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Textual Chocolate: Requiems For Dreams

When Dusty Rhodes passed away a couple of weeks ago, the reactions from the general fanbase were largely not diverse. There was unanimous love and praise and thanking and mourning for the American Dream, a luminary of the business, just as things should be.

But I say largely because, as Newton’s Third Law states—and allow me to reduce it to something simpler, physicists—everything’s got a reaction. There’s a second thread in the narrative of Dusty’s passing, one that is smaller than all the sadness, but one that stands out almost as well: the WWE should drop Cody Rhodes’s Stardust character and just go back to being plain old Cody Rhodes. Cody hasn’t been on WWE TV since it happened, and if anything, we’ve been taught that an extended period of time off is good enough reason to reboot anyone’s continuity.

Maybe they want Dashing, maybe they want Mustache Cody, or maybe they’d even support Psychotic Rip Hamilton Cody again. They just do not want Stardust, the bizarre spaceman they’ve been trying to understand ever since Cody debuted him last year.

There has been precedent for this, for those who don’t know.  When Eddie Guerrero died, Chavo Guerrero stopped being his controversial middle-class white character Kerwin White just to be Chavo Guerrero, because he had to pay tribute to his uncle Eddie, and he had to be Chavo Guerrero at that time.
When Chris Benoit perished in that tragedy all wrestling fans know, Vince McMahon resurrected himself from an ill-timed limousine explosion just to deal with the gravity of the situation.

So because Dusty died, and because fans are well aware of these precedents, they clamor for a return to Cody’s humanity, the real person lying beneath all the facepaint. The guy who lost a father, not the guy who’s chasing a Cosmic Key.

But I don’t think resorting to a retcon is necessary to honor Dusty.

Cody is a fine actor on top of being an underrated wrestler (at this point), and despite what everyone else may think about Stardust, the unusual character is the best thing he’s ever played in his WWE career so far. The closest he’s ever come to having this much success as a character is his Dashing persona, and that’s nowhere near how good he is when he’s playing Stardust.

Even if you don’t understand it (which is the point, by the way), it’s a comic book/video game character come to life, and he does it so well without ever skipping a beat. (Trust me: you have never seen Cody Rhodes mess up, not even once, as Stardust.)

To destroy all that simply because people expect him to break character and pay tribute to his late father is, honestly, shortsighted and selfish. I will not claim to ever know what the man thinks, especially now that he’s gone, but I’d still make a good bet that Dusty would not want his son to ruin something he’s perfected over such a long time just for him.

But it is interesting to trace where this opinion is coming from, psychologically.

First, wrestling fans will always want something that’s real. The best stories are the ones they can easily relate to, because reality has boundless depth. This is why the biggest coups in Cody’s career have involved his family, whether they were all fighting alongside each other for redemption, or they were fighting each other because issues.

This is why Dusty himself became a big star in the first place—because his heroism hinged on fighting for what was real to a lot of people everywhere. In a universe where everyone is aware the stories are almost all contrived, they want something real for both themselves and nonbelievers alike.

Second, fans want something they can make sense of. As I’ve been saying so far, part of the reason why the Stardust character isn’t universally beloved is because it’s too bizarre for people. These people will equate the nonsensical to the shallow, and that’s a fallacy—just because something flies over your head doesn’t mean it’s stupid. It simply means you cannot understand, or you haven’t really tried to understand. Or you aren’t supposed to understand. Stardust’s mystical babble was designed to be nonsensical on purpose, and the real magic of Cody’s portrayal is his sublime emphasis on delivery. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were the foundation of a nastier, more vicious Joker-like villain.

All that said, it is still possible to acknowledge Dusty’s death while maintaining the Stardust character. The Goldust feud has proven that there is space within Stardust’s insane mind for a story based on Cody Rhodes’s life, and not just spiders and TV superheroes. You can take the last words Stardust said in the above video and use it as a catalyst for a face turn (or at the very least, a story arc that gives him a third dimension) still within the gimmick. How hard would it be to give Stardust guilt that either turns him good again or drives him further insane? Both options would make him sympathetic, to varying degrees.

But if anything, assuming Stardust’s little angle with Stephen Amell doesn’t come to fruition at SummerSlam, it’s also highly likely that the WWE will revert Stardust to Cody Rhodes. It’s the easiest, laziest way to milk something from Dusty’s death, if they plan to milk it. It’s the same kind of booking that reduced the brothers to transitional champions that inexplicably turned heel just because the opponents were beloved good guys, that absurdly cut the Goldust feud short after a backslide pin, that started a ridiculous war over spiders. What’s the point in expecting more?

Well, if I may argue one last thing, if the WWE is going to honor Dusty Rhodes and his legacy, then perhaps the best move might be to recognize what is arguably the American Dream’s most important contribution to the business: the paramount importance of telling damn good—hell, damn great—stories that draw people in. It’s possible to do this as either Stardust or Cody; we’re just deathly afraid, as longtime fans, that the WWE will drop the ball like it always does.

In the end, while I really prefer that Stardust stay, it matters not if the grandson of a plumber returns to television as Stardust or Cody, as long as the story we get is riveting. Truth is, that’s the real Cosmic Key.

Photo from WWE


Romeo Moran (@roiswaris the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry and one of the three hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, but really hates Davey Richards with his entire soul.


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