over to Dusty.
Do you see this continued pattern? People keep coming back to Dusty Rhodes as a booker! Does that sound like the resume of a failure? Why would people who have made millions off of this business continually return to Dusty Rhodes if he were as bad as many claim.
It’s because he is not. He is a competent, long-term, old-school thinker. He is a man who wants to push young talent and recognize the legends of the past. He also understands when others are better than he is.
The Wrestling Observer recapped their interview with Dusty Rhodes by saying:
Dusty says that as well as Jeff Jarrett has done, he knew that AJ Styles and Abyss were the two men to bring it home at Lockdown.
Dusty really wants to see TNA work. He thinks the 6 sided ring has worked out well. He is very high on Shocker. He hopes to tap into the Latino audience. Bryan asks about coaching on interviews. Dusty has been working with AJ Styles a lot. He is trying to bring his natural great personality out of him. That’s the one thing missing with him right now. Dusty jumps back to Crockett. He says when Magnum TA went down, that was another big loss. He saw him as the next Hogan. He says that era was no different to now. The interviews are as important as the in-ring product. Dusty doesn’t like long backstage interviews, but gave Raven extra time this week because it was such a great interview.
A lot covered in that short paragraph, but here’s the story:
(1) Dusty does not suck up to the bosses and does what is best for the product and the fans
(2) Dusty wants to make an environment that is in unique, wrestling-intensive, and counter-WWE
(3) Dusty recognized overall trends in society and wants to tap into them (IE, Latinos are far outpacing the Gringo growth-rate in the economy)
(4) Dusty works hard to help the younger stars be better than themselves and move into the roles of tomorrow
(5) Dusty did not want to hold Magnum TA down to make himself look better, but wanted Magnum to surpass him in the business
(6) Dusty does not want to waste time in back, but likes to have action in the ring
Dusty has an obvious understanding of the product, and even more so of himself:
“Bruce (Springsteen), ‘The Boss,’ is still singing at his age, and I’m still singing, but I by no means think that I’m gonna draw a tremendous amount of people anymore. We use Dusty Rhodes… as an anchor to get other people over.”
And what more could one ask for from their booker than that?
Still, this was not enough for TNA in the short term. Much like the Lenny/Lodi storyline, TNA did not fully understand where Dusty was going with such issues as the Monty Brown heel turn and Outlaw/BG James situation. And since they removed him before those storylines could finish, they were booked into the corner. Who knows what great twists Dusty might have had for us in the end?
But this will not be the last shot for Dusty. Every era has found a reason to return to Dusty Rhodes: Head Booker, and the book will call Dusty back again.
Dusty, in fact, did reach further acclaim — most especially after returning to the WWE several months after this was originally written. At various points he held a “creative consultant” role and eventually ended up being head writer and creative director for NXT. Later, he stepped back into a more sporadic performer role before finally passing at the age of 69 on June 11, 2015
The Dusty Finish
Dusty Rhodes has done a lot for this business with his time at the top, but one thing is named after him: the Dusty Finish.
The Dusty Finish takes many forms. In the most popular form, a ref is knocked out and a second ref comes down. The second ref counts the win for the face, but the first ref revives and reverses the decision. In another variation, the ref misses something, like the heel having his feet on the ropes, and reverses the decision later. Or in yet another version, the two aforementioned refs are in the ring at the same time, and each counts the other opponents shoulders down.
Basically, somehow a match decision gets reversed.
Now let’s get a few things straight:
These types of finishes existed long before Dusty Rhodes was born. They were used all around the world as champions took on the local challengers. Dusty Rhodes also used these on the local NWA circuits, but used them on television as much as the WWE does today. But dirt sheets of the day compared local arena results and saw a pattern, and thus started to blame Dusty.
These old school dirt sheet writers were the first people on the internet, and their description of this type of ending as a “Dusty Finish” persisted through time. So even though we are in a whole generation and half of readers later, the term Dusty Finish has taken a negative connotation.
When used correctly, though, the Dusty Finish is just what it takes to keep a good storyline going. I was at a WCW house show when Hollywood Hogan had just turned face and was feuding with the heel President Flair. Hogan won the match, but Flair reversed the decision and remained champion. The fans got to see an exciting match and see their hero win, but nothing changed for TV and the real ending could be done on PPV. The fans went home happy, and things kept on going.
Did Dusty Rhodes use this finish a lot? Sure he did. Did he use it effectively in local markets making it so only a small segment of the market realized this was happening on a larger scale? Absolutely. I will never claim that a small minority cannot have a major impact (see: the PTC or World Wildlife Fund vs. WWF/E), but I will never claim that a minority of viewers reflect the opinions of the majority of the audience.
While the internet audience today is much larger than the WWE has given it credit for until recent weeks, the dirt sheets never came near the levels of some of the lowest hit wrestling websites. The vast majority of the audience was not as outraged as these people were, yet it is their opinion that has persisted. My father was privy to these events, but he was a casual fan, not a reader of the sheets. He enjoyed what he saw, and never once uttered the term “Dusty Finish”.
Goin’ to the Pay Window!
