These last few weeks, the WWE Universe has been abuzz with a heel turn that no one saw coming and seemingly reinvigorated the fans interest in a character that was on the verge of redundancy. No, it wasn’t John Cena or Roman Reigns. It was the Bizarre One himself, Goldust, who turned on his Golden Truth partner R-Truth and declared that the Goldust of old, The Golden Era, was back.
While most were elated at the return to the twisted and dark side to Goldie’s character, some were raising eyebrows at the sudden elevation of a 48-year old wrestler whose roots stem from the New Generation Era of the WWF (pre-Attitude Era). One wrestling fan on Twitter went so far as to question the logic of the push entirely, declaring that Goldust had always been a jobber, so why care? It didn’t take long for Goldust’s real life brother Cody Rhodes to jump in in defence:
3 time intercontinental champ, 3 time world tag team champ…replace "jobber" w/"future hall of famer" and kiss my ass while you're at it https://t.co/NCBX1Pkt2y
Which leads to the next question? Is Goldust Hall of Fame worthy? Of course he is. Apart from The Undertaker, perhaps no other WWE created gimmick has had the longevity that Goldust has had, in all his incarnations. The Undertaker’s ride went from 1990 to 2017 (assuming he is indeed retired), a span of 27 years. Goldust debuted in the WWF in 1995 and he’s still working the same character today – a span of 22 years and counting. Like Cody mentioned, he’s a 3-time Intercontinental Champion and a 3-time World Tag Team Champion in the WWE (Cody forgot to mention he’s also a 9-time Hardcore Champion as well). He’s of the House of Rhodes, one of wrestling’s royal blood lines. There’s no question that Goldust will one day be enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame when his career finally ends.
Here’s a look at the 22 year old story of The Bizarre One. A twisted, demented narcissist with an obsession for film, who warned us all we never forget the name of (insert creepy inner breathing sound)….Goollllllllldust.
ALL THAT GLITTERS IS GOLDUST: The Debut
Before the days of the internet’s prevalence in daily life and information/gossip scouring, there were few who realized that the painted and wigged enigma that debuted in vignettes on Monday Night Raw in the late summer of 1995 was actually Dusty Rhodes‘ son, Dustin Runnels. Dustin Rhodes had been working at the same company as his father, WCW, for years, as well as working with All Japan, where he’d become somewhat of a tag team specialist. As Dustin Rhodes, he was a 2-time WCW US Champion and a 3-time WCW/NWA World Tag Team Champion (once with Ricky Steamboat and twice with Barry Windham).
But in a company that was partially built on the legacy of “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, it was hard for Dustin to ever truly emerge on his own or break through the glass ceiling. For that he would have to remove himself not only from WCW, but from his own family lineage. He would have to completely re-invent himself. And when he went to the WWF during the New Generation Era in 1995, he did just that.
With the WWF phasing out – or to be more accurate, quite simply losing – all of their veteran talent, it was an era where the WWF was rapidly pushing it’s younger talent, like Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart, Shawn Michaels, 1-2-3 Kid and Owen Hart, and building new stars like Razor Ramon and Diesel. The WWF landscape was a far more inviting territory for 26-year old Dustin Runnels than WCW was. And Goldust was a hit right off the bat. He defeated former WWF Tag Team Champion Marty Jannetty in his debut match and then beat Bam Bam Bigelow on his way out the door, posing an immediate threat to the old and new guard alike. His bizarre antics drew immediate heat, as the nation’s inherent homophobia was drawn out like flies on feces. His first major feud was against the resident machismo of the WWF, Intercontinental Champion Razor Ramon, which culminated in Goldust winning his first IC strap from Ramon at Royal Rumble ’96. It was at that match that the WWF was first introduced to Goldust’s manager, Marlena, portrayed by his then real-life wife, Terri Runnels.
Alongside Marlena, he would win a second Intercontinental Championship, defeating Savio Vega in a match to crown a new champion after it had been previously vacated. The tandem of Goldust and Marlena slowly began to warm the crowd over with their antics and lunacy – they even tried to split up “Marvelous” Marc and his wife/valet, Sable, by trying to persuade her to leave him and join them in a trio. When that failed, Goldust entered a feud with the new Hart Foundation, in particular the maniacal Brian Pillman, who began to stalk Goldust’s wife, implying of infidelity between the two. Sadly, the feud never reached it’s culmination as Pillman passed away during its run in October of 1997.
