While Dusty Rhodes is one of the biggest legends in wrestling history, he never managed to win the coveted WWE Championship during his career.
Despite being a multi-time NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion, he moved to the WWE too late in his career, and worked mainly as a mid-card act, when he finally signed exclusively in the 1980s.
However, he did challenge for the WWE Championship during a short run in the company in the 1970s, coming close to becoming the WWE Champion in 1997.
Dusty Rhodes Almost Became WWE Champion In 1977
The American Dream wrestled for Vince McMahon Sr for, what was then known as, the WWWF. He worked for the company between 1977 and 1983 as a freelancer, as he toured the country as one of the most popular wrestlers.
He was brought in to the WWE in September 1977 to do battle with the reigning WWE Champion, the late “Superstar” Billy Graham. As the top heel in the company, Graham needed challengers to defeat, and Rhodes was perfect to face him in a main event match.
The pair were put together for a pair of main event matches in the legendary Madison Square Garden.
The first was the time when Dusty Rhodes came close to winning the WWE Championship, even celebrating with the title before it was cruelly taken away from him.
Mainly because he didn’t understand the rules, but we can’t take that away from him.
Dusty Rhodes faced WWE Champion “Superstar” Billy Graham in a championship match at Madison Square Garden, on September 26th, 1977.
The match lasted 15 minutes, and saw Rhodes knocking Graham all around the ring. Not much is known about the match, aside from the finish, as it aired on the MSG Network.
Dusty Rhodes won the match by count out, celebrating with the WWE Championship as the crowd went wild. However, the referee soon informed him that you cannot win the belt by count out, crushing his dreams and the dreams of the fans in one fell swoop.
Cody Rhodes Referenced This Upon WWE Return
Cody Rhodes would reference this faux-title change during a promo upon his return to the WWE in 2022, when speaking about his father Dusty Rhodes’ failure to win the WWE Championship.
In his promo, he talked about his return to WWE and his return at WrestleMania. He discussed coming back to WWE to achieve the goal that his father Dusty Rhodes could never achieve – win the WWE Championship.
He mentioned a photo that stood above his childhood home’s fireplace, depicting Dusty Rhodes as WWE Champion.
When he finally asked his father about becoming champion, The American Dream told him the sobering story.
“As I got hip tot he industry I worked up a little courage, I asked him (Cody’s father Dusty Rhodes) “I didn’t know you were champion like Hulk Hogan!”
“He looked at me with the same eyes that Liberty (Cody Rhodes’ young daughter) has, and he said very stern and very patiently.”
“He explained to me that due to champions advantage (in a match against Billy Graham in 1977) he had won the match, but he did not take home the championship belt.”
“So, I’m 8 years old. What’s a boy to do? Right then and there at 8 years old, I knew not what I wanted to do, but what I needed to do. I was going to win the WWE Championship belt.”
Sadly, Cody Rhodes also failed to win the WWE Champion at WrestleMania 39, losing to Roman Reigns in one of the biggest main events in history.
He stil has time to achieve The American Dream‘s dream and win the WWE Championship, for himself and Dusty Rhodes.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.