Dusty Rhodes dead at 69, WWE announces

The American Dream is dead.

The WWE announced on Thursday afternoon that professional wrestling legend Virgil Runnels, a.k.a. Dusty Rhodes, died earlier in the day. He was 69.

Rhodes is a WWE Hall of Famer and a three-time NWA Champion. Always one of the most distinctive and fascinating wrestlers, the man nicknamed The American Dream never failed to entertain and/or enrage every time he stepped into the ring. His career began in the 1970s and continued into the 90s.

In one of the great professional wrestling gimmicks, Rhodes was once banned from wrestling in the state of Florida for 60 days after losing a match. Days later, a masked wrestler who called himself The Midnight Rider showed up on the scene. Like Rhodes, The Midnight Rider was over 6 feet tall, weighed around 265 pounds and talked with a bit of a drawl. The Midnight Rider faced Ric Flair, Rhode's arch rival, in an NWA heavyweight title fight in 1983. The Midnight Rider won the match and was asked to take off his mask. He refused and was stripped of the title he'd just won.

The father of two other wrestlers, Goldust (Dustin Runnels) and Stardust (Cody Runnels), Dusty remained active in the WWE long after his retirement from wrestling.

Tributes poured in from all around the wrestling world, including one from Flair:

Here's one of The American Dream's many entrance videos:

Many more tributes are at the WWE's Twitter page.

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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