When the controversial character of Goldust first debuted on television in 1995, it certainly caught the attention of the wrestling world. For starters, the character was such a radical departure from the wholesome image he had portrayed for seven years prior, but also because of the increasingly risqué antics of the character. Certainly, nobody could have predicted that more than two decades later, we’d still be seeing the shocking visage of this once envelope-pushing persona in a WWE ring.
But behind that mask of gold and black face paint is a complex individual who has battled with the pressures of being a second generation star, overcome drug and alcohol addiction and has found ways to re-invent himself personally and professionally. While much of his journey is an open book, here are some things that you might not know about Goldust. Indeed, there is much about the story of this man’s life and career than just what we have seen play out on camera since his earliest foray into the sport in 1988.
To this day, Goldust is still going strong in WWE, as one half of the Golden Truth. Here are some facts about the “Bizarre One” you may not know about:
15. He Was Seven Years Old When His Parents Divorced
Rarely has Dustin Rhodes appeared in a match when there hasn’t been a mention of his world champion father, Dusty Rhodes. Dustin readily admits that his father had always been his hero as a child and while he wouldn’t see his father as often as he would have liked as a toddler, he would still see his father regularly until 1976 when his parents divorced. For a few years, he would live with his mother before moving in with Dusty and his new family, including step-brother Cody when Dustin was a sophomore in high school. Despite the years of separation, Dustin had always aspired to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a wrestler himself one day. Dusty didn’t share the same vision for his son’s future, though when the time came, he did facilitate Dustin’s start in the industry. Unfortunately, for the relationship between father and son, the divorce wouldn’t be the only time that their relationship became somewhat estranged.
14. He Was Trained By Skandor Akbar
Like many second generation wrestlers, Dustin wasn’t trained by his father. Instead, Dusty arranged to have Dustin learn the ropes from veteran wrestler/manager Jim Wehba. Wehba, better known as Skandor Akbar, had launched his own career in 1963 and had been one of the veterans on the locker room when Dusty was breaking into the sport 20 years prior. Akbar is best remembered for his time in World Class Championship Wrestling where he led a stable of rogues to wage war against the Von Erich brothers. Akbar put him through the paces and reported to Dusty how the youngster was doing. Both Dusty and Dustin were aware of the perception of favoritism if Dustin wasn’t introduced to the sport the right way. When both felt that he was ready to hit the road, Dusty relayed a message through Akbar to inform of his first assignment. He would be packing his bags and leaving Texas for Florida.
13. He Immediately Fell Into The Shadow Of Dusty Rhodes
From the mentorship of Skandor Akbar, Dustin’s debut as a wrestler would take place in Florida, a territory that a pivotal site for Dusty’s career as he rose to main event and World title status. Working under the watchful eyes of Steve Keirn and Mike Graham, he wrestled by the name Dustin Rhodes – but one could argue if that was an advantage or a disadvantage for the lanky rookie at the onset of his career. The media, after all, were more interested in the upstart because of his father and didn’t seem comfortable to let him prove himself on his own merits. Within months of his debut, Wrestling World magazine ran an article under the title “Second Coming of the American Dream?” From his debut match against Bob Cook, Dustin Rhodes immediately recognized the big shoes he was being asked to fill. It was a theme that would be woven through his entire career.
12. First Break Came As A Tag Team With Kendall Windham
After a few months to learn the ropes in Florida for Mike Graham’s Professional Wrestling from Florida circuit, Dustin was called up to World Championship Wrestling. However, while his father did hold a position of authority with the company, that didn’t mean that Dustin would be fast-tracked to a spot atop the card. Instead, the 22-year-old was paired with Kendall Windham (the uncle of Bray Wyatt) as The Texas Broncos. The fan favorite team had a four month run in the company, tested against veteran wrestlers such as Dennis Condrey, Larry Zbyzsko, Randy Rose, Al Perez and Dutch Mantel. Perhaps Ted Turner’s growing company thought that the junior Rhodes needed a little more seasoning, as after four months he was released and he would part ways with Windham to gain the needed experience for his return to WCW two years later as a rising solo star. But there were a few more stops in between.
