The professional wrestler Virgil Riley Runnels, Jr., better know to wrestling fans as “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, has died at the age of 69.
WWE COO Paul “Triple H” Levesque confirmed the news on his Twitter account.
— Triple H (@TripleH) June 11, 2015
Rhodes was instrumental in bringing professional wrestling to a wider audience during the 80s and 90s. His career began in territorial wrestling in 1968. His straight-talking blue-collar character earned him the moniker “The American Dream,” something that would stick with him for the rest of his life.
Rhodes was always a fan favorite and looked upon by both fans and staff at the World Wrestling Entertainment as a mentor and wrestling royalty. His distinctive accent and manner of speaking was always a touchstone of WWE, with nearly any wrestler being able to “do a Dusty Rhodes impression” on command.
In a career spanning nearly five decades, he wrestled for numerous promotions, but in 2005 he returned to WWE as a creative consultant and two years later he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Despite being well into his 60s, Rhodes would still return to the squared circle for the occasional segment, where he would showcase his old moves, such as this match in 2013.
“WWE is deeply saddened that Virgil Runnels, aka ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes — WWE Hall of Famer, three-time NWA Champion and one of the most captivating and charismatic figures in sports entertainment history — passed away today at the age of 69,” WWE said in a statement.
“Runnels became a hero to fans around the world thanks to his work ethic, his impassioned interviews and his indomitable spirit. Moreover, Runnels was a dedicated father to WWE Superstars Goldust (Dustin Runnels) and Stardust (Cody Runnels), a caring husband and a creative visionary who helped shape the landscape of WWE long after his in-ring career had ended.”
“WWE extends its sincerest condolences to Runnels’ family, friends and colleagues.”