Dusty Rhodes

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Virgil Runnels, better known as "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, died Thursday at age 69. In a statement to E! News, the WWE said it is "deeply saddened" to lose the "WWE Hall of Famer, three-time NWA Champion and one of the most captivating and charismatic figures in sports entertainment history." The organization also noted that Virgil "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."

Additionaly, Virgil worked as a backstage booker and producer in WWE's NXT developmental territory. The wrestler is survived by his second wife, Michelle Runnels, his two sons, Dustin and Cody, and his two daughters, Teil Runnels Gergel and Kristin Runnels Ditto. He also leaves behind three grandkids.

The cause of Virgil's death was not disclosed.

Dusty Rhodes

Youngho Lee/Sipa

Not long before his passing, Virgil spoke about his legacy with The Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling podcast. "When I became 'The American Dream' they needed a hero down here," he recalled. "I had no money. I couldn't buy a car without being tied under, but I had to have a Cadillac with blue stars on the hood no matter what it cost, because just driving in it will set how they look at me and perceive this guy. They'll know. The first time a truck was ever driven into a building, it wasn't a beer truck. It was my truck, in the Fort Hesterly Armory through the side door with Willie Nelson blaring on the radio, making an entrance."

As news of Virgil's death spread, the WWE community mourned his loss on Twitter:

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