Pro wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes, long known as the American Dream, has died at the age of 69, the WWE has confirmed in a statement.
Rhodes, whose real name was Virgil Runnels, became a star in the independent wrestling circuits in the 1970s before landing national mainstream fame in the National Wrestling Alliance—the Jim Crockett–owned promotion that eventually became World Championship Wrestling.
Rhodes won the NWA title three times before eventually landing in the WWE for a few years—Rhodes is now a WWE Hall of Famer—and then Extreme Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action wrestling.
Rhodes, though, wasn’t only a wrestler. He was a booker, meaning he had large sway in the sport’s storylines, and most recently, he had been working as the creative director for NXT, basically the WWE’s minor-league system.
But as far as wrestling was concerned, Rhodes’s in-ring charisma and his skills as a talker on the microphone made him a superstar in the sports-entertainment business.
“Runnels became a hero to fans around the world thanks to his work ethic, his impassioned interviews and his indomitable spirit,” the WWE said in a statement. “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.”
Here was one of his most famous promos.
And one of the most famous incidents in wrestling history—when the Four Horsemen broke his arm before a big NWA pay-per-view.
His unexpected death created plenty of sadness on Twitter.
— Triple H (@TripleH) June 11, 2015
RIP MY BROTHER DUSTY RHODES. GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY FOREVER #RIPDUSTY
— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) June 11, 2015
— Ric Flair® (@RicFlairNatrBoy) June 11, 2015
— Josh Katzowitz (@joshkatzowitz) June 11, 2015
More than anything, though, Rhodes was a legend in the world of pro wrestling.
RIP the American Dream.
Screengrab via WWE/YouTube