The Hot Tag w/Steve Russell: A Golden Opportunity
“You will never forget the name of…”
Dustin Runnels has utilised a number of different monikers during his extensive career within the wacky world of professional wrestling: Dustin Runnels, Black Reign, Seven (points if you remember this blip), and, of course, the identity that helped to cement his status in wrestling – more so than simply being ‘Dusty’s boy’ – forging a memorable character in the process that has lasted the test of time: Goldust.
Recently, Goldust has had the opportunity of recapturing some of his previous glory, thanks to the dissolution of the team The Golden Truth.
Their initial cute-meet provided a few laughs, portraying Goldust as a comic oddball throughout, and they were a feel-good lower/mid card team that slotted neatly into the division in order to serve a purpose rather than provide a compelling threat.
This all ended on May 15th 2017 when Goldust attacked his now former partner, R-Truth, sending us on a drawn out tangent of a feud where neither man really featured on the actual product, instead appearing only in video vignettes, quoting movies and barking at one another, with Goldust dramatically declaring on May 22nd that the Golden Age was back.
Although the feud ultimately fell flat, with a tone deaf audience giving the two nothing during their blow off match during the July 10th edition of RAW, it did highlight a crucial, oft overlooked fact: Goldust is, and always has been, a fantastic talent and fascinating gimmick.
He is probably the most underutilised veteran the WWE has, and, if written correctly, we could be on the precipice of a character resurgence that could propel Goldust firmly back into the spotlight.
Even minute, tiny details have added weight to this return of the Golden Age. Using old designs for his face paint, wearing original Goldust attire… these are seemingly innocuous characteristic refinements that add depth to the finesse of the story’s development. It’s the steady march of progress with subtle acknowledgement of the past.
The most important factor to consider when looking at Goldust’s arc is Dustin’s unwavering commitment to character.
Go back in time via the WWE Network to a less enlightened era when Goldust debuted. Here is a character, slathered in a bizarre golden hue, one that flaunts his sexuality and revels in homoerotic encounters, pushing boundaries of decency with every opportunity. Even entering the ring became a heat magnet as Goldust straddled the middle rope, a cacophony of jeers and slurs blanketing him. All by elaborate design. Goldust, as his character was wont to do, was directing the crowd, they just didn’t know it.
To say it challenged the American ideal of what ‘normal’ constituted as, especially amongst a less tolerant 90s audience, is a gross understatement. But rather than pulling back, Dustin leaned into it all the more. He owned it.
His feuds during the 90s with Razor Ramon, Roddy Piper and even The Undertaker extended to an Intercontinental title run that revolved around a Superstar with the look, charisma, talent, and dedication deserving of a World Championship reign – one that would, unfortunately, never come.
This darker, twisted Goldust would have been an undeniably compelling champion, relying not only on accomplished in-ring ability but also providing a master class in in-ring psychology and competitive mind games.
His bizarre nature and overt, in-your-face sexuality prayed on people’s discomfort, leading to huge heel heat and, in the ring, the ability to masterfully manipulate. This character was a perfect accompaniment to the WWF’s agenda at the time, with the New Generation concept shifting into the Attitude Era. There really is no better Superstar that fully embodied this shift in values than Goldust.
These are the intricacies of the Goldust character that are so intriguing in relation to the current product. There is untapped narrative potential in this heel turn, one that has yet to be capitalised on, and the prospects have been criminally overlooked by not only creative but most of the WWE Universe.
For many, Goldust is a goofy, comedy character – the guy who paints himself in gold and then acts the fool for a cheap laugh. This may be the only version of the character that you know, but it certainly isn’t the only dimension to his character. Just underneath the surface lies the malicious, vindictive Goldust. The bizarre, manipulative Golden One. All WWE needs to do is allow him to wallow in that spotlight once more, draped in gold and glitter, forcing all eyes on him. Anything less only tarnishes the potential of a true Goldust renaissance.
What was once awarded the ‘Worst Gimmick’ in 1995 has since evolved into one of the most interesting, layered characters to ever feature on WWE programming. We are on the precipice of a golden opportunity, one we could all bask in if only the WWE were brave enough to lean into it. If they did, you can be damn sure that you would never forget the name of Goldust.
– Steve R // @stevetendo