|Wrestling superstar Dudty Rhodes|
(Phanatic Magazine) - Pro wrestling superstar Dusty Rhodes passed away at the age of 69 Thursday.
WWE executive and fellow wrestler Paul "Triple H" Levesque confirmed the news on Twitter: “Saddened to hear the passing of Dusty Rhodes. Legend, teacher, mentor, friend...Love you Dream.”
Born Virgil Runnels, Rhodes was regarded as one of the most charismatic wrestlers in history and among the industry's biggest drawing cards of the 1970s and 80s. His feuds with "Superstar" Billy Graham, Harley Race and most notably Ric Flair set box office records around the country.
According to Wrestlingobserver.com Rhodes suffered a fall at his house in Florida earlier Thursday and at some point his kidneys were shutting down.
Rhodes is regarded as the biggest star in the history of Eddie Graham's Florida territory and booked Jim Crockett Promotions during that company's national expansion. Although not regarded as a truly great "worker," Rhodes was better than advertised in his prime and one of the top five interviews in the history of pro wrestling.
In recent years he had been working with WWE's developmental system in Orlando as a promo coach.
"A sad day for WWE," company chairman Vince McMahon Tweeted. "One of the most innovative, charismatic Superstars of all time, Dusty Rhodes, passed away. We loved him. #ThankYouDream."
Rhodes was a college football and baseball player at West Texas State University and first made his bones in wrestling as a heel, teaming with another legend, Dick Murdoch, as part the dastardly Texas Outlaws.
Rhodes broke out as a singles star under Graham's tutelage in the Sunshine State, first as a heel and then as the replacement for aging star Jack Brisco as the company's most popular star.
After hated manager Gary Hart and his protege Pak Song turned on Rhodes in a tag team match, "The American Dream" morphed into the biggest drawing card Graham ever had, a development which turned the Texas native into a national touring star who could headline multiple territories, including the then-WWWF, Georgia, Houston and St. Louis -- the biggest slots in wrestling at the time.
By the mid-80s Rhodes left Florida for the Carolinas to be in charge of the NWA's top territory, Jim Crockett Promotions.
Rhodes, who is the father of current WWE stars Dustin "Goldust" Runnels and Cody "Stardust" Runnels, was a three-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion when the title was right there with the WWF's version as the biggest in the industry. He is also a member of the WWE, WCW, Professional Wrestling, and Wrestling Observer Newsletter Halls of Fame.