Known worldwide as "The American Dream," Rhodes (real name Virgil Runnels Jr.) spent several decades as a main-event attraction in pro wrestling, becoming a major influence in terms of his charisma and his ability to give captivating and entertaining interviews. Rhodes was also a major influence as a booker and had recently spent time helping WWE evaluate and train new hires.
Rhodes was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007.
He had four children and two grandchildren. His two sons, Cody and Dustin, followed in their father's footsteps as professional wrestlers and are currently under WWE contract.
In a business known for large, loud and flamboyant characters, Rhodes was among the elite. Playing the gimmick of the blue-collar working-class hero, the "son of a plumber" engaged in a lengthy, memorable feud with his polar opposite, the wealthy and egomaniacal "Nature Boy" Ric Flair in the NWA in the 1980s. When Flair became the leader of the Four Horsemen stable in the mid-80s (originally including Tully Blanchard, Arn Anderson and Ole Anderson), Rhodes was a primary and frequent target of their four-on-one attacks.
Rhodes debuted in 1968 as the roughneck tag team partner of Dick Murdoch in the heel team the Texas Outlaws. His career took off in promoter Eddie Graham's Florida territory in the early 1970s, where he turned babyface and began crafting the "American Dream" persona.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Rhodes cemented his place as one of the wrestling business' greatest microphone men ever. Sometimes deadly serious, sometimes achingly personal and often downright funny, Rhodes became one of the go-to examples of an excellent promo man in pro wrestling, where being able to "talk 'em into the building" was critical to drawing paying customers in for live events and pay-per-view TV broadcasts.
One particular interview, his 1985 "Hard Times" promo, is considered among the best in pro wrestling history.