In Loving Memory of The American Dream, Dusty Rhodes

I’d like to take a few moments to talk about the loss of one my icons and my favorite wrestler of all time, Dusty Rhodes. It’s easy enough to get the story of his life on the internet – his real name, where he grew up, etc. This isn’t about that. This is about the world he created for me to experience, the world in which Dusty Rhodes was a real person with real struggles who overcame them and became the World Champion.

So as you already know, I’m a huge wrestling fan and have been since the days when I was growing up in St. Petersburg, FL. My Dad and I would watch wrestling together every Saturday night at 7PM on Channel 44, Championship Wrestling From Florida with your host, Gordon Solie. To this day, Gordon is still the best wrestling announcer I’ve ever heard. You don’t always know what you have until it’s gone. This wasn’t the case with Dusty. We always knew he was special. He didn’t look like the other wrestlers. He had a big belly. Yup, he was a fatty. But make no mistake, he was a tremendous athlete. No one could go the distance in the ring as many nights a week as he did without being in great shape.

But it wasn’t his look or his athletics that made him so special. It was his mouth. He was amazing on the microphone. He had a thick Southern drawl and a pronounced lisp. There was no mistaking his voice. When he spoke, he commanded attention. When he said he would do something, you believed him and couldn’t wait to see him do it. It wasn’t always this way. I still remember the days when he was a heel wrestler. He was part of the Gary Hart stable and was Tag Team Champions with Pak Song, a Korean wrestler known as the Korean Nightmare. As usually happens when tag teams run their course, one of the partners turns on the other and becomes a babyface. It was inevitable for this team as Dusty’s popularity was growing. He became bigger than the team. When he turned face, his popularity exploded. Because of his humble background and his never-say-die attitude his new moniker seemed like a natural – The American Dream, Dusty Rhodes. (It was a counter-point to his former tag team partner, The Korean Nightmare.)

This was a very personal experience for me. In those days in the Tampa Bay area (we’re talking the 1970’s) wrestling was held every Tuesday night at the Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory. Several times a year, wrestling would come to St. Petersburg’s Bayfront Center on a Saturday night. I wasn’t allowed to go to wrestling on a Tuesday because it was a school night, but Saturdays were a different story. I don’t think we ever missed a Saturday wrestling match. The problem with this is that you don’t know what happened on Tuesday until the show airs on Saturday (remember when there wasn’t any internet?) so we show up to the fights unaware that there was a rift between Dusty and Pak Song on Tuesday.

When the intermission came, we were all anxious for the main event, Dusty and Pak vs. Don Muraco and Andre the Giant for the Tag Team Titles. During the intermission, my friend and I went to the concession stand to get some snacks when we hear a commotion. Coming through the hall is Dusty Rhodes big as life. Cowboy boots and hat, blue jeans with a Texas size belt buckle, no shirt, and his trademark Tuxedo jacket with tails. I ran over to him just to touch him and say “Hey Dusty!” Remember, he’s a heel at this time and we’re all just giddy to see him! He walks on, I collect my snacks and head back into the arena, just to find Dusty already in the ring with Pak Song and he is kicking the crap out of Pak Song! We are all just ecstatic! The ring has a crowd around it now that isn’t letting anyone in or out. In the middle of the crowd, towering over it is the unmistakable fuzzy head of Andre the Giant, with Don Muraco at his side trying to get to the ring for their match, which clearly isn’t happening.

This was the night Dusty Rhodes forever became “The American Dream.” He never worked heel again. It is without a doubt my favorite wrestling moment. While I know that these moments are written in advance and choreographed by the performers, just as in any play or movie you go and see, they are no less real for me because these story lines go on and become part of the character’s history.

The local newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times, remembered Dusty as the most prominent local sports hero in the days before there were any Buccaneers, Rays, Lightning, or Magic. He was so popular that he was often seen on local commercials, using his incredible mic skills to pitch for the latest mom & pop shop. My most vivid memory of this was his advertisements for Tom Stimus used cars and trucks. Tom Stimus was no wilting lily on the microphone. He was quite popular and well known for slapping the cars and trucks to make his point. But even he had to take a back seat to the incredible Dusty Rhodes. When I was in college, I used to regale my roommates with my impression of Dusty and it always included lines from the Tom Stimus commercials.

