Former WWE superstar Virgil has died.

The grappler – whose real name was Michael Jones – passed away in hospital on Wednesday at the age of 61 after battling serious health issues in recent years, including dementia and a number of strokes, TMZ reports.

Wrestling referee Mark Charles III, known as The Count, also shared the news on Facebook.

He said: “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.

“Virgil passed peacefully at the hospital this morning and I ask that you pray for him and for his family. May his memory be eternal!”

Virgil made his wrestling debut in 1985 and was the heavyweight champion in Championship Wrestling Association, as well as tag team champion with Rocky Johnson.

He then moved to the WWE, which was then known as World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and was best known as ‘Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase’s personal assistant and bodyguard before turning on him at Summerslam 1991 and eventually defeating him at WrestleMania VII.

He spent around a decade with WWE and then had a brief stint with the National Wrestling Conference before joining WCW under the name Vincent and acting as head of security for nWo.

Virgil made a brief return to WWE in 2010 as Ted DiBiase Jr’s bodyguard and went on to make several appearances in AEW as Soul Train Jones.

WWE bosses said they were “saddened” by the news:

The organisation said in a statement: “WWE is saddened to learn that Michael Jones, known to WWE fans as Virgil, has passed away.”

“WWE extends its condolences to Jones’ family, friends and fans.”