ALL THAT GLITTERS IS GOLDUST: The Attitude Era
In May of 1997, with the internet starting to make waves amongst the internet fan bases, WWF jumped the impending reveal by unveiling that Goldust was indeed Dustin Runnels, the son of Dusty Rhodes. During an interview with Jim Ross on Raw, Dustin revealed the mental anguish he’s been hiding, from his father and his wife, that lead to the creation of the Goldust character. By the end of the interview, Dustin finally turned back full heel and dumped his wife on television.
Goldust returned to his heel ways after that and just as the Attitude Era was starting to boil. In an effort to get edgier than its rivals in WCW, the WWF let Goldust’s character expand even more bizarre than before, this time pairing with the outlandish Luna Vachon and becoming more of a fetishist. He referred to himself as the Artist Formerly Known As Goldust and would come out with more and more bizarre appearances.
Just when it seemed Goldust had completely lost his mind and was drifting into the quagmire of “best before”, he came out once again as Dustin Runnels. He pleaded to the audience to reject the mature themed content of the Attitude Era, toting a Bible and declaring he had been Born Again and that HE was coming. It appeared that Goldust had become a servant of the Lord. But it was soon revealed that the “he” Dustin was referring about wasn’t Jesus Christ – it was Goldust himself. He made his return to his original Bizarre One in October 1998, attacking Val Venis (who had been seeing Marlena during their separation). The return also featured the debut of his new genital punt move, the Shattered Dreams.
His return to The Bizarre One briefly pushed him back into the spotlight and he won his third Intercontinental title, but by 1999, his real life demons were starting to catch up and he left the WWE.
ALL THAT GLITTERS IS GOLDUST: The Demons
Dustin immediately went back to WCW, first debuting as the Goldust-esque character, Seven, which had one of the most infamous debuts in WCW history. Dustin immediately removed the hat and conducted a “shoot interview”, apparently burying his past as Goldust. He would go on to a short run in WCW where he would begin calling himself “The American Nightmare”, 17 years before his brother would do the same.
Runnels remained in WCW until it was purchased by WWE in 2001 and immediately took the buyout and returned to WWE, once again as Goldust. During this run, he was famously electrocuted while trying to join the nWo and tag team with Booker T, resulting in the beginning of his stuttering gimmick.
Goldust and Booker T eventually did team up and even captured Tag Team gold. But the same demons that led to his release years before continued, and in 2003, he was let go from the WWE once again.
For years, he would bounce around various indies, as well as a return to AJPW and stints in TNA, where he would unveil a darker version of the Goldust character, named Black Reign. During this character, he would allude that the Black Reign/Goldust voices had been with him since he was a child. But his demons finally got the better of him, and after three months of not showing up to TNA, he was released from his contract.
ALL THAT GLITTERS IS GOLDUST: The Redemption
It was in 2008 that Dustin Runnels finally did what was necessary for his own life, and got clean and sober (which he’s maintained to this day). A renewed and refocused Goldust returned to the WWE that year and he began a series of small angles to put over some of the younger talent on the roster. But in 2010, he suffered a severe shoulder injury that kept him on the shelf for years. Seemingly retired from in-ring action, he became a backstage producer with the WWE. But in 2013, after years of physiotherapy and new work out programs, Goldust returned to the ring in arguably the greatest shape of his life.
He returned full time in September of 2013 when Cody Rhodes was fired by The Authority. Goldust returned in hopes of getting his brother his job back. In the process, the Rhodes Brothers teamed up for the first time ever and became two time World Tag Team Champions. When Cody turned on Goldust following the descent into madness of Cody and his evolution into Stardust, Goldust would return to singles competition.
Last year, Goldust seemed primed for one final feel good run, when he joined forces with another 40+ veteran, R-Truth, to form the comedic tag team duo, The Golden Truth. After weeks of fun vignettes with Goldust trying to convince R-Truth to tag with him, they finally united. But in retrospect, the entire angle was more to set up the alliance of Tyler Breeze and Fandango (both had been used as pawns in the cat and mouse game of Goldust and Truth prior) than it did push The Golden Truth. Which lead to the events of May 15 this year, when Goldust had finally had enough of being a joke duo.
And with that, we have come full circle. The Bizarre One is once again back to reclaim the twisted legacy he began back in 1995. And while this may indeed be the final run of Dustin Runnels’ lengthy career (his alluding to controlling how his “next film will end”), there’s one undeniable truth. He may have lost his fair share of matches in the WWE, but he was never a jobber. Dustin Runnels’ portrayal of Goldust will go down as one of the most memorable characters in all of pro wrestling of the past 25 years.
Goldust often said that we will never forget the name Goollllllldust.
And thanks to Dustin Runnels, he was right.
Main Photo: WWE