With his southern charm and Texas roots, Dusty Rhodes may not be associated closely with New York by most wrestling fans. But the “Big Apple” always held a big place in the heart of “The American Dream,” according to his son Cody.
“The greatest point of is career, if you asked him, was the ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham multiple sellouts,” Cody said, recalling his late father’s series of matches against Graham for the World Wide Wrestling Federation Champion at Madison Square Garden in 1977. Dusty even kept a photo of him celebrating a victory in one of the matches on his bedroom mantle, Cody said.
“That’s how much it meant to him,” Cody, 32, said. “Here’s this guy who created events and won the world championship three times. But this night at the Garden was the night I think he felt most like a star.”
The significance of headlining a major wrestling card in New York City won’t be lost on the younger Rhodes when he defends his Ring of Honor world championship against Dalton Castle in the main event of Final Battle on Friday night at the Manhattan Center.
The event also mark the first anniversary of Cody’s Ring of Honor debut at Final Battle 2016. Driven in part by the popularity of “The American Nightmare” Cody and his “Bullet Club” cohorts, ROH has enjoyed its most successful year since it was founded in 2002.
Rhodes’ impact in ROH and other promotions around the world have helped prove that he made the right decision when he quit WWE in May of 2016, ending a 10-year run in the company. Rhodes acknowledged being “naïve” about what the independent wrestling scene had to offer at the time but has no regrets about his decision.
“I get a lot of tweets from people like, ‘Hey, after 10 years, I left my job and I’m not sure what I have next . . . You inspired me. Some of that stuff terrifies me,” said Rhodes, who credits his own parents for inspiring him to follow his dreams. “They believed that if you set your mind to it, you can do anything. And I choose to maintain that type of lifestyle. I had an absolutely outstanding run with WWE . . . But in the last few years, I was kind of deemed undesirable. And it was my goal and my wish to become undeniable.”
The next step in that goal will come when he faces flamboyant fan favorite Dalton Castle at Final Battle. Rhodes said he’s “over the moon” about the opportunity to showcase his talent on such a big stage and in such a big city.
“One of the greatest of all time, The Rock, actually said to me, ‘If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” Rhodes said, recalling a WWE show in New York in 2011. “And I always remembered that.”