As important as Dusty was in the ring and as a major character, his work behind the camera was just as important. As the small territories started to get bought up, Dusty worked as a booker here in the South. He eventually booked for the Crockett promotions in the late 80’s. Dusty worked as a wrestler or a booker for every major American promotion over the last 40 years! During that time, he had a tremendous impact not only on the audience but on the talent. It’s difficult to find a wrestler who doesn’t have at least one Dusty story.

It’s rare that you get to tell your icons how much they meant to you over the years. I got that chance in 2006. I moved to Connecticut the year before, and my wife was working in Stamford (coincidentally, the corporate home of WWE). After work one day, I met the wife to go out for some drinks after work. As we pulled into the parking garage, there was a large bleach blonde gentleman with curly hair, cowboy boots and a giant belt buckle! My wife says, “That’s Dusty Rhodes.” I said, “I’ll drop you off, you go stalk Dusty while I park the car.” When I returned she said he had gone in to Bobby V’s. I walked in and there he was! I walked up to him and said, “Dusty, I’ve been a fan since I was a little kid. I just want to say thank you for all the great memories.” I shook his hand and he said, “Much love brother, much love.” Much love indeed!

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Wrestling is real. . .believe it or not!

It’s been a while since I took to the pages of my blog to outline my thoughts on anything. This time though, I hope you’ll be willing to indulge my guilty pleasure – professional wrestling! As we approach the annual mega-event called Wrestlemania, I feel obliged to post some of my thoughts on what has become one of the biggest entertainment events of the year.

If you’re not a fan of wrestling, this will probably get very boring very quickly. So for those of you who are still with me, here are some of my thoughts:

First, I’m struck by how many of the participants in the main event matches are only part-time wrestlers. The main event is Rock vs. Cena. Of course we know that Rocky is a big time movie star and has decided to come back to the WWE as a part-time wrestler and has been involved in the last two WM’s and now the third in a row. He was also wrestling in the last two PPV’s. But he is in no way a full-time wrestler. But heck, if Rocky wants to play, you let him! Then there’s the Undertaker. For the last couple of years, UT hasn’t had many matches other than the one at WM as he has protected the streak (now 20 strong) with some amazing and brutal matches. He is getting older but as long as he continues to put on the kind of matches we’ve seen the last four years, he’ll always be welcome. More about this match later. Then there’s Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar. Neither of these two have had a match since their last one at Summer Slam nearly eight months ago. And don’t forget Fan-Dan-Goooo. He hasn’t wrestled on TV ONCE!! We have no idea what kind of match he’s capable of.

Meanwhile, tried and true workers like The Miz are mired on the undercard. Miz isn’t even on the PPV, he’s on some pre-show with Wade Barrett.  This is a guy who was in the main event just two years ago!! And poor Chris Jericho, a true legend in WWE has the misfortune of carrying this Fandango character. Why are these part-timers getting all the cushy spots while the full-timers seem to be getting short shrift? There are a couple of reasons for this. The marquee names are getting older (Triple H and Rock are in their 40’s and UT just turned 48) and the WWE has seen fit to take care of these guys by giving them an easier schedule and bringing them out for the big payday. Lesnar is still a big draw despite his part-time status. The bottom line is these guys can still put on a great show due in large part to their part-time schedule. But I still can’t explain what’s going on with this Fandango dude!

