NEW YORK, June 11 (UPI) -- WWE Hall of Fame wrestler Virgil Runnels died Thursday at the age of 69. Runnels aka "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes was a three-time National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) champion.
Runnels rocked in the ring in the 1970's and 1980's, often sporting polka dot apparel.
"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." "WWE extends its sincerest condolences to Runnels' family, friends and colleagues."
Other wrestlers chimed in on hearing the news of Runnels' death.
"THE DREAM LIVES ON," Mick Foley wrote in a Facebook post. "I just received the terrible news from my younger children, that Dusty Rhodes, "The American Dream" had passed away. My heart goes out to his family and friends - and all those who loved him. I hope we can all find comfort in knowing that Dusty Rhodes will never truly be gone. He's with is in spirit each time we see an NXT or WWE wrestler give a promo that's just a little bit fuller, richer and better for having spent time with the master. He's with us each time we see a "Dusty elbow" on a show (I saw several a few nights ago) or a character that jumps off the screen into our living room, to entertain us or touch our lives."
"He's with us in the countless wrestlers that he saw something in (like me in 1991) and breathed creative life into. He's with us in the love and passion his children have brought to the ring in so many incredible matches. Most of all, he's with us every time someone puts forth a valiant effort - in wrestling or life - to break free from the limitations that Mother Nature or conventional wisdom has attempted to constrain them with. God bless you Virgil Runnels, and may the whole world celebrate your life, even while mourning your untimely passing."
Runnels was Pro Wrestling Illustrated's most popular wrestler of the year three times. He's survived by wife Michelle, sons Dustin (Goldust) Runnels and Cody (Stardust) Runnels and daughters Teil and Kristin.