The professional wrestling industry lost one of its all-time great characters when “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes unexpectedly passed away today at the age of 69. Rhodes, real name Virgil Runnels Jr., would likely rank near the top on any list of the most charismatic figures in wrestling history.
The details are still sketchy, but it’s believed that Rhodes fell while at home this morning and was later rushed to the hospital where his kidneys supposedly shut down. Of course this is all speculation based on various reports I’ve heard as the official cause of death has yet to be revealed.
Several tributes from fans and fellow wrestlers flooded social media. Industry legends such as Ric Flair, Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Jerry Lawler, Triple H and Ted DiBiase, as well as current WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins were just a few of the major names who took to Twitter to express their condolences shortly after the news of Rhodes’ passing hit.
Rhodes spent the better part of the last 50 years in and around wrestling. He was one of the biggest stars of the 70s and 80s, and still worked for WWE up to this very day as an interview coach for the company’s developmental brand NXT.
There is little questioning that his claim to fame was his ability to talk. Very few wrestlers, past or present, have been able to connect with an audience through their interviews as Rhodes did throughout his legendary career.
Rhodes is survived by his wife Michelle Runnels, daughters Teil Gergel and Kristin Ditto and three grandchildren. His sons Dustin and Cody currently compete in WWE as Goldust and Stardust, while his daughter-in-law Brandi Runnels also works as an announcer in WWE under the name Eden Stiles.