11. He Had A Prior Run With WWE Before Becoming Goldust
Best known in the WWE for his portrayal of Goldust, some may not remember that he actually was employed by the company briefly a few years prior. His father, Dusty signed with the WWE after being released from his WCW contract in 1989. The following year, the door was opened for Dustin to come up for a tryout and though he would wrestle on the arena shows around the country for four months under the name Dustin Rhodes, he was left off TV and there was no mention made of his connection to his father for four months until he was introduced into a feud between Dusty and Ted DiBiase. He was in the WWE for a total of six months before both the elder and junior Rhodes were released from the WWE, with Dustin immediately getting picked up once again by WCW. Dusty, returned to WCW as well, but in an administrative capacity.
10. He Was Once Predicted To Be A Future NWA World Champion
Upon Dustin’s return to WCW, there seemed to be little doubt that he was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps all the way to the World heavyweight title. Dustin captured the six-man tag team titles with Tom Zenk & Matt Borne, then held the WCW World tag team titles twice with Ricky Steamboat and Barry Windham, respectively. He went on to win the WCW United States heavyweight title in 1993. A magazine article published at the time quoted seven time World champion Harley Race as declaring that Dustin Rhodes had the tools to become world champion. Matched against the best talent in the company, his performances from bell to bell backed up Harley’s endorsement. But in 1994, he seemed to get lost in the shuffle under the new regime which included Hulk Hogan at the helm and a steady flow of former WWE faces being introduced to the mix.
9. His First Wife, Terri Runnels Was A WCW Valet
WWE audiences were first introduced to the sultry Marlena at ringside as the valet/director of the bizarre Goldust. She would go on to create her own identity under her married name, Terri Runnels during her WWE career. Some fans might not remember that she was also an on-screen character in WCW, though under a vastly different persona. Cast as Alexandra York, the executive in charge of the York Foundation – a villainous trio which would include Terry Taylor, Ricky Morton and Tommy Rich, she wore classes, had her hair pinned up and demonstrated every bit the professional career woman she was intended to be. The complete professional makeover for her when she made the jump to the WWE saw a more sexualized image of the woman – which no doubt contributed to self-esteem and doubt issues that Goldust had about himself as he made his first unsteady steps in a new role.
8. He Was Fired From WCW As The Result Of A PPV Performance
When you consider that Dustin grew up as a second generation wrestler, was schooled by a veteran of the territories and then mentored by Steve Keirn and Mike Graham, it is hard to believe that he was actually fired based on a performance in a match. But that was the case in 1995 when the young man billed as “The Natural” found himself booked in a bizarre predicament against the Blacktop Bully (Barry Darsow) in a cage match. But not just any cage – this one was a rolling trailer being pulled behind a moving truck in a segment which was billed as a “King of the Road” match. Dustin and Darsow both ran afoul of WCW management when they drew blood during the match, which was in direct violation of corporate policy. Both were released from the company as a result – though there is some debate about whether they had been following instructions from the agent responsible for the match or not.
7. He Didn’t Speak To Dusty For Five Years
Upon Dustin’s entry to the WWE in 1995 to become Goldust, he hadn’t just severed his relationship with his previous employer, World Championship Wrestling, but he was at odds with his father as well. Dusty had been unhappy about his son’s union with Terri, who had been romantically linked to other wrestlers on the roster prior to their marriage and it became a major issue between the two. While Dustin didn’t say as much in his book, there may have been some resentment that Dusty, who held a position within WCW management, was unable to do anything to prevent his termination from the company. One thing is for sure though, the pent up anger with his father would manifest itself in different ways on the journey that he was about to begin as he endeavoured to emerge from Dusty’s shadow after having spent four months at home out of work.
6. The Goldust Idea Was Created By Vince McMahon & Bruce Prichard
There has been a lot of speculation about the Goldust character. Some have pointed to a nickname that Dusty used during his career as Stardust and suggested that the creation of this audacious character was that of Dustin’s design as a way of lashing out. Perhaps that is what those associated with the senior Rhodes believed when they would bring reports of what his son was doing in the WWE. However, Dustin wrote in his autobiography that it was Vince McMahon and Bruce Prichard that had reached out to him with the idea and together they started to work on what the character would become. Initially there was some apprehension, but once he realized that he had the full support of Vince McMahon and company management, the character became increasingly risqué with each passing week. Dustin believed that his father was upset about it and at that time in his life, it only fuelled his ambition to make it succeed.
