Dot Net Book Review: Cross Rhodes - Goldust, Out of the Darkness
By Dot Net contributor Will Pruett
The journey of every WWE superstar is complicated in one way or another. It's difficult, as a weekly TV viewer, to get a handle on how difficult that life can truly be. The genre of "wrestling book" has evolved into the communication tool that allows fans to get into the mindset of what WWE (and TNA) wrestlers face on a daily basis. That is especially true with WWE's latest book release Cross Rhodes: Goldust, Out of the Darkness by Dustin Rhodes.
First and foremost, I have to say that Dustin's story is truly inspiring. At times while reading this I was frightened, elated, and ultimately shocked at the lifestyle he led. For anyone looking to see what the dark side of the wrestling business can be, this book is a big time eye opener.
Dustin frames his journey with the idea of rising up and then hitting bottom, only to rise again. From the beginning, you can see that wrestling acts as a framing device for the story, but it is not the whole story (as it is in the fantastic entries into this genre by Bret Hart and Mick Foley). If you're looking for a night by night (and party by party) breakdown of his career, you will not get it here. We do get the story of his life, with a few key matches and moments sprinkled in to keep the wrestling fans interested.
Towards the beginning, we learn that he wrote a fair portion of this autobiography while drinking in his truck. I'm sure it was edited while he was newly sober, so there are no signs drunken mistakes in it. This doesn't affect the writing, but is an interesting side note to consider while reading it.
Rhodes glosses over his childhood, mainly focussing on his father and his relationship with him. Dustin looked up to Dusty and saw him as larger than life. He knew that his father was a hero to millions of fans and described him as an ideal wrestler and booker. He also talks about the huge effect the divorce of his parents had on him. He only saw his dad when he came through town on tour, where he would have the opportunity to maybe share a meal with him and watch him work. Dustin tells a story of how he rushed the ring once and was yelled at by his dad to never step into the wrestling ring again. He would not heed this advice.
In high school, Rhodes played football, as people in the south tend to do. He attempted to go to college, but was not feeling it at all. He wanted to wrestle, but his father would not allow him to do so. One day, Dusty asked Dustin to pick him up at the airport and drive him to a show, in the car, Dustin found out that this was the beginning of his training. He would be refereeing that evening and for the rest of the coming weekend. Dusty was booking at the time and made Dustin drive from show to show while Dusty flew. He said that Dustin had to learn the way everyone else did, which he did with some help from Barry Windham.
The section of the book about Dusty is a very idealized version of the Dusty Rhodes story. Dustin obviously looks up to his father and shows a little bit of bias (as most people would when discussing their father).
Dustin worked with his father, first in WCW, then in WWE when Dusty went there. He talked about tagging with his dad in WWE and what a major moment that was for him. He also was not a fan of the "Common Man in Polkadots" character given to his dad by Vince McMahon. He was not in WWE for long before returning to WCW (and neither was his father).
The first big match that Dustin discusses is the match with Barry Darsow that took place on the back of a truck (who thought this was a good idea?). This was the match that got him fired from WCW for bleeding. He mentioned the challenges of wrestling for twenty minutes will twisting and turning in the truck. He also told the story of his being told that he should bleed by the agent on the shoot, then being fired for doing so when the shoot was over. Dustin did not pursue any legal action after this, but it seems warranted.
Around this time in his life, he met a woman named Terri who worked for CNN (which was owned by Ted Turner, owner of WCW). This was the major turning point in his life for two reasons. The first, he would eventually marry Terri. The second, his father would not talk to him for five years because of his relationship with Terri. This was the beginning of Dustin's decent into the darkness.
At this low point in his life, Dustin got a call from Vince McMahon. Vince had the idea for a new, groundbreaking and risqué character known as Goldust. He said that the only man who could pull this off was Dustin. Eager to get out of his father's shadow, Dustin accepted the invitation.
This is where Dustin's story splits. Goldust takes off as a heel character and really energizes the WWF as a forerunner to the ultra-risqué Attitude Era. Dustin begins making more money and spending far more than he makes. He also embraces the partying lifestyle that was a trademark of WWF (and all wrestling) on the road at the time. He mentions that the character could be described by some as gay, but that it was never mentioned to him or directly referenced in that way.
