|Off to the big pay window in the sky, daddy|
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Triple H announced on Twitter just this afternoon that Dusty Rhodes, current WWE administrator and former NWA World Heavyweight Champion, passed away. He was 69 years of age. The cause of death is currently unknown, but he had not projected any serious illness to the public. He had been making appearances on radio shows and podcasts
Born Virgil Runnels in Austin, TX, Rhodes debuted in 1968, primarily teaming with fellow Texan Dick Murdoch. While his early days were spent as a rudo, he found his niche as the ultimate, every-man babyface in the prime of his career. He wrestled for all the major companies, including the big National Wrestling Alliance territories, the American Wrestling Association, and the World Wrestling Federation. His greatest successes came under the NWA banner, where he was a three-time World Heavyweight Champion. It was for Jim Crockett Promotions in 1985, when he talked to the world about hard times, daddy:
That speech encapsulated the truest babyface spirit ever known to the wrestling industry, and it stands as perhaps the greatest professional wrestling promo ever cut. He scaled back from his active, in-ring career in the '90s, serving mostly as a booker, promoter, and announcer for World Championship Wrestling, where his endearing catchphrases, charming malapropisms, and lisping delivery made him a cult favorite. He left WCW late in the '90s, and he went to Extreme Championship Wrestling to feud in the ring with Steve Corino. He would wrestle off and on for various indies and Total Nonstop Action until officially retiring in 2007. From that point, he joined WWE in the training facilities and front offices. He was one of the top bookers/administrators at the Performance Center and in NXT at the time of his passing.
Few wrestlers had the ability to rally a crowd behind him like Rhodes. He didn't have a body like Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair. However, he was able to throw hands with the best of them. He didn't speak with clearest diction, but it wasn't how he said it, but what he said and the passion with which he delivered it. No one before him cut as gnarly and fiery a promo as he did, and I dare say no one thereafter has come close to touching him. He was the hero that American wrestling fans wanted and deserved. He was in a class of his own, and now, he has gone forth from this world into The Big Mothership in the Sky. Rest in peace, Big Dust. A whole world full of wrestling fans is gonna miss you.
ETA: The staff at F4W Online reports that Rhodes fell in his house earlier today, and that his kidneys shut down due to dehydration. Terrible way to go out.