WWE legend Pat Patterson is dead at the age of 79.
Patterson, born Pierre Clermont, had long been battling cancer before his death. He was known as WWE’s first gay superstar.
“WWE is saddened to learn that Pat Patterson has passed away at the age of 79,” WWE said in a statement. “A true trailblazer of the industry, Patterson was linked to many ‘firsts’ in sports-entertainment throughout his storied career, including the first-ever Intercontinental Title reign and the creation of the Royal Rumble Match.”
Patterson, a Montreal native, started his pro wrestling career in Canada in 1958 before establishing himself in the Bay Area and then moving over to the WWE, then WWF, to become the company’s first Intercontinental Champion. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.
Patterson retired from the ring in 1984, but had a long career as an announcer and WWE executive and was credited with the invention of the Royal Rumble.
Condolences from WWE personalities poured in after news of Patterson’s passing broke.
Patterson came out as gay publicly in 2014. He had a 40-year relationship with Louie Dondero, who died of a heart attack in 1998.
Patterson emerged from behind the scenes during WWE’s famed Attitude Era in the late 1990s as one of Vince McMahon’s hated corporate stooges, alongside Gerald Brisco. It introduced him to a whole new era of wrestling fans as WWE skyrocketed in popularity during a ratings battle with rival promotion WCW.
“In a career spanning six decades, the renaissance man left an indelible mark on the industry in the ring, on the microphone and behind the scenes,” WWE’s statement read.
“In his 25-plus years in WWE, Patterson was synonymous with making history. From the Intercontinental Title to the Royal Rumble Match and beyond, his name will forever be revered in WWE lore.”
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