Dusty Rhodes as Head Booker has been misunderstood for several reasons. First, dirt sheet writers of the past laid the path for the internet, and their early biases affected the development of the budding IWC. As time went on, these prejudices continued to be displayed in so many people’s writings, and thus were instilled in a generation and half of readers.
But as we have seen, Dusty took a successful career in the ring and parleyed it into a successful booking career on top of the NWA. And despite being shown the door, he’s been brought back time and time again because he gets the job done. He brings in the money, he brings in the talent, and he brings in the ratings. Dusty grows new talent, honors the past, and recognizes his own flaws.
Some would have you believe that Dusty is all about himself. His decisions and notes, though, show that he is concerned more with the young talents and the future of the business, even if that means hurting himself. Dusty is gone from the books for now, but he’ll be back, because he is that good.
Dusty Rhodes has worked hard as head booker, and he deserves his chance to shine.
The defense rests.
After the Trial
IN THE CASE OF THE IWC VERSUS DUSTY RHODES: HEAD BOOKER, RHODES HAS BEEN ACCUSED OF BEING A TERRIBLE BOOKER WHO DID NOT DESERVED HIS POSITION, ONLY PUT HIMSELF OVER WITH THAT POWER, NEVER TRIED TO BUILD A BRAND MORE THAN HIS OWN SELFISH GOALS, AND USING REPETITIVE BOOKING THAT DROVE FANS AWAY IN DROVES.
With 81.5% of the vote, Dusty Rhodes: Head Booker was found:
Less votes than the Finger Poke of Doom, that’s for sure, but still a good showing for a true legend. Sadly, the man I set out to do the case for, Steve Cook, voted guilty! Way to turn your back on the guy, Steve. Thankfully, Dusty had me and 81.5% of the audience on his side instead of you. And then I plug you anyway?! What’s the matter with me?
What was especially fun about a case like this is how much it was history lesson for the readers and me. For those who lived through it, though, it gave them the chance for nostalgia and to teach the next generation:
Never was a Dusty fan but give him his due as a great booker. He also booked Championship Wrestling from Florida for several years in the early 80s. They were ahead of their time with:
1) Occult storylines: Kevin Sullivan and his merry band of [Satanists]
2) [Impromptu] TV matches: Gave the show an unpredictable feel kinda like Raw shoots for
3) multipart angles: Example: JJ Dillon digging into Dusty’s skeletons in the closet in several weekly segments. (think Dibiase’s investigation of Bossman)
4) characters: Dusty knew he had to have a “hook” to get people interested.
CWF was ahead of its time and had the most unpredictability and action out of all the wrestling I watched during that time period. Not that [it’s] an exhaustive sample but does include World Class, WWF and Jim Crockett’s Mid Atlantic territory.
I grew up watching [M]id-[A]tlantic [C]hampionship [W]restling and right after the first Starcade… you could definitely see a difference in the product. During these times[,] there was a live house show every other weekend at the Richmond coliseum… the main event was always the same…”Ric Flair vs Dusty… Ric Flair vs Dusty”[.] Then He alternated with Terry “Magnum TA” Allen. After Allen’s car accident Then he alternated the card with Nikita Koloff.
Unfortunately after Starcade Crockett lost of major stars (Steamboat, Piper, Valentine) not saying Rhoads had anything to do with these guys leaving, but just reading interviews with these guys (Steamboat in particular said When Rhoads came in… He said he was going to be the number one babyface)…
But anyway… [that’s] my take on the matter…. [your] article made a lot of good points… Dusty wasn’t the worst booker in NWA/JCP/CWF history… But it was very irritating to watch the decline of Mid-Atlantic Championship wrestling during those years.
I lived and [breathed] WTBS wrestling from 79 until its end. Those Dusty years were some of the best for JCP, the NWA and the fans. The gimmicks [weren’t] too over the top (don’t say Lasertron because he was cool in an uncool costume) and the action topped just about everything going on in the WWF.
I first got into wrestling because of JCP circa 1985–86, and it was booked by Dusty. A lot of people on the internet praise JCP, yet at the same time seem to give no credit to the man who ran the show. If you watch old tapes from those days, you’ll notice that the fans go nuts (and I mean nuts!) for the faces and boo loudly for the heels. Everyone and I mean even Sam Houston was over like crazy! …
Dusty created new stars and booked them to seem like they were the best in the business (and usually they were. Tully Blanchard, Arn Anderson, Magnum T.A. Rock’n’ Roll Express, Ron Garvin, Nikita Koloff, Midnight Express, Barry Windham, and arguably the Road Warriors and Ric Flair had their greatest fame during that time frame. Lex Luger and Sting had their first pushes to superstardom under Dusty. Did Dusty book himself as the top face? Sure, [because] he was a huge draw and already a legend, but by late 1986, he was NOT in the main events with Flair. He let the new guys take over (Lex, Koloff, et al.) If you notice, the old Mid-Atlantic guys who were at the top in 1984 were phased out and the new, younger, hipper stars were phased in in 1985 — which ended up drawing lots of money. Look at the line up for Starcade 1984 and then for Starcade 1985 to see the difference[.]