Guest Editorials GUEST BOOK REVIEW: "Cross Rhodes: Goldust, Out of the Darkness" by Dustin Rhodes
Jan 7, 2011 - 1:16:26 PM
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GUEST EDITORIAL - BOOK REVIEW
"Cross Rhodes: Goldust, Out of the Darkness" by Dustin Rhodes
Review By Alex Roberts of Los Alamos, N.M., PWTorch contributor
It might be tempting for most wrestling fans to pass on Dustin Rhodes’s (born Dustin Runnels) new autobiography. At first glance, the book appears impossibly slim (and at 225 pages with lots of photographs, it is indeed a very quick read) and the book’s back cover blurb - promising the story of a WWE Superstar forced to come to terms with his out of control drug and alcohol abuse - will feel familiar to anyone who has read nearly any pro wrestling biography.
However, the brevity and simplicity of Rhodes’s story that at first appear to be the book’s flaws are actually its greatest strengths. Rhodes presents his - unfortunately not uncommon - story of pro wrestling glory eclipsed by pain and addiction in a way that is uniformly straightforward and unpretentious, resulting in a work that is emotionally direct and that earns the uplifting moments it finally offers.
Where Rhodes’s account of his career differs from others is in his singular focus on his family’s influence on him- most obviously that of his legendary father, Dusty Rhodes. Dustin grows up missing and idolizing his busy father, sometimes feeling more like a fan than a son. This difficult relationship becomes a central theme throughout his story as nearly every action he makes, from his initial decision to enter the business to the promotions he would wrestle for, becomes an attempt to either gain the respect of or - in the case of accepting his most popular and infamous gimmick - to gain an independent identity from his father.
Rhodes is given the gimmick of Goldust by Vince McMahon after being fired from WCW, and he sees his decision to embrace the character as a conscious way of estranging himself from his father. It seems fitting that Dustin’s attempt to escape the shadow of the babyface American Dream comes in his role as a heel, androgynous Hollywood nightmare, and Rhodes takes a strange glee in hearing rumors that his father hates the character.
One of the most fascinating parts of the book is the description of how this character developed, including how Goldust evolved through both the unexpected help of Savio Vega (who suggests, mid-match, that Rhodes crank up the strange sexual antics, to great effect) and Razor Ramon’s (Scott Hall) refusal to work with such a bizarre character.
It’s a shame, then, that one of the book’s shortcomings is in Rhodes not grappling with the larger issues that his character created at the time. That Goldust was criticized for inciting homophobic chants during his matches is mentioned only very briefly, and little insight is provided into whether or not this was the intention. Rhodes is clearly very proud - and deservedly so - of the work he has done and continues to do with the character, and it feels unfortunate that he decides not to confront some of the negative reactions that accompany it.
As Goldust’s first WWF run comes to an end, problems with alcohol and painkiller addiction come to dominate Rhodes’ life. At points, we are told, Rhodes would devour up to twenty pain pills a day, five Xanax at night, and go through a few gallons of vodka every couple of days. Rhodes is upfront and honest about these problems, placing the blame for his failed wedding and declining health squarely on himself and his addictive personality. After hitting rock bottom, Rhodes finally checks in to rehab in 2008 and says he has stayed clean and sober ever since.
Rhodes ends his book with the line, “I don’t want to kill my demons because then there won’t be any angels,” and this seems an especially poignant way to look at the character of Goldust. Just as the character was at first a demon representing the estrangement from his father and his growing drug problems through the '90s, Goldust now represents Rhodes’s redemption through his reconciliation with Dusty, his continuing sobriety, and his resurgent health and career
Rhodes got in the best shape of his life, losing over fifty pounds, and has been having some of the best matches of his career. He has also been able to play the role of mentor to younger wrestlers - ECW brand viewers will recall that two-time WWE champion Sheamus’s first feud on WWE television was with Goldust.
"Cross Rhodes" earns its uplift through Dustin’s candid and often self-effacing descriptions of his life and deeds. Even a rather jaded reader like myself was quite stirred by Rhodes’s accounts of the huge hug he received from his father after five years of estrangement, of his girlfriend and daughter who help him through his struggle to stay sober, and of the tremendous admiration and love he feels for his brother Cody as he climbs the WWE ladder.
For the seasoned fan of wrestling bios, "Cross Rhodes" may be perhaps too personal, as very little space is made for specific dates and insider info on matches and backroom politics that other books often offer. Likewise, little effort is made to accommodate newer wrestling fans who may not be as familiar with the terms and lingo used throughout.
Despite this, Dustin Rhodes offers a heartfelt account of his life that is especially recommended to fans of Goldust and the Rhodes family as well as to those who would like a quick but unique take on the ups and downs of a life in professional wrestling.
FYI: "Cross Rhodes" is available in bookstores, online, and on Amazon.com.
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