Goldust was forced to work as a heel, which was something new for Dustin who had only been a babyface up to that point. In one of my favorite sections of the book Dustin describes the difficulty of working as a heel and how long it took him to get it. He mentions that Savio Vega really helped him learn this style and get comfortable with the character. He mentions the near riots they caused in their semi-main events at Madison Square Garden shows.
Dustin also mentioned how annoying the body suit was at first. Before the body suit, he had always worn trunks, but now he was dressed head to toe in a gold monstrosity that limited his movement and raised his body temperature about ten degrees. I actually felt bad for him having to work under these conditions and never thought about what the body suit must be like for him to wear. According to him, he has gotten used to it (although when I met him at Summerslam 2009's Axxess event he was not happy about being in over 100 degree weather in a vinyl bodysuit).
One wrestler who was not a fan of the Goldust act was Razor Ramon (Scott Hall). He did not want his children seeing a "gay" man touching their father in that way. As silly as this sounds, it actually happened. Razor got out of his program with Goldust (and soon after out of the company) and Goldust moved on to Roddy Piper.
The Rowdy One gave Goldust the biggest moment and most special match of his career. This was in the Hollywood Backlot Brawl at Wrestlemania XII. They were the semi-main event (although they were barely in the second hour because of the Iron Man match) at the biggest show of the year. This match was brutal and the pain that both men inflicted on each other in the pre taped segment was very real. At the end of the match, Goldust was bleeding with a torn bodysuit and he was close to killing Piper as he hit him with a gold car. This could have been the moment that catapulted Goldust into the main event picture, but he would flounder for the next year.
Dustin skips over a lot of 1996 and 1997 and goes straight to Brian Pillman's tragic death in 1997. From there, we get the introduction to "The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust" which started out as Dustin Rhodes and became Goldust plus more weirdness. This character got very dark and got very into the places within Dustin where he was very bitter and angry.
Dustin lost his job with WWE and went to WCW where he became the "Seven" character for one night. This was a very creative, but even darker version of Goldust. He also reconciled with his father, who was in the building on one of his first nights in WCW. They shared a twenty minute embrace backstage and from that moment forward were close no matter what. This is the first part of the redemption in Dustin's story, but it is only a small rise out of the darkness he would descend into.
Dustin ended up back in WWE and he actually states that he cannot remember how he got there. This should be an indicator of how his mind was working at the time. He briefly mentions his tag team with Booker T and then he is out of the company again.
He begins drinking before working and taking a ton of painkillers just to get out of bed. He also goes to TNA and becomes the Black Reign character that was very dark, but also very dumb. He states that during his time in TNA he actually begins doing cocaine before his matches to get ready for them. This is along with his alcohol and pain medication addictions.
As an illustration of how poor he was, he was renting the garage of some friends to live in and barely making the rent on that place. He was driving to the Impact Zone and working, but on days off would only sit around thinking about how to get the next bottle of vodka and more pain medication. Finally, after a terrible binge, he got help.
This is where I realized why WWE would release this book. Dustin called WWE while he was not working there and asked to be put through their rehab program. He was and he got clean. It was a hard battle, but he got there. He soon began working out instead of drinking and treating that like an addiction (this explains why he is such great shape today).
Soon he got a call from WWE to come back and he was excited to work with the younger talent. Dustin talks about how the next generation is a priority and puts over the new stars WWE is making. He talks about his brother Cody and how much he loves his work.
Overall, this story is a good one. Dustin Rhodes is a man who went through some dark times and pulled himself up to a full recovery. This is not the wrestling book I was expecting it to be, but there is enough wrestling to hold interest. I have to say that my biggest complaint is that this book is short. It took me less than a day to read and, as I stated earlier, is not as detailed as many great wrestling books have been. I would recommend it if you can get it for cheap or are really into Dustin/Goldust, but for anyone else it is not a defining book in the genre.
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