WWE star Virgil, born Mike Jones, dies at age 61

WWE fans are mourning the loss of Mike Jones, who was known as Virgil during his career.

The wrestling organization confirmed to USA TODAY Sports that Jones died on Wednesday.

Wrestling referee Mark Charles III, known as The Count, first announced Jones' death in a Facebook post published on Wednesday, saying that the wrestling star, who had many nicknames, "passed peacefully at the hospital" that morning. Jones was 61.

"My dear friends, it is with great sorrow that I bring news from the Jones family of the passing of our beloved Michael Jones, whom we know and loved as Virgil, Vincent, Soul Train Jones and more," he said. "... I ask that you pray for him and for his family. May his memory be eternal!"

The cause of death was not shared.

Jones was reportedly diagnosed with dementia and had two strokes in 2022, according to Ohio news outlet WTRF. In December, a GoFundMe was set up to help cover Jones' living expenses.

Virgil rose to stardom in the late 1980s and early 1990s, first as Ted DiBiase's bodyguard who assisted him in fights. WWE, which was WWF at the time, scripted for the duo's relationship to sour, until 1991's Royal Rumble where Virgil refused to put a championship belt on the Million Dollar Man's waist, instead knocking him down. He beat DiBiase later that year at SummerSlam for the Million Dollar Title.

He also appeared in the nWo and spent time in the late 1990s in the WCW.

In a 2016 interview with Ring Rust Radio, DiBiase shared some insight on his working relationship with Jones.

"When we were together, he was never a problem," the Million Dollar Man said. "The guy didn't drink, he didn't smoke, he didn't do drugs, he was always on time. Of course, you know you lay the foundation down when the relationship begins, and I think Virgil understood at least, he knew what his job was and he knew where his place was in terms of the pecking order. ... We would do our thing on the road and then I would see him in three days or a week, whatever it was and then we would come back. I didn't really socialize a lot with him so to speak, but we had a great working relationship and were friends."

WWF/WWE star Virgil died on Wednesday, the wrestling organization said.
WWF/WWE star Virgil died on Wednesday, the wrestling organization said.

DiBiase said Jones told him he was a substitute math teacher after wrestling. He said their relationship was strained when Jones would book autograph signings promising DiBiase and himself without the other knowing and then make up an excuse as to why DiBiase wouldn't be in attendance. Later, Jones would allegedly look at DiBiase's website to find where he had autograph signings booked and call the promoters and try to join.

"I just had to put my foot down and say, 'Look, Mike, I like you and more than happy to work with you, but if I think it's right and that you should be there with me to do this, then I'll let you know,'" DiBiase recalled. "But do not call these promoters and try to invite yourself to these events. You just can't do that. I think that's what hurt him. ... It's just sad. I don't wish Mike any ill at all. I just, sometimes you reap what you sow. You do things the wrong way and it comes back to bite you and I think that's what's happened to him."

Several people who knew Jones posted tributes on social media upon hearing the news of his death, recalling his liveliness.

"Shocked and saddened to hear the news about Virgil. Rest in peace, my friend," Jake "The Snake" Roberts posted on X, formerly Twitter.

"Virgil was a funny, unique individual that was always cool to me & I’m saddened to hear about his passing. My thoughts go out to his family, friends & fans," Matt Hardy wrote on his page.

"I got to have a lot of fun with Virgil. Thank you and RIP to an unconventional icon," radio host Sam Roberts said on the social media platform.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Virgil, former WWE star, dies at 61