Despite my misgivings about the participants, this looks like it will be one great Wrestlemania. My focus is on the top two matches: UT/Punk and Rock/Cena. First, Rock/Cena: For those of you who don’t know, these two met last year after a one year buildup. The match was great and Rock beat Cena. Cena used the loss to teach a lesson about losing and how to deal with it. He had been saying during the leadup to the match that he HAD to win that match. He couldn’t let Rock walk in after seven years and beat him at what he does every night. But the unthinkable happened. That played right into Cena’s character. He is an idol to millions of little kids all over the world and it made sense to show that sometimes you can’t win them all. You suffer big disappointments and it’s how you deal with them that people will remember you for. These are the kind of real life lessons wrestling teaches from time to time. Ok, lesson learned. Now if he doesn’t beat the Rock this year, his character will have suffered a horrible beating. Not just physically but emotionally to the point that all his bluster will sound like just that, hot air. If John Cena is going to continue as the face of the company, he has to win this match. I thought he had a great opportunity to drive the point home when he was asked on last week’s Raw what kind of regrets he would have if he lost this match. The correct answer was that he would rather live with the regret of losing than live with the regret of not facing The Rock again. (Seriously, I should be writing for these guys!) So I say Cena wins!

Now for my boldest prediction ever: Undertaker finally loses at Wrestlemania!! That’s right you heard it here first. Why would I make such a seemingly foolish prediction?!? After all, it’s been 20 years and no one has been able to beat the Dead Man. I believe there is a convergence going on here. I just watched the CM Punk documentary “Best in the World” on Netflix last week. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. But two things jumped out to me. During the program, JR talks about Punk working with Taker several years ago and that no one expected Taker to like working with Punk. But much to the surprise of everyone, Punk really earned Taker’s respect. That’s saying something! Undertaker is known as the locker room enforcer. If he doesn’t think you’re putting forth a good effort in your matches or not living up to your potential, he has a way of letting you know. Then, right at the end of the Punk program, they mentioned that Punk had become a real leader in the locker room. Well, this is the role UT has had for years. I always thought if Taker was going to drop the streak to someone, it would have to mean something. For example, he will NOT be dropping the streak to Fan-Dan- – -well, you get it. If it’s ever going to happen, this is the year and Punk is the guy. The only wrinkle now is that the man who portrayed Undertaker’s storyline father, Paul Bearer (William Moody, aka by me as Percy Pringle from his days in Championship Wrestling from Florida) died for real. So does the Undertaker lose his mystical powers when the man who carried the urn passes away or does he imbue the Undertaker with even more supernatural powers from beyond which will carry the streak into another decade? That’s why I’ll be watching this Sunday! But you have my prediction. Feel free to leave your thoughts.

And one more prediction: Dolph Ziggler cashes in his MITB Briefcase!

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Surprise, Surprise. . .The universal laws of economics are still alive!

I know it’s been a while since I last wrote to you, but at some point, I felt as though I had made my case and the need for a daily chronicle of how we were doing everything wrong was draining on me and pointless for you. I write today to add fuel to a growing fire. As elections loom and the country seems to have had enough with the depressed economic situation we find ourselves in, it’s time to compare our plight with those who have taken a different course.

Last year I wrote an article about the enormous amount of government programs the new administration was passing through. They were spending like there was no tomorrow, telling us all the while that government was the only one who could get us out of this mess. The private sector had tried and failed. The article was “That’s Great, but what do you do for an encore.” Feel free to take time to read it now if you like. . .I’ll wait. . .OK, done? I liked to turn your attention to the massive THROW DOWN I issued to Germany and Hungary. While we are spending like crazy, those two countries decided to cut taxes. Not much mind you. But cut they did. I told Germany and Hungray IT. . .IS. . .ON!!! Let’s see if spending beats cutting. . .you know. . .for like. . .the first time. . .EVER! Come on America, we can do it this time!

A year has passed and let’s check the report card. Last year, when I wrote the first article unemployment here at home was sitting at 9.5%. Over the last year, the rate has fluctuated from 9.5 to 10.2%, the highest it has been in more than17 years. Overall though, it has remained basically flat. Meanwhile, in good ole Deutschland, the unemployment rate was 7.6%. Already, they’re a step ahead of us. Initially, unemployment went up to 9.1% in January but then began to plummet. This week the headline I saw said, “German Jobless Rate Falls to 18-year Low.” Yes, in a little over a year, Germany’s unemployment rate has actually DROPPED! Not to mention the fact that is dropped more than two points from it’s high earlier this year. Even the vaunted New York Times (are they still publishing?) has to admit that, “In Germany, a Broad Recovery is Under Way.”

