As noted earlier, UK pro wrestling legend Mark “Rollerball” Rocco has passed away at the age of 69.

WWE NXT General Manager William Regal issued a lengthy Twitter statement on Rocco’s passing, noting that they were friends and colleagues. Regal said Rocco was so ahead of his time.

“I’ve woken to the terrible news that my friend and colleague Mark ‘Rollerball’ Rocco has passed away. Mark was so ahead of his time and wether as himself or the original ‘Black Tiger’ in @njpwglobal,” Regal wrote. “He, along with Marty Jones were the true originators of the fast paced, hard hitting Jr Heavyweight style we see today. In 1978 I saw a match of theirs and it took my Wrestling fandom to a different world. Becoming a friend and getting to Wrestle Mark at 18 a dream come true Mark had an unbeilable work ethic in and out of the ring and my life was better for knowing him.

“There aren’t enough words for me to explain how much it means to me to be fortunate enough to have know him, wrestled him and explain how much he meant to the British and World wide wrestling scene and I just wished I could have one more of the hundreds of car rides I had with him ‘hold court’ with his wonderful stories. My deepest condolences to all of Marks family.”

Regal also shared a wrestling event poster from May 3, 1985 when he and Rocco teamed up to face Kendo Nagasaki and Bearded “Psycho” Stevens in Croydon, UK. Regal was billed as “Nature Boy” at that time.

“Thinking of the passing of the great Mark Rocco today. This is the only poster I have when I was actually his tag team partner and not foe when I was 18. Anyone have any posters of me v Mark please? Thank you,” Regal wrote with the poster.

WWE also issued a statement on Rollerball’s passing, noting that he performed as the original Black Tiger and won the WWE Junior Heavyweight Title on May 6, 1982 at a live event in Fukuoka, Japan. WWE’s title history notes that he won the title by winning a decision over Gran Hamada, and that the official reign lasted for 20 days. Below is WWE’s full statement:

Mark “Rollerball” Rocco passes away

WWE is saddened to learn that Mark “Rollerball” Rocco has passed away at the age of 69.

A fourth-generation wrestler, Rocco became renowned for his grappling exploits around the world, competing as the original masked Black Tiger and winning the WWE Junior Heavyweight Championship.

The Manchester native tangled with a who’s-who of sports-entertainment icons, such as Jushin Liger, Dynamite Kid, Tiger Mask, Fit Finlay and more.

Known as a pioneer of today’s modern cruiserweight style and a legend of British wrestling, Rocco left a lasting influence on the industry, including NXT General Manager William Regal and NXT UK Superstar Flash Morgan Webster.

WWE extends its condolences to Rocco’s family, friends and fans.

Below are a few videos from Rocco’s career, along with Regal’s full tweets: