TIME Professional Wrestling

WWE Superstar Dusty ‘the American Dream’ Rhodes Dead at 69

2011 WWE Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony
Moses Robinson —Getty Images Dusty Rhodes attends the 2011 WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Philips Arena in Atlanta on April 3, 2011

“What am I thankful for? My polka dots!”

Wrestling fans around the world breathed heavy sighs on Thursday as news broke that Virgil Runnels, who was better known by his stage name Dusty “the American Dream” Rhodes, died after falling in his Orlando home earlier this week. He was 69.

“Runnels became a hero to fans around the world thanks to his work ethic, his impassioned interviews and his indomitable spirit,” said World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in a statement. “WWE extends its sincerest condolences to Runnels’ family, friends and colleagues.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Runnels competed in the industry’s top promotions, mastered the bionic elbow and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007.

The American Dream will be forever remembered for donning polka-dot spandex, fostering a legendary feud with Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen, expressing his empathy for blue-collar Americans who had fallen on hard times and for fathering the artist known simply as Gold Dust.

Wrestling fans and industry insiders expressed their condolences and grief on social media in honor of the Dream’s legacy.

TIME Television

This Is the Greatest Professional Wrestling Entrance Ever

You can't top an actual tank

The wide world of wrestling is no stranger to tender geopolitical fault lines.

At the first WrestleMania in March 1985, tag team partners The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff ratcheted up the Cold War a few degrees before squaring off with the aptly named American duo, the U.S Express. Before the match, The Iron Sheik proudly waved the Iranian flag, while Volkoff gave a throaty rendition of the Soviet national anthem. The tens of thousands of American fans in attendance at Madison Square Garden booed and chucked trash at the ring in response.

Thirty years later, little seems to have changed. With relations between Washington and the Kremlin in a downward spiral again, “Russian” wrestler Alexander Rusev (who is actually Bulgarian) entered Wrestlemania 31 on Sunday in unbelievable fashion: In a tank waving the Russian flag, while being escorted by what appeared to be a platoon of Russian troops.

Who cares that the hitherto undefeated Rusev went on to lose the United States Championship belt to red-blooded American wrestler John Cena? In terms of his entrance, he was a winner all the way.

TIME Television

Wrestling Fans Lash Out With ‘#CancelWWENetwork’

John Cena, Bray Wyatt
Jonathan Bachman — AP John Cena, top, and Bray Wyatt compete during Wrestlemania XXX at the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome in New Orleans on April 6, 2014

The response to Sunday’s Royal Rumble was anything but scripted

Wrestling fans were seething after the World Wrestling Entertainment’s annual Royal Rumble event came to what appears to be an unsatisfactory end in Philadelphia on Sunday night.

After Roman Reigns emerged victorious for the evening’s highly anticipated battle royal finale, fans sounded off in mass on social media outlets with the hashtag: “#CancelWWENetwork” that was trending worldwide by the night’s end.

According to wrestling blogs, spectators at the event were chanting for refunds as rumors swirled that the WWE Network cancellation page had crashed as fans bombarded the site.

Sunday night’s fiasco was the latest in a long line of setbacks for the WWE since the company launched a subscription-based digital network last year that has largely failed to win over its own base.

The network first hit the airwaves in early 2014, but appears to have all but backfired as disappointing subscription numbers sent stock prices tumbling and lead to large-scale layoffs at the Connecticut-based company.

Read next: WWE Is Taking a Beating—And Not the Fake for TV Kind of Beating

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Professional Wrestling

WWE Legend ‘The Ultimate Warrior’ Dead at 54

After making multiple appearances at WWE events over the weekend, and only 24 hours after appearing on Monday Night Raw, Jim Hellwig — a.k.a. the Ultimate Warrior — died at a hotel in Arizona late on Tuesday

Days after being inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) Hall of Fame, Jim Hellwig, who will be forever immortalized under his stage name the Ultimate Warrior, died late on Tuesday night after collapsing at a hotel in Arizona. He was 54 years old.

“WWE is shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of the most iconic WWE superstars ever, the Ultimate Warrior,” read a press release posted on the promotion’s website late on Tuesday night.

No details on the cause of death have been released.

The Ultimate Warrior’s popularity in the wide world of wrestling lasted from the late 1980s up through the mid-1990s, peaking when he defeated archrival Hulk Hogan in 1990 at WrestleMania VI for the WWF championship.

The Warrior will be remembered most for his high-octane, dead-sprint entrances to the ring to one of the greatest walk-in tracks in the history of professional wrestling, and for delivering unbridled, surrealist prefight monologues reminiscent of equal parts Colonel Kurtz and Nietzsche in themes and imagery. His fights were often brief and lacked technical finesse, but the energy he brought to the ring was unmatched.

In the mid-1990s, the Warrior fell out with WWE and faded through multiple promotions before announcing semiretirement at the end of the decade. In 2005, the WWE released the DVD, The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior, featuring interviews with multiple wrestlers and promoters; however, Hellwig’s first-person views on his fall from grace were notably absent.

Despite the bitter relations between Hellwig and the WWE, the Ultimate Warrior was inducted into the promotion’s Hall of Fame last weekend and appeared at WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans and on Monday Night Raw the following evening, where he delivered one last haunting monologue.

“Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe a final breath,” said Hellwig. “And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others, and makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized.”

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