If you take the time to read these articles, you will hear how exports are way up and that’s the cause of all this economic growth. While that may be true, it is usually tax cuts which takes the burden off businesses and consumers which creates the environment for business to be able to respond to the rising demand, wherever it comes from. So, once again, tax cuts have saved the day. Only this time it was in Germany.

This leads us to consider a few questions: If I, a lowly TV technician with a simple Bachelor’s degree in Communications, can figure out that tax cuts work everytime they’re tried, why can’t the brightest minds in the most powerful halls of Congress and the White House? If they are willing to ignore the overwhelming record of tax cuts and economic growth (documented very well in the pages of this blog, if I do say so myself), then what are they really trying to accomplish with all this federal spending? How many licks does it take to take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop? (The world may never know, but I digress. . .)

These are questions that many of us have already ansered in our own minds and will tell the world on Tuesday what our decision is. Either we will go on with the leadership who has shown an unwillingness to consider broad tax cuts and even worse, actually raised taxes during this time of crisis; or we will choose new leaders and hope they keep their promise to restrict spending and reduce the tax burden on businesses and consumers. Here’s hoping!

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Quick! Someone Call the Emmy people!

Ok, it might not win any awards, but to coin a phrase, it is “must see TV!” Tomorrow, the President is hosting legislators from both sides of the aisle in a last ditch effort to save his health care reform bill. To be fair, until this week, he didn’t have a health care reform bill. The President had set out some guidelines for what he wanted in the bill and let Congress have at it. After months of deliberations, both the House and the Senate passed their own versions of health care reform, which were vastly different from each other. As a result, there has been no progress on passing either of them.

Now the President has submitted his version of health care reform to Congress and tomorrow, he will moderate a nationally televised roundtable discussion with members of both houses of Congress and members of both parties. To me, this is a historic meeting. I can’t remember in my lifetime, this kind of policy debate which has directly involved the President and being seen live on national television! It should be riveting, if you like that sort of thing. I do.

When it comes to debate, more is better. Until now, most of the negotiations on reconciling the two versions of the bills has been done behind closed doors, in spite of the President’s promises to air the debates on C-SPAN. This is an opportunity for those who care about the future of health care in this country to check it out.

Republicans have been loathe to engage during this process. After all, they are absolutely powerless to stop the Democrats from doing anything. Before the election of Scott Brown in January, the Democrats had a super-majority in the Senate and overwhelming numbers still exist in the House. Including the Republicans in this televised roundtable, while noble, is pointless. Hopefully the Republicans will take the opportunity to advance their agenda to a national audience. Many in the Republican party have been warning Congressional leaders to stay away from these discussions as it may be a trap by the President to blame them if he still has trouble passing his agenda. I have more faith in the American people than that. People know that the Republicans simply do not have the ability to stop the Democrats from passing whatever they want.

So tune in tomorrow. Take a look at democracy in action. These are your representatives. It’s a good chance to see what their ideas are about how you will be able to access the greatest health care in the world. Even a Canadian Premier came to the US when his government health care didn’t offer him a solution to his heart problem that he liked. Instead, he flew to Miami to have his heart repaired. Hopefully, we will all still have that option after tomorrow.

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Super Bowl History/Prediction

Most of you know I am a lifelong Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan. As we approach another chapter in the long history that is the Super Bowl, I have one piece of trivia I’d like you all to remember. No team who has lost to the Bucs in the regular season has ever won the Super Bowl. A couple of notable instances: in 1998, the Vikings went 15-1 in the regular season. The 1 was the Bucs – the Vikings lost in the NFC Championship. Then in 2001, the Rams went 14-2, losing to the Bucs and Saints. They would lose the Super Bowl on a last minute drive by the Patriots. On Dec. 27, the Bucs beat the Saints, 20-17. Take the Colts!! But if losing to the Bucs is a curse, losing Tony Dungy is a blessing. Every team who lost Tony Dungy as a head coach has gone on to win the Super Bowl the next year. Ok, so it only happened once, in 2002 Jon Gruden took over the Dungy-less Bucs and led them to a victory in SB XXXVII. I’m still counting it! Go Colts!!

