Son of Dusty Rhodes carves out his own American dream in pro wrestling
Posted April 27, 2018 1:22 p.m. EDT
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Born the son of one of pro wrestling's most beloved figures, Cody Rhodes had been part of that colorful community of performers and fans for most of his 32 years. Also for about 32, he has run into spoilsports and naysayers who can't wait to opine that wrestling is fake.
Fortunately, he's had decades to come up with a pithy comeback.
"I usually say, 'Well, Christian Bale's not Batman,'" said Rhodes, whose late father was the legendary "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, and whose brother is Dustin Rhodes, also known as "Goldust."
Rhodes has been in the family business for about 12 years and spent time with World Wrestling Entertainment and Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling. He defends what he does, not only because people worldwide love it, but because he loves it, too.
"Every now and then, someone from so-called 'higher' forms of entertainment will look down their nose at it," he said. But having grown up with Dusty Rhodes as his father, Cody's been ready to defend wrestling for a long time.
"I got started when I was 19, but for some reason, and I don't know what I was thinking, I went to L.A.. I started acting classes there for a year, and wasted a bunch of money. I really enjoyed the classes, but I kept thinking, 'When I make it as an actor ...' but then I thought, 'This is kind of dumb. Be a wrestler. Just do the thing you want to do."
Currently a heel, or a villain, Ring of Honor Wrestling's Cody bills himself as "The American Nightmare," a riff on his father's famous salt-of-the-earth persona. Dusty Rhodes, born Virgil Riley Runnels Jr., didn't look like other athletes. He wasn't professionally trained. But what he was, his son said, was real.
"He communicated to people who he thought would need (his message). He needed it as much as they did. His whole image, being 'the son of a plumber,' that whole story was real. They had no money," Cody Rhodes said.
"I really think the idea that your friend, someone in your family in real life, could get in the ring and do amazing, was what it was, because Dusty was like them. He was overweight. He had a different look. I honestly think it gets explained too much. He just had that thing that everybody wants. He had a way. He wasn't selling you a product. He wasn't even selling you himself. He was just bringing you along for the ride."
Anyone who's ever seen wrestling up close and personal knows there's a difference between watching it in your living room and being there in person.
To Rhodes, who also wrestles for New Japan Pro-Wrestling, "the live experience is the lifeblood of wrestling. The live experience in 'Ring of Honor' is a party. Essentially it's going to a party with a ton of people that you don't know, some of the greatest people you'll ever know. People make friends in the meet-and-greet line."
Those fans in the line, Rhodes said, are loyal, diverse and involved. He says it's his job and that of companies like Ring of Honor to give them what they want.
"We try to have as much as fun as we can. There shouldn't be that many rules for going to a wrestling show," he said. "Give them that experience and guarantee they're leaving having had a good time. It's hard to get people's money -- it's hard to get my money -- so it's gotta be good."
Leslie Gray Streeter writes for The Palm Beach Post. Email: lstreeter(at)pbpost.com.
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