5. In 1995, WrestleAmerica Declared Goldust An Embarrassment
In a special feature in WrestleAmerica magazine in the winter of 1995 dubbed “The Turnbuckle Turkey Awards,” Goldust was recognized for his dubious distinction that year. The author was clearly not a fan, suggesting that Goldust was an implement for the WWE to humiliate Dusty Rhodes and that Dustin was a willing fool to participate. The article suggested that Dustin was tarnishing the family’s wrestling legacy and making a fool of himself in the process. Little did they know that as the character would evolve that Goldust would become one of the most lasting and endeared characters in the history of the WWE. A multi-time champion in both singles and tag team competition, that “embarrassment” has outlasted most of the media darlings that were predicted to be future legends. Where are these 1995 award winners today: Rookie of the Year, Alex Wright? Most Improved Wrestler, Dallas Page? Or Inspirational Wrestler of the Year, Barry Horowitz?
4. In 1997, Marlena Was Scheduled To Turn On Him
Sometimes even the best laid plans are subject to change in the unpredictable world of professional wrestling. In 1997, after two years of shocking audiences, plans were in the mix to separate the duo of Goldust and Marlena. In fact, the climax of a brewing situation was scheduled to take place on pay per view with Marlena becoming the valet of the unorthodox Brian Pillman. However, plans were abruptly changed at the last minute when on the morning of the scheduled match Brian Pillman was found dead in his hotel room. Rather than a turn, it did lead to a creative split between the couple with Terri Runnels going on to become a solo star in the company and Goldust electing to toss it in a garbage can on camera and set it ablaze. He would continue his career for a few appearances as simply Dustin Runnels, but when he realized that he was headed for mid-card limbo, he needed a change.
3. The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust Was Dustin’s Idea
While the original concept for Goldust was a creation of Vince McMahon and his senior aides, the concept for “The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust” was an idea from Dustin himself. Perhaps finding the transition from his outlandish role back to just being himself was a difficult one and as a result, he proposed taking the character to a new level. Now paired with the eccentric Luna Vachon, his ring gear started to include apparel that one might find at a fetish shop and his segments started to include dressing in drag, parading as a caricature of other well-known stars (including his father) and behavior that still makes Vince Russo giggle with glee to this day. Is he continued his slow descent into madness, there eventually reached a point where creatively, there was nowhere left to go and after five years with the WWE, Dustin requested and received his release.
2. WCW Invested $20,000 Into The Proposed Character “Seven”
When he made the jump back to WCW, the climate in the company had changed. At the height of the Monday Night Wars, Dustin felt that he would have greater value to the mix of the roster by creating a new character, proposing a sinister monster in the closet type character called Seven. With a horror movie appearance similar to Pinhead of the Hellraiser horror films, he shot some mock up vignettes and presented the idea to Eric Bischoff. Bischoff gave it a green light, approving $20,000 to produce some vignettes to introduce the new character. Unfortunately, the introduction of this nightmarish character coincided with a change in power in WCW, with Vince Russo taking over the television program and he scrapped the character after a single appearance. Instead, he would return to television as Dustin Rhodes, sent to the ring with an axe to grind. The run, as you might expect was not a fruitful one.
1. Goldust’s Dream Match Would Be vs. Dusty Rhodes
No matter what era of Dustin’s life and career you might consider, his dream match was always the same. As a youngster watching his dad on television, he always dreamed of one day having the opportunity to lock horns with his dad to test his own skills. While they would be tag team partners on occasion throughout the span of their shared years in the ring, that showdown never happened. While at odds with his father, he still wanted the match but not for the same reasons – instead it was more of proving to himself that he had established his own career legacy separate from the American Dream. Later in life, after they had reconciled and were working together in their own promotion Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling, Dustin again approached the idea of a match, feeling it would draw money. That dream match is one that we will never have the honor to witness.