Professional wrestler King Kong Bundy, who rose to fame in the 1980s when he battled Hulk Hogan in a steel cage match, has died at the age of 61.
News of the death of the wrestler, whose real name was Christopher Pallies, was shared on Facebook by his long-time friend David Herro.
Mr Herro wrote: “Today we lost a legend and a man I consider family. Rest in peace Chris. We love you.”
Authorities have not yet revealed the cause of the famous wrestler’s death.
The wrestling industry and fans have shared their memories of the wrestler, calling him a “hero” and an “icon”.
Hearing news that King Kong Bundy has passed away. Another icon of a golden era. Rest in Power big man 👊🏼 pic.twitter.com/GLgXUiKtXr
— Clinton Davey (@ClintonDavey) March 5, 2019
In a statement published on its website, WWE said it was “saddened to learn that WWE legend King Kong Bundy has passed away”.
The company called the wrestler “one of the greatest and most eye-catching big men to lace up a set of boots” and offered its “condolences to Bundy’s family, friends and fans”.
The King Kong Bundy character was developed by Mr Pallies on the New Jersey wrestling scene, where he capitalised on his immense size.
According to his official WWE profile, he weighed more then 458lbs (208kg), and was known as the “walking condominium”.
He made his WWE debut in 1981, where he quickly developed his signature move ‘the five count’. Audiences would delight as he demanded the referee count to five, rather than the customary three as he pinned his opponent to the mat.
Bundy quickly rose through the ranks and achieved international fame as a rival to Hulk Hogan in the mid-1980s.
Mr Hogan expressed his sadness at the death of his former-rival, saying he was “overwhelmed” by the news.
Overwhelmed by King Kong Bundy’s passing, only great memories,R.I.P. big man until we meet again. HH
— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) March 5, 2019
Former WWE World Heavyweight Champion, The Iron Sheik, wrote “goodbye big man” along with a photo of the wrestler.
Many younger wrestlers shared stories of meeting King Kong Bundy early in their careers.
Canadian wrestler Kevin Owens wrote that he remembers the wrestler as “really funny and just such a great guy”.
Carmine Sabia wrote King Kong Bundy was “one of the first big stars to work with me and help me when I first started in pro-wrestling”.
Devastated to hear of the passing of one of the first big stars to work with me and help me when I first started in pro wrestling. I had the honor of working with King Kong Bundy many times and he was a consummate professional and gentleman. RIP KKB, God Bless. pic.twitter.com/cjJkZNA6qh
— Carmine Sabia (@CarmineSabia) March 5, 2019
King Kong Bundy was planning to appear at a wrestling convention next month in New York, and tweeted about it shortly before he died.
Outside of the ring, the wrestling legend made a number of TV appearances, including in the US sitcom ‘Married…with Children”.
Bundy was part of a class-action lawsuit filed against WWE in 2016, which alleged the company failed to protect wrestlers against head injuries that led to brain damage. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2018.
Lots of wrestling fans shared the impact King Kong Bundy had on them growing up.
Basilio Frusciante, who describes himself as a “passionate wrestling fan since 1983”, told the BBC: “[King Kong Bundy] left an impression on me as a wrestling fan going back to when I became one as a kid… at the age of five.
“He [performed as a] “baddy”, but, from all accounts, he was a very nice guy.
“I saw him wrestle a couple times… I’ll always have fond memories of King Kong Bundy.”