Tuesday, April 23

Dusty Rhodes’ Polka Dots In WWE

Dusty Rhodes is without a doubt one of the greatest and most popular wrestlers of all time. As a three-time NWA World Champion, he was one of the biggest stars in the business during the 1970s and 80s. He became a household name with his legendary lisp and powerful promos. His “Hard Times” promo is arguably the best ever.

When Rhodes jumped ship to WWE in 1989 in his mid-40s, we saw a man at the end of his run wanting to see what he could do on wrestling’s biggest stage. While his two-year run in WWE wasn’t a complete bust, it will long be remembered for one thing: the polka dots. Vince McMahon, famous for changing up the characters to any new wrestler he signed, decided to put the future Hall of Famer in a black singlet covered in yellow polka dots. Here’s why.


Dusty Rhodes is easily one of the most influential wrestlers of all time. He was a major name in the NWA and became a three-time NWA World Champion. In 1989, he debuted in WWE and had his character changed. Instead of being the hero of the working man, Rhodes was put in polka dots and danced around. The story goes that it was Vince McMahon trying to embarrass Rhodes. However, Rhodes was beloved by fans. The attire did not bring his popularity down and he remained a beloved figure throughout his professional wrestling career.

Dusty Rhodes Was The Working Man’s Wrestler

Rhodes Was One Of The NWA’s Biggest Stars

Professional Wrestling Debut

11/30/1967 BTW Dusty Runnels (Dusty Rhodes) vs Ty Torres

Final Match

7/22/2007 WWE The Great American Bash Bull Rope Match: Dusty Rhodes vs Randy Orton

Notable Accomplishments

NWA World Heavyweight Champion, NWA National Heavyweight Champion, NWA World Television Champion, 2007 WWE Hall of Fame Inductee

Dusty Rhodes found massive success in NWA as a member of their roster from 1974-1984. In 1985, he began working not just as a wrestler but as a booker (he was one of wrestling’s best) for Jim Crockett Promotions in the days before they became WCW. He was as popular as ever. That popularity skyrocketed in a feud that year with Ric Flair. If you’re a wrestling fan, chances are you’ve seen the “Hard Times” promo. CM Punk’s pipebomb has nothing on this. When Rhodes passed away, it was shared again all over social media. He spoke about the hard times the working man and their families go through trying to keep up on a daily basis. His voice shook with a passion that you could feel through the screen.

The backstage promo was only three minutes long, but it spoke volumes about how so many wrestling fans felt. There was power in his words for the struggling fans who watched wrestling as a way to escape their pain. Dusty Rhodes became their hero. Dusty Rhodes truly was the American dream to them.

Vince McMahon Ridiculed Dusty Rhodes’ Working Man Gimmick

Many Believe McMahon Was Trying To Embarass Rhodes

Dusty Rhodes wearing polka dots in WWE

  • Dusty Rhodes joined WWE in 1989.
  • It was the opposite of what Rhodes used to wear.
  • Many think it was McMahon wanting to insult Rhodes.

In 1989, at the age of 44, having achieved all levels of success imaginable, Dusty Rhodes took his talents to WWE for one last run. Rhodes wasn’t unfamiliar with Vince McMahon. He had worked with his father before. As we all know, the son is a different beast.

When Dusty debuted in WWE he was referred to as the “common man,” doing skits with him dressed up as the working class. It was a bit cheesy, but it worked with Rhodes’ past credentials. That was okay. What many took issue with was what Rhodes wore to the ring. His whole career had been spent in simple black trunks. It spoke to who he was. In WWE, he came out in a black singlet with giant yellow polka dots all over it. Many took it as a slap in the face of Dusty Rhodes, and as Vince’s way of insulting him. Jim Ross of thinks it was intentional, as he once said on his Grilling JR podcast.

“I think it was a rib. I have a hard time being able to defend that it wasn’t. And I think Dusty was the key player with the competition and without calling out the competition, without doing any Billionaire Ted skits as we saw later on, I think that it was a subtle way to throw a little shade on Dusty because he was a top babyface, the booker, and the owner’s right-hand man.”

Dusty Rhodes Would Not Be Kept Down

He Kept Popularity With Fans

Dusty Rhodes-arms-wide-pose

  • Fans still loved Rhodes, despite the new attire.
  • He was only in WWE from 1989-1991.
  • Rhodes returned to work for WWE in a developmental role from 2005-2015.

The polka dots may have been Vince McMahon’s way of trying to humiliate his former competition, but it seemingly didn’t work. Dusty Rhodes accepted the gimmick with his head held high and made the best of it. Fans loved him more than ever. They love his upbeat entrance music. They loved his swagger and the way he danced. They even loved the polka dots. You could have put Dusty Rhodes in a tutu, and they still would have cheered for them because Dusty Rhodes was one of them. He wasn’t an Adonis. He wasn’t genetically gifted. He was a fat man with a lisp, a man like them, who had worked hard. That will never be forgotten, no matter how many polka dots you put on him.

Rhodes’ career in WWE didn’t last long, just a few short years, but it was a success. Many fans of a certain age only remember Rhodes from WWE. The polka dots are all they know, and they love him for it. In 2005, Rhodes would return to WWE, where he worked until his death in 2015. He was a major part of NXT, training the next crop of WWE greats, and showing them, by his own past example, that no matter what gimmick you’re given, even if you don’t like it, make the best of it. If you’re good enough, you’ll make it work anyway. Dusty Rhodes did.

Seth Rollins Uses The Polka Dots To Play Mind Games

Rollins Wore Dusty Rhodes Inspired Gear During His Feud With Cody Rhodes

  • Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins wrestled three times in 2022.
  • Rhodes defeated Rollins all three times.
  • Their Hell in a Cell match also featured Dusty Rhodes’ signature bull rope.

In 2022, Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins were involved in an incredibly intense and personal rivalry. They hated one another. A core part of that feud was in the invocation of Dusty Rhodes’ memory, something which clearly angered Rhodes. At Hell in a Cell that year, Rollins decided to play the ultimate mind game as he wore polka dot gear, just as Dusty Rhodes had to for those years in WWE. It was a truly shocking act and one which was not expected. However, it was ultimately Cody Rhodes who was able to defeat Rollins in a phenomenal match from that year.

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