WWE is reporting that “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes has passed away at the age of 69.
Details are scarce at this point – both TMZ and WWE are carrying the story, but nobody has yet reported the cause of death. WWE extended “its sincerest condolences to Runnels’ family, friends and colleagues.”
This is a heartbreaking loss for the wrestling community. Rhodes became famous back in the territory days, rising to prominence in the NWA before eventually winning the NWA World Title a total of three times. His trademark working-man gimmick and polka-dotted tights proved were in contrast to the hulking, muscle men of the time. One of his most noteworthy feuds was against WWE Hall of Famer “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair.
Rhodes went on to wrestle in Jim Crockett Promotions and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, where his famous “Hard Times” promo was born. It’s regarded as one of the most influential promos of all time.
In later years, he worked for WWF/WWE and WCW, often playing the role of on-air authority figure. Rhodes was also one of the few old-school veteran heavily associated with WWE’s developmental brand. He was recently featured in the E:60 documentary about NXT.
“The American Dream” undoubtedly shaped the landscape of professional wrestling into what we know today. His legacy lives on with sons Goldust (Dustin Runnels), and Stardust (Cody Runnels), both of whom remain active with WWE.
Update #1: Numerous outlets are reporting that Dusty Rhodes fell early Wednesday morning before being rushed to the hospital. Complications from the fall, including dehydration and kidney failure, ultimately resulted in his death.