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Sympathy for the Liberal – Part II

This is a great time for our country. We are rediscovering who we are and what we stand for! Last September, after the death of Ted Kennedy, I had a little pity party for the liberal leftists in this country. In a blog titled “Sympathy for the Liberal,” I pointed out how despite the almost universal support from the media and overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress, it seemed the President’s agenda was floundering. Well, if the wheels were coming off in September, the bus has crashed into the side of a mountain here in February.

Let’s take a look back at the last few months of the President’s attempts to get things done. In October, he went to Copenhagen to lend his personal charisma to his adopted hometown’s bid to win the Olympics. Not only didn’t Chicago win the Olympics, they were the first city eliminated! In November, he campaigned for Democrat Creigh Deeds and Democrat Jon Corzine (an incumbent) for Governors of Virginia and New Jersey, respectively. Both states are traditionally Democrat run and went big for Obama in the election last year. But in both cases, even the endorsement of the most powerful liberal in the country couldn’t sweep them into office. They both lost.

Then in December, President Obama went back to Copenhagen to encourage the world to come to some agreement on the restriction of greenhouse gasses. At a time when the entire global warming movement is being exposed as a fraud, the President decided to step up to the plate and lend the force of his office to the issue. The Climate Conference ended with what British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called a weak agreement.

But the fatal blow came in January. The reason I wrote the first blog was in response to the death of Ted Kennedy. It was believed at the time that his death would help spur health care reform negotiations in the Senate. His seat was filled by an appointment from the Massachusetts governor (a Democrat) but there would still need to be a special election to fill his seat permanently. Over the months, the Senate did finally pass a bill with the help of not a single Republican. And now the election of Ted Kennedy’s replacement has turned into a de facto referendum on health care reform. If by some miracle, a Republican were to win Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, it would mean the super-majority in the Senate would be gone and it would be even harder to get health care reform passed.

During the campaign between Martha Coakley, the Democrat, and Scott Brown, the Republican, the race was often referred to as the fight for Ted Kennedy’s seat. During a debate, Mr. Brown reminded everyone that this was not Ted Kennedy’s seat, it was the people’s seat! I believe this was the “You’re no JFK” moment of the campaign. The polls started to turn the next day and never looked back. On the last weekend of the campaign, with the bottom having already fallen out in favor of Brown, the President decided to make one last ditch effort to save the seat. Remember, this is a state which has been the most liberal for decades. Democrats outnumber Republicans 3 to 1. Despite the President’s fervent pleas, Brown won by five points. Brown made it clear that if he was elected he would vote “no” on the current health care legislation being considered. The people listened and the people took their seat!!!

As far as I’m concerned, this marks the end of the Obama administration. We’ll still have to put up with his bloviating, his incompetence and his condescension for the next three years, but any hope he had of getting anything passed is over. Not just because of one seat, but because it marks the turning of the political tide. Those who were on board for his agenda until now have begun to have serious second thoughts. Many in his party have decided simply not to run for re-election. They know they have little hope of surviving the people’s scrutiny given their acquiescence to Obama’s agenda. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader from Nevada is losing to all of his potential opponents in the fall election, some by as much as 11 points!

And since this string of absolute debacles for the President, he has not changed his agenda one iota. In his State of the Union speech, he doubled down (as they say in the gambling trade). He just released a new budget proposal which has more increased spending at a time when tax revenues are drying up due to continued unemployment. Somethings gotta give. At least for now, we still have the power to change Congress which is starting to listen to the people. We can make government work for us instead of the other way around. Yes we can! Yes we can!!

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Year in Review – 2009

Last year, as we approached the inauguration, I made a series of predictions in a blog called Closing one book, opening a new one. Feel free to read it first if you like. With just a touch of hubris, let’s look back and see how I did:

1) If it is a success, it will be because Obama made it happen! (see Iraq, bailout, war on terror)

2) If it all goes to hell, it will be Bush’s fault (see Iraq, bailout, war on terror)

These are obviously tied together. I’m calling both of these correct. We have certainly seen both of these in the past year. Granted, they were a little bit vague and general, and something most politicians do, but hey, what did you pay to get in here?!? So far, 2 for 2!

3) Obama will place an executive order banning offshore drilling (a requisite rise in oil prices will ensue, which will be Bush’s fault)

4) Congress, taking their lead from Obama, will also renew the ban on offshore drilling (a further rise in oil prices will ensue, which will also be Bush’s fault)

Again, these are clearly tied together. Congress in fact did not renew the offshore drilling ban. That one is clearly wrong. The other one is a little fuzzy. Obama did not use an executive order to ban drilling, but they have used other governmental forces to block drilling. This article from the Washington Times, details the Obama administration’s efforts to stop drilling plans left over from the Bush administration. The article was written the second week of February in ’09. That week, oil hit is lowest price per barrel for the year. This chart shows the dramatic rise in oil prices beginning that very week!!! I’m calling this one correct. That makes me 3 for 4!

5) We hear the name Blagojevich for at least the next two years.

6) We don’t hear the name Biden until his son runs for Senate in 2010.

Again, I’ll take these together. In the past year, the name Blagojevich has been everywhere (except the courtroom!) The former Illinois Governor’s wife was even on a reality TV show (the court prevented Rod from doing it himself). Rod will be on The Celebrity Apprentice this year. Since the prediction is only half over, I’m not sure it’s fair to call it correct yet, but it’s my blog so yes it’s correct! In contrast, Joe Biden is the second most powerful man in the country. He hasn’t been on any reality shows but he has been in the news quite a bit. His son is not going to run for the Senate seat after all so I guess I have to call this one wrong. So now I’m 4 for 6. Next. . .

7) Obama will get his economic stimulus package through Congress featuring billions in tax “cuts” which don’t actually cut anyone’s taxes. (You can’t cut taxes for someone who doesn’t pay taxes)

He did get the stimulus package passed – it didn’t cut any taxes. It did include a reduction in the amount of tax taken out of your paycheck, but most of us will still have to pay it at the end of the year. This is dead on! 5 for 7!

8) Obama has made it clear that he favors a playoff system for the NCAA Football Championship. After many hours working with NCAA officials and network TV execs, and millions of taxpayer dollars spent, a much more complicated and less effective system of crowning a champion will be established, or. . .nothing will change.

9) Either way, the Gators will still win the National Championship!!!

Obama had a busy year so obviously this pesky football thing slipped through the cracks. No attempt was made to change the BCS. As for #9. . .well, in the immortal words of Don Adams, “Missed it by that much!” Despite playing out the regular season undefeated, they lost in the SEC Championship to the eventual National Champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide. (Congratulations by the way!) Both of these are clearly wrong. 5 for 9.

10) And the number 10 prediction for Obama’s Presidency is (drum roll please. . .wait. . .I did this backwards. . .ah screw it!) Middle East Tension!!!!

Well duh! That was a gimme. There hasn’t been a year without middle east tension since Jesus walked the earth. (Maybe they’re inexorably linked!) So 6 for 10, that’s better than half and I’ll take it. What are my predictions for this year? I’ll keep it simple – more unemployment, Republicans take over the House and Senate, more tea parties, and yes:

More Middle East Tension!!!

See you next year!

Editor’s Note: The day after I wrote this, it was reported that the President indeed does intend to investigate the NCAA for anti-trust violations due to their BCS Championship. Although the outcome is clearly not decided yet, if it turns out like everything else the President has done, I’m a shew-in! I’m changing the count to a slightly more respectable 7-10!

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